FEATURE HIGHLIGHTS ’08: Kardinal Offishall:Six Degrees Of Kardi
There’s no such thing as a perfect set up, just ask Kardinal Offishall. In the eight years since his last worldwide release, Firestarter Vol. 1: Quest For Fire, Kardi has toured with G-Unit, starred in a movie (Love, Sex and Eating the Bones) with Hill Harper, worked with the hottest producer (Timbaland) and the hottest rapper (Lil Wayne) and turned down Jay-Z’s Roc La Familia deal.
Yet, rather than serve as a springboard, the A-list co-signs did little more than keep Kardi’s name in the mix. Soon after Quest For Fire’s release, MCA Records folded into Geffen and the Toronto MC found himself in label limbo before signing to Akon’s Kon Live imprint. [Editor’s Note: Akon’s artists are split between two labels: Konvict (Jive) and Kon Live (Interscope).] With his Kon Live debut, Not 4 Sale, scheduled for a summer release, XXLMag.com caught up with Mr. Kardinal to discuss his A-list affiliations, his forthcoming project and Canada’s rapper profiling.
XXLMag.com: Around the time you dropped your Kill Bloodclot Bill mixtape in 2005, I heard Kanye West heard the tape and was looking for you. Did you guys ever link up?
Kardinal Offishall: I mean, we kicked it with Kanye. That’s probably around the same time that he was in town [Toronto] during the Ecko Festival that they did. He actually stayed in Toronto for a few extra days. That was kinda dope because he played me Late Registration before it came out, so that was kinda ill. That was a very weird time, because that was the time that Mos Def was in Toronto when he married homegirl, Kanye was in town. It was definitely cool to kick it with dude for a while just to see the real Kanye, the Kanye behind-the-scenes and not all that crazy shit that you hear about.
XXL: Your second album, The F-Word Theory had Timbaland listed as one of the producers. We did get to hear a few tracks, but never got to hear the Timbaland record, though.
KO: Never will probably. We did it. It was dope at the time, but the person I am…really the reason why the album is called Not 4 Sale is really and truly that’s really what I believe. If I really believe in something, the dollar figure that’s attached to it will not sway what I feel about it. It was a dope record, but it’s not timeless. It’s not a Timbaland record that can come out now and stand up to what Timbaland is dealing with now. So although it’s a Kardinal and Timbaland joint, it’s just one of those things where unfortunately that $100,000 check went down the toilet at the time. For that album we had joints with Busta, Pharrell, most of it was me, but for that album that never came out, I had gotten to work with a lot of people.
XXL: Would you consider putting those records out through a Lost Tapes type of project or a mixtape?
KO: It would be ill, but it would have to be done the right way. Me with mixtapes and stuff, I go on select mixtapes, because I understand that mixtapes are a promotional tool that a lot of MCs use to get out there. To me, it kinda cheapens your name when you’re just out on everything. I like to be more selective, so it’s more of an event when you see me show up on some shit to shut it down. It would actually have to be done by somebody dope like a Clinton [Sparks] J. Period, a Green Lantern, even a [DJ]Drama, one of them dudes that I know is gonna do justice to the tape and is not just gonna do just some random shouting and stuff over it. Although, I still fucks with [DJ] Whoo Kid, and Whoo Kid you know you do some fuckin’ random shouting and gun shots, but you make the shit sound ill. I fucks with Whoo Kid, but not too many of the random whatever, whatever DJs. That’s definitely a good idea that we could do, but again, it would have to be done the right way.
XXL: Speaking of Whoo Kid, you guys did the Canadian Coke mixtape that featured “Officer Down” with 50 Cent. I hear 50 records at your crib when he’s in Canada. How did you guys get cool?
KO: I always used to go to the MixShow Power Summits. Right when he got signed, he was out there promoting his shit and I was out there doing what I do. And what’s dope is he had bodyguards, he had this whole aura around him at that time. The “Ol’ Time Killin” video came out at that time and he came up to me and said, “I fucks with you. I like that shit, how you dance. I fuck with you. I like your flavor.” He probably doesn’t remember, but literally every time he saw me for the rest of the day, he would come greet me with a hand shake and say, “Son, I really fuck with you.” We also have the same legal representation with Big Theo, but whenever he comes through Canada, I think I’ve been to every tour that he’s been on through Canada. He always shows me love. He always checks for the kid and has me ride across the country on his tour. He’s just been a real dude. I guess that’s really where our relationship came from, him just being a straight up dude.
XXL: Jay put a deal on the table, but you ended up on Akon’s label. Did anybody else show interest in signing you?
KO: I mean there was a bunch of different people. I don’t wanna sound like one of them corny MCs. To me, I think it’s hilarious when niggas are like, “Yeah, everybody was trying to sign me, son. Jay was trying to sign me, Kanye was trying to sign…” Like, it wasn’t really like that. Honestly, at that time, it’s just that all our ducks lined up.
XXL: Indie Label owner Jerome Almon sued the Canadian government alleging that his artists get profiled when they try to cross the border. Is there really some rapper profiling going on?
KO: There’s all truth to it. People hate to come to Canada on tour, not because of the country or the people, but because of customs. I remember one year I was like, “Yo, Bus, I gotta get you up here.” He was like, “Fuck that! I hate them niggas.” He was shooting a movie up there. He had his proper papers, visa, all that and they still would mess with him at the border for like hours at a time. And that’s what they do. They just mess with people no matter what. Right now, they’ve been cool with me for the last year, year and a half. They used to give me a hassle and I’m from there, so I can only imagine people that are not from there and are trying to get there and make some money touring. Besides that, a lot of dudes have records whether it be for small things or bigger things and they make it damn near impossible to make it across the border.
XXL: You have a song with the Pussycat Dolls on your album. How do the Pussycat Dolls and a more underground producer like Jake One make sense on the same album?
KO: That’s the ill thing I guess about where my mind is at. First of all, you have to understand the people that I respect in the game and the people that I aspire to be like, from an OutkKast to the Fugees, or even up to a Wyclef or an Akon, you can’t just have tunnel vision and you can’t be afraid to reach. And not necessarily reach to do some shit where you’re living out of your skin, but you can’t be afraid to push the envelope. The reason that certain people were able to elevate the game is because they were not afraid to take chances and take risks, but calculated risks. It’s the same reason why you can have Jay-Z do a song with Coldplay or whatever it is. The name sounds retarded…Kardinal did something with the Pussycat Dolls, but when you hear it, you get it.
XXL: Any last words?
KO: This may come off as arrogant or abrasive, but this album is that shit. A lot of MCs is real politically correct nowadays. It’s interesting cause Q-Tip was in Toronto the other day and he was kinda distinguishing the difference between people hating and just having constructive criticism. I agree with what he was saying. He was saying, if you love something, when shit is fucked up sometimes you gotta let people know that it’s fucked up. It’s not because you hate them or you don’t love them, but it’s actually the opposite because you want shit to be better. For hip-hop, this part of the game should be better and we gotta hold the standards high. Units don’t always equate good music, so I think right now we need to change back the focus although it’s scary to labels who are already going down with the ship, but we need to change the focus to good music and make music the foundation. To me, I still believe that lyrics should be your number one thing no matter what you’re talking about. I think it’s time to lead by example and I took a lot of time into making Not 4 Sale, I think one of the craziest albums to come out in the last 10 years. For everybody that feels like…the way they feel about music is not for sale, this album is for you for sure. –Carl Chery