I was introduced to Cadence Weapon, real name Rollie Pemberton III, in 10th grade. I was attending High School in Calgary, AB and when his first studio album “Breaking Kayfabe” became available for download on KaZaa it set the Prairies on fire.
Flash-forward seven years and Rollie has accomplished more than most Canadian artist can only dream of. He’s attended University for Journalism, written for Pitchfork, represented Canada as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate and perhaps most importantly, made some dope ass music.
Late last month he released “Hope in Dirt City” on Upper Class Recordings, his third and arguably most ambitious album yet. It’s production value is especially unique, as Rollie took advantage of live instrumentalists to create a final product that not only breaks musical conventions but also establishes a genres all its own.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Rollie while he was in Toronto awaiting the next leg of his tour with Vancouver’s Japandroids. During this time frame a naïve girl from Calgary fell pretty hard for a rapper from Edmonton. If you want to witness the start of a budding romance that he’ll never know about, keep reading.
What shoes are you wearing right now?
A black pair of Jordan’s that I got in New York before the tour; I want to say their Jordan 7’s.
You’re touring with Vancouver’s Japandroids, how did this come about?
They just asked me to come on tour with them and I was like sure (laughs). We’ve already toured England together and that went really well. A lot of people think its weird that its rap and rock but I’ve been dealing with this my whole life. Because of the music I make, I don’t see a separation between different types of music.
What ingredients go into making a spectacular live show?
I was opening for De La Soul at the Pit Pub in Vancouver and I was really impressed by their show. They did this cool thing with the song “Ego Trippin” where they got the crowd to scream back at them and they’d start doing it faster and faster and eventually they’d mix in the screaming with the sample of that song. When the beat dropped it was one of the hypest moments I’ve experienced at a show.
How has the transition from Edmonton to Montreal affected your general outlook on life and music?
Based on the artists that I hang out with in Montreal and the arts infrastructure there I’ve become much more competitive. It’s made me want to push myself more because all my friends are doing really cool things and it becomes a game of one-upmanship. We’re all feeding off each other’s energy and it really feels like a movement in that way.
If Edmonton is the “Dirt City” what is Calgary?
(laughs) The analogy I always use is Edmonton is where the rig workers live and Calgary is where the people who own the rigs live.
The theme of boxing and wrestling seems to appear quite frequently in your music and videos, what intrigues you about these sports?
It’s not something I’ve consciously done but I’ve realized more and more the parallels between athletics and music by playing shows night after night. I see the court as a stage. One of the reasons I first started making music is because when I was growing up I wanted to be a professional wrestler so I could have my own theme song.
What would your theme song be?
At the time I was really into “Big Bang Baby” by Stone Temple Pilots.
Being a sports fan, in the battle between Miami and Boston, who will prevail?
I’m just going to flip my cards out here…I HATE Lebron. Oh and Bosh! What’s worse than that? Everything about that team drives me crazy. It’s almost like they’re acting evil on purpose.
In your “Conditioning” video you dawned a throwback Suns jersey. Have you ever met Steve Nash?
I met him in a hotel lobby here in Toronto once. Whenever I meet someone famous I always make a point to not bring up any of the shit they actually do.I talk about something that will surprise them. I like to surprise celebrities. So I went up to Nash and I asked him about the video he did with Baron Davis, the one where they were riding tandem bicycles together.
You did one collaboration on “Hope in Dirt City” with Buck 65. What did Buck teach you and what did you teach Buck?
We’ve toured Canada together and I’ve always felt that Buck helped develop the lane that I’m going in now. He created the precedent for someone being outside the box in Canadian rap. And on the tour I learned showmanship. He’s very thoughtful of protecting the audience’s experience. When you go to my show I want you to feel like you’ve stepped outside of reality and Buck taught me how to do that.
As someone who writes in a variety of different formats, what’s the process like when you’re writing rhymes?
I’m not like Jay-Z or Biggie, I can’t rap off the top of my head. My writing is fragmented, its very rare that I’ll just sit down and finish a song from beginning to end. The way I describe my writing is a collage style. I have all these fragments, ideas, punch lines and character studies and eventually I see a big enough connection between them that I can make a song out of it.
If you were over the age of 19 in 1988, what would be the first thing you’d do?
I would probably buy as much Polo stuff as I could. I’d keep it in perfect condition until 2012 when I would then turn around and sell it for 3 times the price. I’d keep the coolest stuff for myself though.
Is there a place for romance in rap music?
I defiantly think so. I just feel like it hasn’t been broached in a very mature way yet as a genre. What I’m trying to do is create a romantic song that is on the same level as a Paul McCartney song. Just because I’m a rapper doesn’t mean I can’t make a song that’s worth the scope of a George Martin production.
If your house was on fire and you could only save five records, what would they be?
They’d just be rare records that I probably couldn’t find again and I know exactly where they are, I keep them all in my traveling record case.
1. “Optimo” by Liquid Liquid
2. “Paul’s Boutique” by Beastie Boys
3. I have this very rare Russian record that has this amazing break on it and I need to use it but haven’t done so yet.
4. An alternative version of “Hit and Run Lover” by Carol Jiani.
5. And finally I would grab one of the first remixes I ever did for a guy named Disco D.
CADENCE WEAPON – 2012 TOUR DATES
Mon Jun 11, 2012 – Seattle WA – Neumos *
Tue Jun 12, 2012 – Portland OR – Doug Fir Lounge *
Thu Jun 14, 2012 – San Francisco CA – The Independent *
Fri Jun 15, 2012 – Los Angeles CA – The Echoplex *
Sat Jun 16, 2012 – San Diego CA – Casbah *
Tue Jun 19, 2012 – Denver CO – Larimer Lounge *
Thu Jun 21, 2012 – Chicago IL – Lincoln Hall *
Fri Jun 22, 2012 – Cleveland Heights OH – Grog Shop *
Sat Jun 23, 2012 – Toronto ON – Lee’s Palace *
Mon Jun 25, 2012 – Montreal QC – La Sala Rossa *
Tue Jun 26, 2012 – Allston MA – Brighton Music Hall *
Wed Jun 27, 2012 – New York NY – Bowery Ballroom *
Thu Jun 28, 2012 – Brooklyn NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg *
Fri Jun 29, 2012 – Philadelphia PA – Johnny Brenda’s *
Sat Jun 30, 2012 – Washington DC – Rock and Roll Hotel *
Tue Jul 03, 2012 – Minneapolis MN – 7th St. Entry *
Sat Jul 28, 2012 – Edmonton AB – Interstellar Rodeo
Fri Aug 10, 2012 – Woodstock NB – Dooryard Arts Festival (Mainstage)
* w/ Japandroids
interview by @clarkbs