Kardinal Offishall is a Canadian rapper and record producer from Toronto, Ontario. He is often credited as Canada's "hip-hop ambassador", and is best known for his distinctive reggae and dancehall-influenced style of hip-hop. Kardinal (Government name Jason D. Harrow) was born in Scarborough, Ontario in Toronto's east end, and raised by Jamaican immigrant parents. He later settled in the Oakwood and Vaughan neighbourhood of York, Ontario, in Toronto's west end and frequented the downtown neighborhood of Alexandra Park as well. He started rapping at the age of eight and was winning competitions by the time he was 12. Also at the age of 12, he performed live and on stage for the first time, with Nelson Mandela in attendance during Mandela's first visit to Toronto. By 1993, he decided to change his alias "KoolAid", and went by the moniker "Kardinal Offishall" after being inspired by the great 17th century French politician Cardinal Richelieu.
Kardinal was signed to a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music Canada at the age of 20. In 1996, he released his first single "Naughty Dread", which was featured on the Beat Factory: Rap Essentials Volume One compilation and earned him a Juno Award nomination for Best Rap Recording. In 1997, Kardinal released his debut album Eye & I on Capitol Hill Music. The only single from the album, "On Wit Da Show", had considerable video play on MuchMusic. In 1998, he was featured on the Juno-winning single "Northern Touch" with the Rascalz, Choclair, Checkmate and Thrust.
In 2000, Kardinal signed with MCA Records. He released the album Quest for Fire: Firestarter, Vol. 1 in 2001, which spawned the hits BaKardi Slang and Ol' Time Killin. The album earned a gold certification in Canada. After MCA folded in 2003, Kardinal's highly anticipated follow up album Firestarter Vol. 2: F Word Theory was shelved along with the single/video for Belly Dancer featuring Pharrell, and Kardinal eventually found himself without a label. Had the album been released, there would have been production from Timbaland and The Neptunes, among others. He released an independent mixtape titled Kill Bloodclott Bill in 2004 with his production company, The Black Jays, and he also released his second major-label album titled Fire and Glory on November 15, 2005, through Virgin Records in Canada only. Hits on Fire and Glory include Everyday (Rudebwoy) and Heads Up.
In 2007, Akon signed Kardinal Offishall to his label Konvict Muzik and Kon Live Distribution. Kardinal Offishall released an album under the label called Not 4 Sale. It spawned the hit single Dangerous, which peaked at #5 on the Billboard 100.