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One of my favorite artists in North America right now is Toronto's dancehall/hip-hop don Kardinal Offishall. There aren't many people out there who can flow over both styles so well and with so much style. And yet he isn't really a big star, or at least to the level that he probably deserves. His career has probably suffered a fair amount because most Americans are, not to put too fine a point on it, totally ignorant about our northern neighbors. Toronto is the third biggest city in North America, after Mexico City and New York, and yet most Americans probably think of it as being like Cleveland or Buffalo or somewhere like that. He has also suffered from label shenanigans after his major label, MCA Records, was taken over by Geffen Records in 2003 and his second album was swallowed up in the re-shuffle.
Akon & Kardinal Offishall - Kill Di Dance - This is off Akon's 'Illegal Alien Vol. 1' mixtape, and features Kardinal flowing over the Kopa Riddim, one of the biggest dancehall riddims of the last couple of years. There's also Akon's singing, which is a bit of an acquired taste. I kind of like him in small doses, but this is mostly about Kardinal tearing up the beat. The son of Jamaican immigrants to Toronto, he connects the dots between hip-hop and reggae about as well as anyone else out there in music at the moment.
Vybz Kartel & Kardinal Offishall - Kartel & Kardinal - Here's another dancehall cut, with Kardinal guesting on this tune from Vybz Kartel's 'Up 2 Di Time'. Vybz Kartel is one of Jamaica's finest dancehall mc's, and, although this ain't the best tune on the album, it's still pretty cool.
Kardinal Offishall - Gas - Having upped two dancehall cuts, check out this hip-hop cut from last year's 'Kill Bloodclot Bill Volume 1" mixtape. Nice horns.
Kardinal Offishall - Forward Riddim - And just to show how versatile he is, here's Kardinal getting busy over grime. The Forward Riddim, produced by Dexplicit, was last year's biggest grime anthem. In it's vocal version (with appearances by Lethal B, Flow Dan, Demon, Fumin, Jamakabi, and a whole gang of mc's) it tore it's way to the edge of the UK top 10. Of course, most people reading this probably know that already. This is Kardinal's version and it's fantastic. The dude is spitting some fire on it.