The Current

Aiming for average: hip-hop artist says 'Black averageness' is OK, too

As people begin their new year, and get ready to tackle new goals and aspirations, one Canadian hip hop artist is suggesting that just being okay is okay.

As people enter a new year, Shad says Black excellence is great, but average is also worth celebrating

Shad is a Canadian musician and broadcaster whose new song, 'Black Averageness' challenges the notion that excellence is the only measure of success for Black people. (Justin Broadbent)

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As people begin their new year, and get ready to tackle new goals and aspirations, one Canadian hip hop artist is suggesting that it's OK to be just OK.

"Black excellence is a beautiful thing to celebrate," Shad told Matt Galloway on The Current

"But I think that freedom, real freedom is when we can be ourselves and who we are is average for the most part."

The Canadian musician, born Shadrach Kabango, released a song called Black Averageness, in response to the idea of Black excellence. Black excellence is a term used when a Black person exhibits qualities that make their community proud. 

But Shad's music video doesn't show him excelling at anything. Instead it shows him struggling to hit a jump shot on the basketball court, hanging out in his sweatpants, and gardening. 

Shad said that while there are negative stereotypes around being Black, there are also stereotypes that suggest Black people must be "supernaturally gifted" to be considered successful.

"For the most part, we're average like everybody else. And we should be able to thrive and enjoy some comfort and some peace and dignity in spite of that," said Shad.

Shad says not putting the pressure of being excellent on people can give them freedom to fail. (Vivian Rashotte/CBC)
Shad said his parents told him that it's OK not to be the best at everything. And for him, that means he can try anything, and if he fails, that's fine. That approach could be especially helpful as people try to get through another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
This is definitely a time when maybe we need to take our foot off the gas a little bit.- Shad

"Surviving this is OK, and it's actually something worth celebrating and yeah, just making it to another day," said Shad. 

"This is definitely a time when maybe we need to take our foot off the gas a little bit and just think about getting through like everybody else and not having to prove that we are more than what we in fact are." 

But Allison Hill says it's less about being average, and more about changing the definition of excellence. Hill is the owner of the salon Hill Studio.

She says Black excellence should be less about comparing ourselves with others, and more about striving to be our best. 

"The problem is the comparison is the idea of what excellent is," said Hill. "Be yourself. That's what you're meant here to be. You might not be the best at everything, but you can be your best."

Written by Philip Drost. Produced by Julie Crysler and Ines Colabrese.

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