CBC Radio has tapped the rapper Shadrach Kabango as the new host of its flagship arts and culture show Q, ending a high-profile four-month search that began after the public broadcaster fired Jian Ghomeshi last October amid allegations of sexual assault.
A Juno Award-winning musician who has been nominated three times for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize, the performer known as Shad takes the reins of the show after CBC managers were impressed by his ease in speaking with other artists during a week-long audition as a Q guest host in late January. Shad interviewed a range of artists including cartoonist Art Spiegelman, opera star Christine Goerke, filmmaker and author Miranda July and actress Evangeline Lilly.
The broadcaster is hoping Shad can shoo away the dark clouds from a show that CBC had seen as key to growing new audiences. Though Q gets only about 282,000 average listeners on traditional radio – far fewer than its stablemates The Current or As It Happens – Mr. Ghomeshi's social-media activity and public appearances contributed immeasurably to putting a new face on CBC's respected but slightly hoary brand. Q is also heard on more than 100 U.S. public radio stations.
But CBC may face some pushback from its audience in rebuilding the show around a hip-hop artist. After the rapper Tre Mission performed during Shad's first show as guest host, some listeners grumbled about the choice of music. As reported by the online music magazine Aux, one listener carped on Twitter: "I appreciate that some people like this music, but inappropriate here – this is not your audience, never will be." Another complained that Shad used the word "Dope." (That listener added: "That's real intelligent"[sic].)
Still, Shad is a familiar presence on Q, albeit on the other side of the interview desk. He has appeared as a guest, playing and talking with Mr. Ghomeshi about his music. Three years ago, as a panelist on the popular segment Canada Reads, Shad was victorious in championing Carmen Aguirre's memoir, Something Fierce. When his fellow panelist Anne-France Goldwater charged that Ms. Aguirre was "a bloody terrorist," Shad deftly replied: "If you consider her a terrorist, you have to consider Nelson Mandela a terrorist." (Ms. Goldwater replied: "Damn straight. Blood on his hands.")
Born in Kenya to Rwandan parents, Shad moved with his family to London, Ont., when he was 11 months old. He obtained a business degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and a masters degree from Simon Fraser University. He has four albums to his credit, including the acclaimed 2013 disc Flying Colours and TSOL, which beat out the globetrotting rap star Drake for the Rap Recording of the Year Juno.
But his sales are not as impressive as his critical acclaim. After concluding a three-album deal with the small Mississauga, Ont.-based independent label Black Box Music, he is now a free agent. In an October, 2013 interview with The Globe and Mail, Shad suggested that he was not as marketable as some other hip-hop artists. "I'm not what the big labels would be interested in," he said. "I think what I do is a little rough around the edges – a little dusty, a little wrinkled."
At 32, he is significantly younger than Mr. Ghomeshi, who was 39 when he became Q's first host in 2007. He has far less experience as an interviewer, though some have noted that Mr. Ghomeshi took some time to find his sea legs.
Shad's appointment brings an end to an arduous casting process that began shortly after Mr. Ghomeshi's departure. Even as revelations of the disgraced host's behaviour exploded in media reports, the staff of Q tried to soldier forward. They invited listeners to tell them on social media how the show should proceed, using the Twitter hashtag #QTheFuture as a series of prospective hosts paraded through the studios.
When Shad was introduced to listeners, he said he was "honoured," by the opportunity. "I think this is a really important program. I think it brings a lot of the country together that isn't always together, in conversation." He named Kanye West and "my boy Barack," as dream interview subjects.
"It's been a long and thorough search for the new host of Q, and we're thrilled with our choice," said CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson.
Though hosting Q will be a full-time job, Shad still has at least a few music gigs planned, including a show at Toronto's Massey Hall on March 27.
Mr. Ghomeshi's case is due back in a Toronto courtroom that same day.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Shad moved to Canada when he was 11 years old, and that he is still involved with independent label Black Box Recordings. This version has been corrected.