His name is Shadrach Kabango, though he’s known as Shad K. He was born in Kenya to Rwandan parents, grew up in Ontario, has a business degree from Sir Wilfrid Laurier University, and is currently an MA student at SFU. That’s the capsule biography.

But he’s also one of the hottest young musicians around. cbc Radio 3 called 2007 “year of the Shad.” Radio station Flow 93.5’s OTA Live show named Shad K’s The Old Prince as 2007 record of the year. Globe and Mail critic Guy Dixon says Shad K “channels the golden age of hip-hop better than any other current performer.”

Critics say he has both a unique style and a quick wit that come across superbly in performance, but that he is also one of the most modest guys in the game. He’s considered a hip-hop outsider because he gets great word-of-mouth publicity, but he is not overtly commercial. His songs include autobiographical tales about growing up black in a mostly white area, his feelings about Africa, and his concerns about genocide. <>

How did you become a hip-hop singer?

I just started having fun with music and kept going! (Shad’s sister sent a demo tape to a talent competition at a radio station while he was still a business administration student. He won, and the $17,500 prize paid for the recording of his 2005 album When This Is Over.)

Are you becoming a role model for other young blacks?

I don’t really think so. I don’t think I’m that visible yet. (Music experts say his positive songs, including one that encourages young blacks to stay in school, contain important messages.)

What influence did your parents have on you?

They had a huge influence on me personally. They raised me, so they helped shape my worldview. (Shad has said in other interviews that it was hearing his mother recite a poem at a rally for Rwanda in 2005 that pushed him to take his music to the more personal place it is on The Old Prince.)

You are taking Graduate Liberal Studies, a signature downtown program. What course are you taking this semester?

I’m currently taking a course on the capacity and limits of human reason. Some of the topics from last term’s course on human passion overlap into this course.

How will your MA influence your singing?

I think it will affect my general ability to communicate. I find some of the thinkers and creators that we study fascinating as well. Their passion and ideas encourage me.

What do you like about SFU?

I’m not too involved in the larger SFU community, but I love my program. It’s a small community of people who are genuinely interested in reading and thinking about important questions. We meet for dinner every week, we have great discussions in class, and we read incredible books. It’s phenomenal.

Do you have time for anything other than your studies and your music? What do you do in your free time?

I try to see my friends when I’m not reading or on the road.

What music do you listen to – other than your own?

Ha-ha! I rarely listen to my own music! I’m afraid I won’t like it. I listen to everything from hip-hop to indie rock.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading William Paley’s Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity. (Paley was an 18th century British Christian theologian.)

Photograph: Justin Broadbent