Ten plus years into his career, Cadence Weapon remains one of the biggest names in Canadian rap. He has served as Poet Laureate of Edmonton, written a television show and collaborated with countless artists. His first album Breaking Kayfabe (2006) was among the shortlist nominees for the very first Polaris Prize, and though he lost to Owen Pallett (nee Final Fantasy), his music would become a fixture of Radio 3 countdowns until the station’s demise.
If that last sentence filled you with nostalgia, you remember the Canadian music scene of the mid 2000s, and perhaps even miss the days when Metric would play Bluesfest every year. The scene was unified then, and all it took to be known nationally was a bit of blog buzz.
“Nowadays, if you meet a few different random people on the street, there isn’t going to be as much crossover between what they’re listening to,” Pemberton points out. It’s much harder for new talent to cut through.
Yet Cadence Weapon, or Roland Pemberton III, refuses to be relegated to that bygone era of Broken Social Scenes. With a new album out by the end of the year and a tour that includes a feature at Arboretum Festival, Pemberton is is back and ready to once again shake up the scene. He’s recently made the move from Montreal to Toronto, in part to take advantage of the explosive hip hop scene in that city.
“The wave right now is just incredible,“ says Pemberton. “It’s like New York in the 90s: a golden age. I wanted to be around that kind of competition.”
Moving to Toronto gave Pemberton access to a glut of young producers, a side-effect of Toronto’s enormous electronic music community. Taking full advantage, Pemberton’s new album will be feature-rich, and though he remains tight lipped about who will appear, the first single offers a tantalizing tease. My Crew (Woooo), which features a Kaytranada beat, has bought the Edmonton rapper renewed attention.
In the past, Pemberton has been the lead producer on all his albums. New producers mean new sounds, and those are something that he has always chased. When he started out in Edmonton over a decade ago, he was on a mission to sound different.
“My inspiration was that I wanted to make the most fucked up noise I could and freak people out,” says Pemberton.
This drive led him to his mix of rap and electronic dance music, something that was, at the time, quite rare. How times have changed. In a post-Yeezus hip hop world, samples have largely been replaced by feature productions by electronic artists, and stuff has started to sound a lot more like Cadence Weapon. And so Pemberton has upped his game and changed his style, once again to stand out. Bringing on new talent as features has, he believes, helped to raise the level of the music he is creating.
“I’m trying to make some A+ songs. That’s my thing right now,” he says. “Approaching it this way has really freed me up to focus on the songwriting.”
And Cadence Weapon will be debuting many of the new songs slated for the forthcoming album at Arboretum Festival this Friday August 18. As yet, we can only imagine what they’ll sound like, but there is little doubt that they’ll stand out.
The 6th annual Arboretum Festival takes place over August 18–19 at Rideau Pines Farm in North Gower (5714 Fourth Line Rd, K0A 2T0). Passes include free shuttle bus transportation or a parking pass. On-site accommodations will only be available to artists and volunteers. Cadence Weapon plays Friday August 18.