Kardinal Offishall Chats Charity, Dream Collaborations and Why Clubbing Just Isn’t the Same

You can learn a lot about Kardinal Offishall in a five-minute interview. If you give him too many yellow shirts, he will never wear a yellow shirt again. He misses clubbing like he did in Toronto in the 90s. He also prefers to stand during interviews. When we arrived at the ONEXONE office in Toronto, we could hear the rapper and humanitarian finishing up a PSA in the next room, in an initiative to raise awareness for ONEXONE’s Million Meal Movement. You’ve heard us speak of ONEXONE before; the charity, which was founded by Diesel Canada head Joey Adler, improves the lives of children in Canada, the USA and abroad with programs dedicated to alleviate hunger and provide access to health care. In addition to Kardinal (or Kardi, as those around the office call him), the charity has a huge celebrity backing (hello, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt) and, among other events, throws a star-studded party at TIFF each year. 

ONEXONE’s Million Meal movement aims to raise awareness and help the shocking reality of food insecurity in Canada, where, sadly, 12.2 per cent of Canadian households experience some sort of food insecurity. The movement will kickstart the community-based initiative and journey of eventually packing one million meals for children in need across North America. After a day of packaging meals on Friday, May 23, 2014 at Kool Haus, the inaugural Million Meals Movement will hit Toronto’s Sony Center for a talent-packed concert featuring Simple Plan, MAGIC!, Alyssa Reid and, of course, Kardinal Offishall. Kardinal will also take the stage as ONEXONE’s music ambassador, a unique role committed to helping the cause. 

We caught up with Kardinal to hear a little more about his involvement and life in general…

First, the obvious question: why did you get involved with ONEXONE and the Million Meals program?
ONEXONE has become like family over the years. Joey Adler is the best. She is an amazing person, and a person who can really just encourage and get anybody who she speaks with involved with her different events and initiatives. She is an amazing philanthropist, and a strong-minded and very intelligent businessperson. I appreciate that – you never want to be the smartest person in the room, or the most active person in the room. I think you kind of always strive to be around those who can help better your life, and I think that Joey is one of those people. With being so involved over the years, my involvement in this project is just sort of natural. She has been talking about this movement for a good few years and I am just happy to see it come to fruition as she gets closer to the goal of feeding one million people.

You’ve been involved in countless charitable initiatives. Through your charity work, can you recall a certain situation, person or story that had a real impact on you?
It is so tough when you put me on the spot to just recall one. Hold, on – I am filtering, I am filtering. I remember one year during one of my Christmas charity events, where at the time I was working with SickKids Hospital. A friend of mine called me up nearly in tears because their child had been really, really sick when they were younger and SickKids had literally saved that kid’s life. It was one of those things where I was doing it because I believe in SickKids and all the work that they do. So, for me, I was just trying to do my part, but you never really realize how close to home these charities actually hit. I realized that with the phone call. It is always good to know that you are doing something for people who, quote-unquote, have no face, but when you can put a face to it realize that you are helping someone’s daily life, that’s something else.   

What can we expect from the concert?
The concert is going to be amazing. All of the artists are dope and kind of bring their own thing that will make it special. With me, we are going to have fun. I think that, a lot of times, the best way to give back is to make it sexy and fun and not really have people dwell on the fact that they are giving back. I know it sounds weird – like counterproductive – but at the same time, that is actually the best way to get people to give; when they are having such a good time that they are, like, “this is amazing, how much do you need? Take that!” The events should all be about people having fun while giving back.

Speaking of fellow talented Canadian musicians, what do you think it the greatest challenge facing up-and-coming Canadian musicians?
Identity. It is one that is kind of been a problem for a while. I definitely think identity. Especially with social media right now, you just have so many people who sound like or look like, so I think the ones who get through are the ones who find their unique personalities… you know what I’m saying? I feel the best artists are the best at being themselves. You can say that someone sounds like Alyssa Reid, but there is nobody better at being Alyssa Reid than Alyssa Reid. With anybody else who sounds like her, people may be like, ‘she is just trying to sound like her, I am going to go to the source’. That has always been my advice for any upcoming artist: be the best you that you can be, nobody can do that better. That is the biggest challenge Canadian artists face.

I know that you are a proud Torontonian. What are your favourite places in Toronto to spend the weekend?
The County General is a new favourite restaurant of mine. It is my new ‘it’ spot. They have a good vibe with an amazing bar with a lot of great beverages, but their food is freakin’ amazing, so I would have to say there right now. Besides that, you can catch me at the Raptors games a lot of the time, or shopping at Holt Renfrew or something.

Any favourite memories of growing up in Toronto?
Too many. We used to go to a place just off the Danforth called Spectrum. And going to Spectrum nightclub as a teenager was amazing because you would get there at 10pm and there would be like 200 people packed in there like sardines, with an insane line of people outside waiting to get in. That type of experience, shared with people coming up when I came up, and going to Spectrum and Focus and different clubs like that, is what made Toronto so dope. A great energy used to come out of those clubs. The club scene is different now. People just want to kind of get a booth, get a bottle and pretty much just drink and look at other people. When we were coming up, we used to come out of clubs soaking wet from dancing, rocking out, drinking and actually having a good time, you know what I’m saying? I think those were my best memories. Coming up and being crazy, rowdy and rambunctious in the club.

Times have definitely changed. Speaking of which, what is always in your fridge these days compared to the past?
My fridge… hmm. To tell you the honest truth, we are fresh food people in my house, so there is never something always in my fridge. We buy fresh every week and I eat healthy. The fridge is always full of fruits and I am a big fruit juice person. But we mix it up. I am the type of person that, if you give me too much of one thing, I don’t want it anymore. I am not one of those people where there is always on type of food as it will turn me off of it. I am like that with anything in life – don’t give me too much or I wont want it. If you want Kardi to never wear yellow again, give him 20 yellow shirts.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the future, who would be your ultimate?
It always gets difficult because every time I say it I end up working with the people, which I guess isn’t a bad problem to have. Hmm. It is sad, but I don’t know. There is nobody right now where it is like I’ve got to work with them.

Anyone from the past?
That is definitely Biggie. I would have loved to work with Notorious B.I.G. First of all, growing up, he was one of my heroes. We are both children of Jamaican roots so we have that whole cultural thing to share. It is weird because right now my management team are the same people who used to manage him back in the day and are responsible for his career too, so there are just so many similarities. I would definitely have loved to rock out with Biggie. 

Catch Kardinal at the Sony Centre on Friday, May 23, 2014 and join ONEXONE in the fight against hunger. Tickets start at $49.50 and are available on Friday, March 28 at 10:00am at www.ticketmaster.ca.

#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)


All images by: Natasha Mendonca

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