Called Canada’s “most creative” rapper by the National Post, Cadence Weapon has consistently exhibited a passion to take rap into new and unexpected directions. Born in Edmonton, Roland “Rollie” Pemberton had an upbringing uniquely suited to becoming a rapper. His father Teddy, a Brooklyn native, was the DJ that introduced hip-hop to Edmonton with his pioneering radio show The Black Experience in Sound on CJSR 88.5 FM. In 2010, he was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Stylus DJ Awards. After spending his childhood immersed in his father’s diverse archive of music, Rollie started rapping at age 13.
Soon, he was entering freestyle battles, rocking shows with his uncle’s funk band and teaching himself how to make beats. Following the online success of his Cadence Weapon Is The Black Hand mixtape, Rollie released his self-produced debut album Breaking Kayfabe in December 2005 at the age of 19. The album was met with international critical acclaim, with the BBC praising its mix of “vivid, scattershot rhymes” and “techno-tinged beats.” Cadence performed shows around the continent with artists such as Diplo, Mos Def, De La Soul and Raekwon. It was shortlisted for the inaugural Polaris Prize.
His 2008 sophomore album Afterparty Babies was released in the USA on Epitaph’s Anti- imprint and in the UK on Big Dada Records, bringing his music to a much wider audience. The New York Times remarked upon the album’s “dense, tricky productions that pile samples and scratching atop techno and electro beats” with the Guardian claiming Cadence’s “darting intelligence and racing imagination are evident in every line.” The album was supported by extensive worldwide touring including festivals like Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, Roskilde, Primavera Sound and the Great Escape and opening slots for bands like Public Enemy.
In 2009, Rollie Pemberton was appointed Poet Laureate of Edmonton, making him the literary ambassador of his home city for two years, during which he was invited to read poetry for an event at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He followed up this literary stint with 2012’s Hope In Dirt City, an album produced by Rollie recording live instruments and sampling them for his beats. “I wanted to make it ambiguous between where the sample ends and the live band begins,” he told Paste Magazine. The album was his second to be shortlisted for the Polaris Prize.
Now based in Toronto, Cadence Weapon returns with “My Crew (Woooo).” Inspired by his experiences living in Montréal, Cadence spits frenetic tongue-twisting verses that call out internet trolls and Camo pant-wearing Montréal cops over a syncopated futuristic trap banger produced by 2016 Polaris Prize winner KAYTRANADA. With its massive club-ready beat and Cadence’s dizzying flows, “My Crew (Woooo)” mirrors the energy of Montréal’s underground afterhours party scene, complete with hedonistic imagery and shout outs to his crew dwelling in the various neighbourhoods of the city. Rollie says that “My Crew (Woooo)” is “an anthem about unapologetically being who you want to be, no matter what anybody else thinks.”
Photo credit to Levi Manchak