Published Oct 21, 2015Kardinal Offishall has been a Canadian hip-hop mainstay for almost 20 years. His irrefutable mic skills and West Indian influences, as well as his stage presence and production skills, are just some of the keys to longevity that has spanned a critical era in the development of hip-hop in Canada.
Given the fact that Kardi has managed to adapt during his career, it's tempting to focus on the present and overlook the consistency and success he's had over the intervening years. A cursory look back not only reveals his crucial involvement in Toronto's underground hip-hop scene, but his ability to leverage his origins to working with and garnering respect from a slew of vaunted collaborators and admirers including Pharrell Williams, Jay Z, Timbaland and Rihanna.
While he readies to release his latest album Kardi Gras Vol 1: The Clash, out October 30 on Universal, this month's Exclaim! Timeline delves into the breadth of Kardinal's career. Ranging from his early rhyming at mall competitions to the pioneering involvement in singles like "BaKardi Slang," "Dangerous," and the Rascalz's "Northern Touch," his career helps to bring context to Toronto's current hip-hop's ascendance.
Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Kardinal Offishall:
1. Kardinal Offishall was not his first MC name.
J-Ski (Kardinal) is interviewed on CBC's The Journal by Barbara Frum about the anti-drug message in his rhymes. Soon, the young MC transforms into Gumby D and is a regular performer at malls with two young friends, known as Young Black Panthers.
2. Kardinal met Maestro Fresh Wes as a kid.
[Kardinal] enters a Scadding Court community centre contest and wins. One of the prizes is to meet Maestro Fresh Wes, the pioneering Canadian hip-hop artist fresh off the success of his debut, Symphony in Effect. Maestro tells the youngster to stay in school.
3. Kardinal had a video pulled off the air at MuchMusic.
Kardinal records a more party-oriented remix of "On Wid Da Show" and releases a video that garners significant airplay on MuchMusic. However, the song's momentum is stalled when it is pulled from the air after a company complains that an extra appearing in the video is wearing his work uniform.
4. Kardinal turned down the chance to sign with Jay Z.
Kardinal performs as a special guest when Jay Z comes to Toronto to play a Roc La Familia party at Caribana. Jay Z offers Kardinal a deal with Roc La Familia, but he turns it down because he's considering an offer from popular R&B/pop singer Akon to join his new label.
5. Kardinal recorded the first Canadian hip-hop single to reach the Billboard Hot 100.
Kardinal releases the single "Dangerous" featuring Akon, and the song becomes a global hit. "Dangerous" is the first single by a Canadian hip-hop artist to make the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 5 on the singles chart. It's a top ten single in various European countries and is certified triple platinum in Canada, reaching No. 2 on the Canadian Hot 100.