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Album Review: Cadence Weapon – Cadence Weapon

Monday 08th, January 2018 / 08:00
By Willem Thomas

Cadence Weapon

Cadence Weapon
eOne Music

For over 10 years, Rollie Pemberton (aka Cadence Weapon) has been far and away one of the most compelling and fluid rap voices in Canada. Generally choosing to forgo radio-centric sounds, Pemberton opts instead to chart wide ranging, off-kilter routes when making a record, mixing sounds as diverse as electro-house, jazz, and aggressive spoken-word, usually on a single song. While Pemberton explored successively more engaging sounds—without taking himself too seriously in the process—across 3 well received, widely-differing LP’s (starting with 2005’s Breaking Kayfabe), he never quite achieved the level of international recognition someone as unique and culturally dextrous as he is deserved. Serving as a deliberate re-branding and reintroduction, Pemberton’s new self-titled LP is an impassioned culmination of the Canadian rap veteran’s entire career, 5 years in the making.

Pemberton, now based in Toronto (by way of Montreal, after his cherished hometown of Edmonton—where he served as the city’s Poet Laureate from 2009-2011), both acknowledges but refuses to comply with the notion of letting your place of residence decide the direction of your art. All three cities are represented across the album, with each having at least one song placing the city itself as the backdrop and primary character in his storytelling.

On lead single “My Crew (Woooo),” Pemberton shouts out friends and neighbourhoods that defined his years spent in Montreal’s party scene. The beat, by fellow Montrealer Kaytranada, oozes along, with Pemberton switching timings and vocal effects to match throughout. The next track, “Don’t Talk To Me,” documents his experience moving to Toronto and finding himself without the connections and recognition he had prior, having to start anew. Produced by FrancisGotHeat, the song is one of a few that showcase Pemberton’s newfound willingness to crossover to more accessible, SoundCloud-ready rap. Even indirectly, one can’t help but sense some influence from Drake on said songs. Later track “High Rise,” one of the album’s best, details the perils of unrelenting condo development over a sleek, futuristic dancehall beat.

Cadence Weapon is a remarkable departure from Pemberton’s previous releases; while it still retains his elastic, calculating flow and approach to writing and wordplay, its generally less abrasive, aiming to please in a way that his music never has before. Across the album’s 12 tracks, Pemberton radiates a more appreciative, experienced energy, letting go of much of the tightly-wound freneticism that sometimes dogged his more inventive ideas in the past. Where on 2012’s great Hope in Dirt City you could imagine him stress pacing while recording, Cadence Weapon pictures Pemberton relaxed in the studio with his crew, having let other producers play a bigger role in shaping the sound of the record. Since letting some light in, and showing some openness to more conventional production, Pemberton has crafted his most fully-realized and best album yet.

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