By Quinton J. Hobson
Canada seldom generates controversy strong enough to attract media coverage from around the globe 24/7 but 2013 and 2014 were the exception with constant headlines about the antics of Canada’s two bad boys, then-mayor Rob Ford and pop singer Justin Bieber.
Things briefly began to return to normal as Ford’s tenure as Toronto mayor ended while Bieber somewhat retreated from the public eye as 2014 drew to a close, until a third bad boy popped up at the last minute in the form of Q radio host Jian Ghomeshi, catapulting Canada back into the public spotlight.
In October 2014, Canadians awoke to the news that Ghomeshi had been fired from his long-running stint as the host of CBC Radio One’s popular show Q due to what we would eventually learn was in response to a series of allegations made against the Egland-born Torontonian in regards to numerous sexual assault cases.
Ghomeshi’s career in the entertainment industry began as a musician between 1989 and 2001, when he occupied one-fourth of the music group Moxy Früvous before landing a gig at CBC Radio One as the inaugural broadcaster of the then-brand new radio program Q in 2007.
Having acquired an impressive résumé of celebrity interviews during his seven-year tenure, the abrupt dismissal of the popular personality, who Maclean’s said “was becoming an international star,” came as a shock to many.
Ghomeshi had just conducted a televised interview with singer Barbra Streisand who is notoriously scrupulous about whom she allows to interview her, usually reserving herself for the likes of Oprah, Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters.
After Ghomeshi’s departure, CBC continued to air Q, which they are simply not willing to lose due to the show’s popularity, by filling the gap with a revolving panel of guest hosts while searching for a permanent replacement. After nearly five months of auditions and applications, the search officially ended on March 10 when CBC announced Canadian rapper Shad been hired as the new host of Q, chosen from a shortlist of 200.
A 2011 Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year recipient for his third studio album TSOL, Shad was born Shadrach Kabango in Kenya and raised in London, Ontario. Determined to be a rapper, Shad self-produced and financed his debut studio album When This is Over in 2005 using money he won in a local competition.
Known for his socially conscious lyrics and humor, CBC executives are confident that Shad possesses the intelligence and charisma necessary to fill the jarring shoes left by Ghomeshi. Described as “an extremely bright and accomplished artist with a broad range of interests and passions,” Radio and Audio for English Services Executive Director Cindy Witten believes he “will bring a unique, thought-provoking voice to Q that we are confident will resonate with Canadians.”
Although The Institute for Perception deemed hiring a rapper to host a CBC show a bold choice, some have pointed out that CBC actually used a remarkably similar approach back in 2007 when the show was first launched by hiring a young, relatively inexperienced Canadian of colour with a strong musical background to host a show that heavily explores music and the arts.
Their choice proved fruitful as Q eventually became “one of the more popular arts, culture and entertainment radio shows in Canada,” according to Broadcaster while Ghomeshi is credited with introducing CBC Radio One to a younger, more hip audience, a pattern commentators believe CBC hopes to maintain with Shad’s voice.
Shad is slated to debut as the new permanent host of Q on April 20. Meanwhile, he continues to undergo heavy training in preparation for the next chapter of his life.