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. 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 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 "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, and inn 1998, he was featured on the Juno-winning single "Northern Touch" with the Rascalz, Choclair, Checkmate and Thrust.