The pool of internationally prolific rappers embedded in the North is fairly shallow, but before Drake was Young Money, Kardinal Offishal broke into the American scene in 2007 under Akon's Kon Live Distribution with his fourth studio album, Not 4 Sale. The Jamaican-Canadian has been credited for making the nickname T. Dot a popular "thing," but his success has stemmed far beyond the Oakwood–Vaughan Streets where he once roamed.
When he dropped the first single from Not 4 Sale, the Akon assisted "Dangerous", there wasn't a club on the continent that didn't have the song on rotation. The fine pairing of Kardi's dancehall flows and Akon's signature hook with DJ Kemo's West Coast production put the Canadian city back on the map for the first time since Maestro's "Let Your Backbone Slide".
The radio friendly, heavily pop-influenced tunes didn't stop. The second single, "Numba 1 (Tide Is High)" didn't carry as much weight as the Juno Award winning "Dangerous" but managed to keep the buzz around Not 4 Sale going. Queue in a feature from Rihanna as well as appearances by Clipse, T-Pain, Estelle and The Dream scattered throughout the album, and you have the recipe for what puts Not 4 Sale in the heavy-weight category. Most notable tracks include the irie love ballet "Nina" and the Boi-1da produced "Lighter!" - both adding to the album's character.
There's always a risk of being over-shadowed when a lesser known artist brings one or more established artists on board their project. Of course the major features on Not 4 Sale are a welcomed addition but Kardi holds his own beginning to end, staying true to his roots and delivering that classic Offishall charisma. His big features are partly responsible for pushing his popularity across borders but Not 4 Sale was appropriately titled. This isn't a sell-out album, it's an album showcasing Kardi's diversity while making a seamless, cross genre classic. I dare anyone to try and feel bad when those opening lines of "Dangerous" hit the ear drums.
Most recently, the rapper has added Creative Executive Director of Universal Music Canada's A&R team to his resume, bringing him to a higher level in the Canadian rap game, but there has yet to be a Kardi release with the same viral, ear punching sound as Not 4 Sale. Here's hoping that Canada's "Hip-Hop Ambassador" has a chance to capture the attention of that international audience once again.
Kassandra Guagliardi is a writer living in Vancouver. She's on Twitter.