By Graeme Wiggins
Rap music is the one genre of music that really embraces its regionalism. Repping the city from which one comes is fundamental to the music itself. For Edmonton raised, Toronto-based rapper Rollie Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon, this has definitely shown through, with each album reflecting the city he’s based in at the time.
With his latest self-titled album, the move to Toronto is showcased in the album’s new, more collaborative structure. He’s working with different producers, moving away from the jarring bedroom constructed sound he was once known for into a more organic, mature look at things.
“That’s something that’s always influenced me, the idea of regionalism in rap music. I don’t think I’m alone in that though. So many of the great rap records you couldn’t separate them from the place they were made. Whether it’s New York or L.A., in this case it’s just different places in Canada. That’s something I went really hard on in the first couple of albums.”
Pemberton’s interest in the geography of music carries into his touring as well. With some of his producers Jacques Greene and Kaytranada, both electronic musicians popular in Europe, it only makes sense that Pemberton’s recent UK tour was also marked by the influence of the region.
“I was very inspired by the European tour I was on,” he says. “It feels like there’s a whole wave of hyper specific, hyper regional music whether it’s grime or UK Afro-beats or whatever. I came across this song “Barking” by Ramz. Barking is a neighborhood in super far east London. And it was about hanging out with this girl from Barking and that was a number one hit radio smash. It was parodied and stuff. The idea that that’s possible is exciting.”
Aside from the city of Toronto, his latest record is also influenced by his own growing maturity and progression. He feels more comfortable talking about issues that interest him, such as gentrification and racism.
“I would be bored to make an album of rapping about rapping. There’s only so many ways to say I’m dope. I’m trying to be a rapper for people who want more conceptually from what they are listening to. I can’t help but think of that new Lil Pump song with Kanye. I love it, but I want to make the opposite of that. It’s 2018. We have access to every film book album that has ever come out and there are so many things to touch on and talk about and we have so much awareness about issues.”
It took six years after Hope in the Dirt City for Pemberton to release another album, and as such it’s a rebirth of sorts. Thankfully, it’s clear that Pemberton is back and ready to be more productive, already recording new projects and thinking about the next record. According to Pemberton, he’s more productive now than he’s ever been.
“I still feel like there’s so much for me to say and musical concepts I want to tap into. There’s still a long career for me to have. It’s nice to know there’s still an audience out there for me.”
Cadence Weapon performs at Fortune Sound Club (Vancouver) on October 6.