Cadence Weapon Interview
Cadence Weapon is on that Toronto hustle (while making new music)
Rollie Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon, first broke into the Canadian rap scene back in 2005 when he released his breakthrough debut, Breaking Kayfabe. The three-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, and one time Edmonton Poet Laureate was recently in town to shoot our And* campaign. We sat down with Rollie to talk about moving to Toronto, his forthcoming record, and the importance of inclusivity.
This project has evolved over the years. How do you like to describe yourself now?
I think I have a better understanding of it now. I feel like when I first started, I was just trying to make the freakiest thing possible. Now I think the essence is electronic music mixed with rap in a way that isn’t gimmicky, but combining the ethos of both those worlds. The worlds of techno and rap –– that’s the intersection I live in.
Rollie is wearing the "And" Cotton Crewneck T-Shirt in White
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Lately I’ve been really inspired by rap that’s on house tracks, almost spoken word type stuff. The vocals on a Green Velvet track or Moodymann are a good example. Obviously, all that trap music coming out of Atlanta, and the permutation of that sound. But I think a big foundation of my music is inspired by UK grime. When I first heard Dizzee Rascal and Wiley, I realized that there was another world out there that was playing by the same rules as me.
What have you been up to in the last 5 years since the release of “Hope in Dirt City”?
In that time period, I toured a bunch, moved to Toronto, and reconfigured my label situation. I also changed gears and started working more on poetry. I put out a book of poetry. The whole time I was recording, but being hard on myself as to what I wanted to release. Over the past 5 years I’ve made over a 100 songs, but didn’t really release any of them. It was only when I moved to Toronto that I started getting this renewed sense of focus in how I wanted the album to be, and I finished it very quickly from that point.
Can you talk about that transition from Montreal to Toronto?
It’s a big difference. Montreal is such a tight-knit community; everybody knows each other. Whereas in Toronto, there’s a different infrastructure, especially in music––which has allowed me to be more focused. There’s something about Toronto that really makes you grind super hard, partly because the cost of living is so high there and you have to generate some income. It’s also in the pace of the city. In Montreal, I’m late all the time, I’m moving very slow, and it’s totally OK. Whereas is in Toronto, it’s just like a constant spinning wheel. It feels like the whole idea of the rat race; people are all trying to get their piece of the pie. In that way, it’s kinda exciting. Especially with rap, because there’s so much competition. It’s very overwhelming, but it’s the pace that I like right now.
Do you feel like you fit in more in the indie scene or with the rappers?
I’ve always leaned more towards the indie side. I consider myself to be an experimental-electronic rapper. I don’t think there are are a lot of people that can appreciate the intersection of those three worlds the same way that I can. And when I do meet people like that, we get along really well. One person whom I’ve become really good friends with is Jacques Greene. He lives in Toronto too, and we’ve been working on a lot of music together. It’s good to have someone who appreciates the way things connect. When you’re in one world, you can get tunnel-vision about that world. So if I only hung out with rap people, I would only be in rap-world. I like to just be fluid –– bounce between the worlds. But I’m definitely more well-known on the indie tip. But I feel like the future for me is in electronic music.
"There’s something about Toronto that really makes you grind super hard, partly because the cost of living is so high there and you have to generate some income."
Your new record is coming out at the beginning of the new year––is there a particular reason why it’s self-titled?
Yes! I’ve always want to do that and love the idea of putting out a self-titled album that isn’t your debut; I think that’s kinda clutch! I also see this as a new starting point for me. There’s reflections of my old music in this new music, but I find it to be very different. The production is very different. I’m very different. And the way that I see music is very different. So I kinda wanted to represent that with the title being: this is who I am.
The first single, “My crew (Woooo)”, is about your love for Montreal.
That was a fun shoutout to my friends. I made it while I was here. The atmosphere while I was recording it too –– I was hanging out with a bunch of my friends. I wanted people who knew the different neighbourhoods, and some of the references that I was talking about to get a little private enjoyment out of it. People really resonated a lot with that song. Even if you’re not from Montreal, you can appreciate the energy behind it. It’s got such a cool spirit to it. Definitely attributed that to production from Kaytranada, who totally laced me with that beat.
Kaytranada amongst many collaborations on this record.
This is by far my most collaborative record. The 3 before –– I produced them all. I had this mindset where I didn’t want to have any outside influence in what I was making. I’m open to other people’s ideas in a way that I wasn’t when I was younger. And that’s just a sign of getting older and mature, and it’s resulted in the best music I’ve ever made. But it’s been a fun process, working with different producers. I’ve been doing it in a way that I go into the studio with them and they make the beat in front of me. Two of the tracks on this album with Jacques Greene ––that’s what we did. It was a similar process with most of the tracks. Having that human connection too is very meaningful, and you can hear it in music when it’s not there.
Can you talk about the poem you wrote for our And* campaign?
I wrote this poem called “And”. I wanted to write something that was about inclusivity, because I feel like it’s one of the most important things in the world today. We don’t see a lot of it in the mainstream media, especially with the current president [of the United States] who is very divisive. So I wanted to write something that seized upon a certain Canadian spirit, but also played with the clichés and jokes about being Canadian. I wanted people to feel triumphant about it, but also take a look at themselves, and realize that the differences that we all have is what makes us a greater whole. That was the idea of the poem, basically. Canada isn’t perfect. I didn’t want it to be jingoistic, boosterism, “Go Canada!” thing. I wanted it to reflect the fact that we have a complicated history too.
Cadence Weapon's new self-titled record is out now on Eone.