A lot has been weighing on my brain since I learned about the passing of the three individuals on Highway 427, including well-known rapper from the Greater Toronto Area, Shane Redway. It would be doing a great disservice to him by just calling him a local rapper, because he was more than that. For many people who have been involved with the Toronto Hip Hop community (which has its delicate politics as usual), it’s tight-knit and you can’t go far within the social circle to recognize faces or names. It’s that small that you can’t avoid it. In the Mississauga community, he was looked at as a role model by his peers and others, and though I didn’t have the luxury of knowing him on a personal level like most, where I saw the determination and hustle with him, was the persistence of his love in the music he made.
He was a name that I’d known since around 2008, but being that I lived in Scarborough where really the world just revolved around our own entity, I didn’t look much into him, because it was just a name that floated. I didn’t really get an experience with his music until 2012 when I saw him open up for Casey Veggies at The Mod Club. It wasn’t full at all, but he still went on about his show like it was a sold out venue, and I respected that. I had to show my respect to him, because he really caught my attention with his bars. In 2013 when I heard the Live Free project, that potential that I heard at the Casey Veggies show, I’d heard where it was taking off, and I was happy about it. Having connected on social media, that’s where the communication had picked up, but it didn’t extend beyond that, which was fine. I knew that he was being active in his music, and when we did bump into each other (usually when he was performing somewhere), he always had the biggest smile and was very humble in approach. Not giving off any form of ego like he was too above to speak with anyone. I respected that about him. He was real to the core, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist or over-analytical person to get that vibe from him. That’s just what he presented. I even remember being a mutual friend’s birthday party and he really just was one of the people who meshed well with others; even talked shit while playing Dominoes. He was an entertaining guy. It’s crazy to me that I’m writing about him in the past tense, because it really still hasn’t hit me that he’s no longer with us in the physical form.
His takeoff was happening and I was excited to hear just what was about to pop off. More blog sites around the city of Toronto and beyond were starting to take notice, and even I spread word about him as one to watch, because he truly had that potential to be there in some time as another representative of the few that we have in the Hip Hop community. That was enough to be excited about. When he released Years Ahead, which was his entry that solidified that he’d arrived. The production by WondaGurl, the authentic Toronto mannerisms that carried on throughout the album to express not only his voice, but also the voices of many people, including myself, it was pure & organic. It was exactly what we needed, and being that the growing spotlight of Toronto was getting brighter and hotter, it was what was very necessary to contributing to that energy. Things only got better when he was the lone opener for a sold-out concert for ScHoolboy Q at Sound Academy. It was a major look, and really I was almost or even more excited to see Redway than Q, because of the hard work he’d put in for the time I’ve known him, and the recognition that he was well on his way to eventually having his own sold-out shows. With Years Ahead being on rotation and You Know The Ones being the absolute unofficially official Toronto anthem that carried forward since the album dropped, it seemed as though he was well on his way, since he had the backing of so many people and outlets.
July 31st, 2015. I was at the Metro Convention Centre because I was invited by a friend to attend the annual OVO Bounce basketball event that was worked in with Caribana/OVO weekend. It always draws a crowd of local celebs and basketball players alike. Kevin Durant was present; DeMar DeRozan, and I even saw Tyler Ennis. It was a cool atmosphere. Unfortunately due to circumstances, I wasn’t able to get in, so I just left to go home since I’d basically been downtown for 3 hours already. I walked a couple of blocks East on Front Street and at the stoplight; who do I see with that signature grin? Shane Redway. He was attending, so we talked for a bit, asked about OVO bounce briefly, we dapped, and I left as the lights changed for him. I didn’t look back, and certainly I didn’t think that at that moment, it’d be the last time I would see him alive.
Waking up the next morning to see tweets of ‘RIP Redway’ and a news report with the accident with the Silver car that I’d seen him driving the day before, I felt absolutely sick to my stomach and really I couldn’t understand why that had to happen. I didn’t want to believe it, because I literally (like many others who were at OVO Bounce) saw him the night prior. It just made no sense. It also hit me hard because in November 2014, I saw a childhood friend at a Soca Fete at Koolhaus, and a couple of days later, he died by a car crash (RIP Cassius Richards). I don’t deal with death easily. Tears won’t fall, but the suppressed emotions mess with me. Shane’s passing has messed with me, and will likely continue to do so for quite some time, because it just makes no sense. There are no real answers as to why tragedy strikes people who are not deserving of them, but I really wish I had some at times. The unexpected loss of life is common, but that doesn’t mean that the reaction deviates from shock.
The Greater Toronto Area felt a shock when we lost Shane, and for it to be such that happened to a bright star in our community, that’s where it really resonates within. The hard work and consistency he brought to building up his fellow man and pushing himself to be better, is what many artists of this city should follow by example. He stayed true to himself, and the proof is in the music. He lived it, he walked it, he talked it, and we heard it.; through his speech, through his humour, and generally through his overall presence. Many people had deeper connections than I did with him, but for the person & artist that I knew Redway to be, I’m honoured to have known him, to have had some conversations with, and to be asked to give an opinion of the music that he left us with. I’m honestly sitting here taking pauses in between writing because I really can’t wrap my head around this, and 3 days have passed at this point.
This loss is a wake up call, and that has been reiterated throughout much of the Toronto Hip Hop community. It is the time, ‘right now’ (as the Redway song goes) to drop this regionalism bullshit and support each other. Now. All of the artists that you heard of, take time to get to know. All of those years we have been saying about all of the talent that we have; back them. Go to the shows, shake hands, have conversations, buy music, spread the word. It’s a shame that it takes death to gauge attention towards the man who made good music. And it’s also a shame that we don’t back our own people while they’re building themselves up here. That snobbish attitude that floats around like a bad cloud, we have to get rid of it. It’s one that does nothing but stifle the good thing going for us in the city right now. This isn’t a city that is represented by one figure (you know who that obvious figure is, I don’t need to say it). This is a city that has so much personality from different regions: Scarborough, Etobicoke, Brampton, Mississauga, Durham, East York, North York, Downtown, etc. There are so many different stories and styles that make up what this city is about. Redway was about one love and everyone getting theirs. He wanted to see others succeed, and we should continue to carry that same message. There’s unity out there that can be useful when helping each other come up. Seeing so many different artists who have their own buzz going for them, showing love to Redway, that should be a sign worth holding up high. It should be a promise to continue the oneness that we should strive for. In memory of Shane. The majority of talent coming out of Toronto right now is within the same age group, so yes this affects us all. But we can change the mentality going forward. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s something that should be a continued effort. The two-face screwface nonsense. It has to end. If Shane is the reason for it to be, then don’t let his loss go without significant & positive change. Shane, thank you for touching lives, inspiring individuals, and being talented enough to deliver your music by simply being yourself. Your music will never die, and I know there are many (including myself) that will make sure of it. Until we meet again, my friend.
That’s My Word & It STiXX