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Kory Neely, better known as ‘MC Shadow’ is a Canadian rapper who achieved fame for being the first white rapper in Canadian music history (internationally sold - second only to the Beastie Boys). His group Get Loose Crew was the first Canadian rap group to produce an independent mini LP and the first to attain international sales; under their indie label East Park Productions. He also had a brief solo career after The Get Loose Crew disbanded in 1990 appearing on several CD compilations under the title ‘JUST Me’.
THE GROUP GET LOOSE CREW
As an established local underground rap artist 'MC Shadow' teamed up with three neighbourhood friends and fellow Toronto hip hop artists to form The Get Loose Crew. Undiscouraged by the Industry’s position, they opted to form their own independent record label 'East Park Productions' to secure a global distribution agreement and finance the production & creation of Canada's first Hip Hop album and internationally distributed rap recording. In March 1988 the record was released with confirmed distribution and sales globally including: U.S.A, England, France, Japan, Italy, Germany, China and Australia.
In 1984 at the age of 14, in his junior high school cafeteria during lunches Shadow’s rhyming skills were founded and tested. Impromptu 'rap battles' would erupt, engaging him in heated & highly charged lyrical verbal jousts rattling off rhyming verses in response to insults and jests as fierce up tempo beats were pounded on tables and windows to the approval of cheering crowds of on looking students.
Live performances were limited to dances at his local junior High School (Valley Park Junior High), the Community & Recreation Center or underground parties and outdoor summer barbeques. (also known as blocko’s)
However, it was an underground basement party reflective of scenes similarly portrayed in the movie ‘8 Mile’ that swayed the course to establishing himself as an international recording artist.
Established local rap artist, MC Rumble was entertaining the crowd and inviting challengers to participate in impromptu freestyle rap battles. After encouragement from the crowd Shadow took the mic and after an exchange of a couple of freestyle verses, Shadow broke out into a human beat box (human percussion substitute for music) and sent the crowd into a frenzied roar, overwhelming his opponent.
"We (Rumble and myself) talked outside of the party. Everyone was chanting, “battle at Concert Hall, rematch”, But he gave me advice I’ll never forget and said “battling was just a waste of time. Focus on your music. Take that energy and make a record. If you wanna battle… do it on vinyl”
At that time Rumble was working on getting signed in Europe. “I credit him for pointing me in that direction; we became brothers at that moment and I am indebted to him for it."
That instant defined the pursuit of a recording project that would leave Shadow’s mark on Hip Hop music history in Canada and the world.
In late 1986 Kory changed his name to ‘MC Shadow’ (from ‘White Shadow’) and with his friends Chris (DJ JEL aka Chris Got Rocks) Jackson, Len (Mix-Master Len) Grant-Stuart and Carl (MC B aka B Kool aka Carlito) Badwa, the group began self-producing several demo tapes that were played on the Ryerson University (then Ryerson College) Radio Station CKLN 88.1 - Fantastic Voyage Program, hosted by Hip Hop broadcast pioneer Ron Nelson.
FOR THE RECORD
With no major Canadian Record label interested in the prospect of signing local talent the decision was made to form the independent label East Park Productions.
It was during a meeting at Markham, Ontario based Electric Distribution that Kory (attending on behalf of the group) convinced executives to enter into a global distribution agreement for their soon to be released record.
In 1987 he became part of the first Canadian rap group to record an authentic hip hop album. Though considered a mini-LP, or EP having only 4 individual tracks with accompanying instrumentals. The record landed on shelves in March 1988 (after two manufacturing delays) in local iconic locations ‘Sam the Record Man’, ‘Streetsound’ and other national record stores throughout Canada. Soon after, the record was distributed to and sold in the United States market and other Countries throughout the world.
Success was enjoyed on local urban music record charts in May 1988 making it to fifth spot with “Wannabe” among industry icons “Kool Moe Dee - Wild Wild West” at number one, “Eric B & Rakim - Move the crowd” in second spot, “Boogie Down Productions - My Philosophy in third position, “Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five - Magic Carpet Ride number 6 and television & movie star ICE-T & Big Daddy Kane - Colors Soundtrack at number seven.
The limited released recording has now become a rare find and has sold at online auctions and privately as a collector's item having commanded as high as 107.00 Euro (approximately $138.00 US Dollars) and remains a sought after collector’s item on Discogs.
Local media and radio attention included; appearances on the Fantastic Voyage Program, various other College Radio Stations, a feature interview on CBC’s (Canadian Broadcast Corporation) ‘Switchback’ and in the National publication STREETSOUND magazine.
It was having performed at Concert Hall – Masonic Temple (888 Yonge St. Toronto) which is regarded as the ‘temple for Canadian Hip Hop performances’ that he is most nostalgic about.
After the group disbanded in early 1990, Shadow pursued a solo effort as 'JUST ME' teaming up with female singer and high school friend Kaye Sergeant accompanying with R & B style vocals. This saw a dramatic shift from his roots in Hip hop and the growth as an artist into R&B and Dance music.
In 1994 he became the first Canadian rapper to be included in an independently released multi-track CD compilation called Mega Dance Volume 1 (1994), with "What I’m Sayin". (featuring Kaye Sergant) The original recording received the FACTOR new talent demo award in May 1991. Later that same year a second multi-track CD compilation called America’s Most Wanted - Freestyle 94 (1994), contained "Do a little dance" (also featuring Kaye Sergant).
The duo completed several unreleased projects and after a brief tour with the group ‘Self-Defence’ that included former Get Loose Crew members DJ Jel & co-producer S Blank as hosted by Much Music - Electric Circus / Extendamix & 'Master T', they parted ways.
When asked about his assessment of his works and not having achieved industry recognition with a Juno (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammy’s) nomination or other status, MC Shadow acknowledges this:
"My interest in hip hop was for the love of the music; writing, recording and composing. My goal was to be recorded and I didn’t think beyond that. I never considered a career as a rapper any more than I realized what we were doing at that time - being pioneers in Canadian hip hop music...”
After a lengthy hiatus Shadow is currently reviving his brand in preparation for a re-launch in 2015. Surrounding himself with a team of distinguished industry talent (including Juno award winners and nominees) from artwork, to production and video/ film direction, the partnerships are anticipated to create a formidable bookend for the Canadian Hip hop pioneer.
Three completed singles are scheduled to be released with accompanying videos in mid 2015 with a complete album in early 2016. The revival of the iconic East Park Productions; the independent label that launched his career initially, will serve as the backdrop for the project.
To provide entertainment value to audiences as part of the reconnection, the first three video projects have been scripted as a trilogy and interconnected to share a single story. Though revealed out of sequence, fans will have the opportunity to see all videos across one storyline or independent of each other. Says Shadow about the project, "I wanted to get back to the importance of telling a story through music. The song and the video should stand ‘on their own’ but together, it should be an experience."
The coming year sets the stage for one of Canada's Hip hop Pioneers to step from the shadows and engage with audiences past and present, to re-establish himself and confirm his presence in music history.
• First White Canadian rap artist to be professionally recorded and sold internationally
• Second White rap artist to be recorded on vinyl in the world next to The Beastie Boys
• Charted in 5th position in 1988 with track ‘Wannabe’ against (now) Industry Icons Kool Moe Dee, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and ICE-T & Big Daddy Kane
• Tom Green – (fame from ‘Disorganized Rhyme’ & Television & Film) opened for co-band mates Self Defence and MC Shadow (JUST Me) at Ottawa Rap Festival
• Rap battle (Toronto vs. Philadelphia) was being arranged between Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (Wil Smith) and MC Shadow in 1987 - derailed by the release of the album release 'Parents Just Don't Understand'