Rise of Shah: living for today

Ashley Winward

Medical student turned rap musician, Shah, releases his first EP titled Today.

Sometimes it feels like all rap artists come out with the same story: kid from the streets has a tough upbringing and is reborn to live life to the fullest. Been there, done that. But it’s very rare that you talk to a rapper with that kind of background who is truly sincere in his words and motivated with such a fire beneath him.

Toronto native Shah may seem like your typical artist at first, but his unconventional rise to the top makes him far from ordinary. His start wasn’t in music, but in medicine, until he found it wasn’t where he wanted to be. “I would get the prestige and the money… but it was boring” he felt, “I had that immigrant mentality of ‘working hard and putting forth that effort will get you that job’.”

He was expelled in high school, yet turned himself around and found himself excelling in medical school with his own non-profit program teaching literacy through rap. While medicine wasn’t his calling, it did bring him great experiences, including working with the New York Knicks and The New Orleans Saints the season of their Superbowl win in 2009. “Medicine is great, you get to make a positive change in people’s lives….but I can still help people with my music.”

For Shah, lyrical content is most important in the production of a song, “If you look at what the average listener is looking for, they’re going to say to focus on the overall sound; the beat then the flow then the lyrics. That works but it’s just not what I do.”

Listening to his debut EP Today, its clear how much thought he puts into what he’s trying to say. From the hot and catchy “Ex,” to the fast living “Live One More,” each track tells a story while being extremely easy to listen to.

He especially loves to focus on the idea of living in the moment. “There are so many people that sit there saying ‘YOLO’ and ‘live each moment like it’s their last’ but 90 percent people are lying. I don’t invest too far in the future; my life is always about quality over quantity, even if that means having a whole lot less of it.” Having a great time is important to him in living a good-quality life. He says he loves coming up to New Haven on his off time to visit his friends and party, citing it in his mind as one of the top 12 party cities on the eastern seaboard.

While from Toronto, Shah has made a name for himself spending time in NY. He finds as an artist, “New York facilitates everything,” both in a creative and professional way. “It’s still a home base for rap here,” he explained, “I can work with a lot of talent and have more options” when it comes to collaborations and joint projects.

While he enjoys being independent, the idea of future collaborations are possible. He cited Kendrick Lamar being king right now, though appreciating J.Cole most for his lyrics. More than anything though, “Wu (Tang)…working with the whole clan would be the all-time best collab. EPIC!”

When asked what advice he had for music industry and sound recording majors here at UNH, he insisted it was all about being a dream chaser; either go for it or play it safe, either method works it’s just about how fast you want to get there. Having a plan, perfecting your craft, and making sure your product is solid were also mentioned as being important.

Be sure to check out Shah over at thisisdayone.com or his soundcloud page at soundcloud.com/dayofshah.