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Cadence Weapon

Rapper, producer, poet, and journalist Rollie Pemberton, also known as Cadence Weapon, breaks down musical barriers with his literate, club-influenced hip-hop. Hailed as a rising hip-hop star in the independent scene when his debut album, Breaking Kayfabe, hit record store shelves in 2005, he was lauded for avoiding the stale formulas that are too commonly found in mainstream pop, and for straying from the reclusive nature that characterizes a lot of underground rappers. His biting rhymes laid over his own synth-heavy, electro-fused beats (drawing from IDM, house, indie rock, and more) prompted some to label him the Canadian version of British grime MC Dizzee Rascal. He was named Poet Laureate of Edmonton in 2009. His collaborators and tourmates have included Jacques Greene, Kaytranada, Japandroids, and Fat Tony. He returned from an absence of several years with a 2018 self-titled effort which included some of his most pop-influenced material, and he released the drill-influenced Parallel World, his most politically charged work, in 2021. The album was awarded the Polaris Music Prize that year. Rollercoaster, focusing on the contradictions of modern culture and technology, appeared in 2024. Pemberton's musical roots can be traced back to his father, Teddy Pemberton, a DJ who is credited for introducing hip-hop to his hometown of Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Teddy Pemberton created The Black Sound Experience radio show on the University of Alberta's CSJR station in 1980. Following in his father's footsteps, Cadence Weapon discovered that he truly wanted to rap around the age of 13, but his mother wanted him to pursue a career in journalism. He attended journalism school in Virginia for some time, but it didn't suit him. Nonetheless, by the age of 18, he had established a name for himself as a tough music critic, writing for the Brooklyn-based Stylus webzine and the influential Pitchfork. After he quit the former and was fired from the latter (the Pitchfork editor-in-chief stated via email that his reviews were too vague), he began immersing himself in rhymes and producing his own tracks. In 2005, he pressed and released his first effort, the mix CD Cadence Weapon Is the Black Hand. His blog Razorblade Runner, which featured this work, caught the attention of a few labels, including Def Jam, which wanted him to remix a track for their budding U.K. garage artist Lady Sovereign. Upper Class Recordings, the Toronto-based label that signed Cadence Weapon, released his first full-length in December 2005. Breaking Kayfabe (later reissued by Big Dada) received rave reviews from the independent press, including his former employers. It was also nominated for the first Polaris Music Prize in 2006, which awards the best Canadian album regardless of genre or record sales, and though he didn't win, the increasing attention he was receiving helped him get a deal with the American label Epitaph/Anti. His next full-length, Afterparty Babies, came out in March of 2008. In 2009, Pemberton was sworn in as Edmonton's Poet Laureate for two years, and served as an ambassador of the literary arts. In 2011, he participated in the National Parks Project. He collaborated with musicians Laura Barrett and Mark Hamilton, and filmmaker Peter Lynch to create and score a short film about Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. Pemberton's third album as Cadence Weapon, the diverse Hope in Dirt City, arrived in 2012, featuring tracks based in electro and indie rock along with hip-hop, and it was his second LP to make the Polaris Music Prize shortlist. Pemberton's first book of poems, Magnetic Days, was published in 2014. He released a few Cadence Weapon singles in 2017, and his fourth full-length, Cadence Weapon, followed in 2018. The album featured production and guest appearances from Kaytranada, Jacques Greene, Blue Hawaii, Deradoorian, and others. He revisited his earlier remixes for artists like Grimes, Doldrums, and Wale with the 2020 digital release Remixes 2009-2013. In 2021, Cadence Weapon released his fifth full-length, Parallel World, which featured aggressive lyrics addressing gentrification, systemic racism, and police profiling. The album featured guests and producers such as Fat Tony, Jimmy Edgar, Backxwash, and Casey MQ. It was his third release to be shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize, and the first to win the award. Pemberton published his memoir, Bedroom Rapper: Cadence Weapon on Hip-Hop, Resistance and Surviving the Music Industry, in 2022. Rollercoaster, an album with lyrics about online culture and information technology, appeared in 2024. Influenced by electro and hyperpop, the album's extensive list of collaborators includes Loraine James, Bartees Strange, Machinedrum, and Martyn Bootyspoon.
© Cyril Cordor & Paul Simpson /TiVo


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