Cadence Weapon

by Chris Bryson

Cadence Weapon is an artist in flux. The ex-Pitchfork writer, post-poet laureate, chameleonic rapper has always weighed on the side of experimentalism, and his most recent self-titled LP, Cadence Weapon, marks his rebirth.

From an early age Roland “Rollie” Pemberton, a.k.a. Cadence Weapon, has had an innate drive towards the artistic world. Pemberton grew up in Edmonton where his father, Teddy Pemberton, a hip hop DJ on campus-based community radio station CJSR-FM, was a pioneering force for the genre. Growing up around an abundance of music gave Pemberton an encyclopedic knowledge of it, and his experiences as Edmonton poet laureate, living in Montreal and currently Toronto, along with everything else along the way, has helped make him the versatile artist he is today.

Cadence Weapon albums have always pushed boundaries with unexpected experimental elements. “That’s just kind of the way I see art, basically I’m always looking for that next thing. It’s been that way since I was younger. It just comes naturally to me” says Pemberton. “I think it gets tiresome when people just do the same thing over and over and over again. You’ve got to give people something to get excited about. That’s the thing when you listen to a Cadence Weapon album, at the very least you won’t be bored. You might not be able to appreciate everything I’m doing, but you know that it’s going to be something that you haven’t quite heard before.”

“When I was first making music in Edmonton I felt very isolated, like I was making music, you know I was producing all this stuff in my bedroom, I was making all this weird music and it was totally from my mind to the listener and there was kind of no other filter really for the music,” explains Pemberton. “Whereas when I moved to Montreal it became so community oriented and I started warming up to getting outside producers and doing things like that and just collaborating and being a part of a music community in a different way and then since I’ve been in Toronto it’s really been even further into the collaborative aspect and it’s also just made me more focused on the lyrical side of my music.”

They’d “be making the beat and I’d be like in the background figuring out flows for it. And that was how we’d make some of these songs,” says Pemberton. “It’s catered directly to me, the music is made for me, rather than just getting a beat that was made for whoever.”

The beats range as stylistically influenced by UK grime and Afrobeat, house and trap music, and producers who aim to crack formed norms into an electro-funkified fusion that’s unmistakably Cadence Weapon.

Pemberton’s lyrical concepts have also broadened along with his experiences of the world. “All the new stuff I’m doing is more like sympathetic and empathetic of other people and other perspectives and me trying to explore how I feel through the experiences of others,” says Pemberton. “It’s a broader style of music in a way. I feel like it is definitely made with an audience in mind that’s a big difference for me.”

A part of the reason for creating the most recent album in the way that he did was to develop a certain energy with the songs. “With rap music where you’re using all these static beats that maybe you made yourself or somebody else made but you didn’t even meet them in person, you can feel that lack of energy,” says Pemberton. “A lot of my favourite classic albums you think about the process of how they were made, there were people in the room, people bouncing ideas off of each other and that was the result of that, you know, it was the result of shared energy. That energy is beamed off to thousands of people. That’s kind of the excitement about music. Because you could tap into a universal feeling with just a handful of people that ends up influencing or inspiring maybe even the entire world. It’s pretty cool.”

With whatever he’s working on, Pemberton is always pushing himself in new directions. “I always try to do something different for every album I put out. Right now I think I’m interested in making things that are more populist, that lots of people can really appreciate. I feel like I’ve proven a lot as a creative artist, but I really want to see what I can do more in the pop arena. So I think part of what I’m trying to do is get into more songwriting for other people. Get into writing songs that are more designed for a mainstream audience, but while still maintaining my integrity. I definitely feel like the next thing for me is just trying to work on songs that are broader in that way. Because I feel like as an artist you’ve got to try and do things that don’t come easily to you. I feel like it’s very easy for me to make freaky weird music, but it isn’t easy for me to make music that is like universal or pop oriented or anything like that. So I’m trying to push myself out of my comfort zone by doing different things.”

Pemberton plans to continue working with collaborators and says his next album is well in the works and being produced by only one person. “I would say we’re 75% done,” says Pemberton. “If I had it my way I’d be able to put it out later this year, that’s the vision I have.”

When talking about creating things with an intended permanence, in an age that can be so rewarding to fleeting and passing trends, Pemberton says “I think it’s like rather than worrying about whether what you’re doing is substantial or not, it’s like try and make this the best thing you can in whatever way you want to. That’s kind of what I’m trying to do. You might see the next album I put out every song is two minutes long but it’s like punk music, electro punk music. That could be the next direction.”

Cadence Weapon will be at the Good Will on June 20th for the 2018 TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.

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