Weapon of choice

Rol­lie Pem­ber­ton was a re­spectable Cana­dian mu­sic jour­nal­ist, un­til he quit writ­ing, changed his name, and rein­vented him­self as a rap­per. Cadence Weapon talks to Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

WHEN it came time for Rol­lie Pem­ber­ton to re­lease his first tracks as Cadence Weapon, he knew ex­actly what he didn’t want to do. The Cana­dian rap­per had paid his dues re­view­ing mu­sic for Pitch­fork, the on­line mu­si­cal or­a­cle, and had his fill of dis­mal and dreary rap records.

“At Pitch­fork I had a chance to re­view th­ese big im­por­tant al­bums, so I had a big au­di­ence for my writ­ing style and for get­ting my mes­sage across to peo­ple,” says Pem­ber­ton. “But you also have to re­view a ton of shitty rap records. It was re­ally hard to get ex­cited about those mid­dle-ish al­bums or to find a creative way to write about them.

“I mean, I was mak­ing mu­sic long be­fore I started writ­ing for Pitch­fork. But those con­stant re­minders about how much shit mu­sic was out there were good for me be­cause I learned what not to do when it came to my own stuff.”

Mu­sic re­view­ers have no trou­ble get­ting ex­cited about the young gun­slinger from Edmonton. Af­ter the dy­namic rhymes and ra­zor-sharp funk of his Break­ing Kay­fabe de­but, Pem­ber­ton re­turns to the arena with an­other sling full of lyri­cal zingers and im­pres­sive, en­er­getic beats.

Af­ter­party Ba­bies, album No 2, is full of mis­chief and man­i­festos, aware of the need to both rock the house and pro­vide food for the brain. Pem­ber­ton ex­hibits plenty of smarts, such as on the glo­ri­ous opener, Do I Miss My Friends? with its low-slung a cap­pella doo-wop, and at those times when the en­er­getic beats and would-be hip-house res­ur­rec­tions are per­fectly in tune with his vo­cab­u­lary.

The ti­tle, he ex­plains, was in­spired by his dad. The Brook­lyn na­tive was some­thing of a hip-hop pi­o­neer in down­town Edmonton and hosted an in­flu­en­tial ra­dio show.

“He said I was an af­ter­party baby, so I wanted to make an album of mu­sic that af­ter­party ba­bies could be cre­ated to. I’ve al­ways been into elec­tronic mu­sic and the first record was in that style, but this one is much more elec­tronic and it’s also much more pop-ori­en­tated.

“I sup­pose it was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion for me get­ting more into dance­floor cul­ture and be­com­ing more in­ter­ested in DJ- ing and what that en­tailed. I had def­i­nite ideas about the pro­duc­tion and wanted beats which would be com­ple­men­tary to what I was writ­ing. I sub­con­sciously started to make mu­sic which I could hear mixed into a DJ’s set.”

For Pem­ber­ton, such ad­ven­tur­ous­ness is sec­ond na­ture and he can’t un­der­stand why so few of his peers show dar­ing in the beats de­part­ment. “A lot of hip-hop acts find one thing which works and just stick with that. They might ex­per­i­ment with some­thing once, but if it be­comes pop­u­lar, they’ll keep do­ing the same thing over and over again. That’s some­thing I want to stay away from.”

The Cana­dian is fully aware that main­stream love may well come his way. “Any­thing is pos­si­ble, es­pe­cially when you have peo­ple like Diplo and San­to­gold break­ing, and you have Grey’s Anatomy pick­ing up on stuff.” But it’s not his main aim.

“Of course, yes, it would be cool if the main­stream clicked with what I was do­ing, but I’m not los­ing any sleep over them com­ing or not com­ing on­board. It’s not why I make cuts sound the way they do. For me, the idea of be­ing an ex­per­i­men­tal artist and be­ing re­ally creative is about push­ing my­self all the time. I want the next record I make to be com­pletely dif­fer­ent to Af­ter­party Ba­bies. It’s im­por­tant for me that I don’t re­peat my­self. Sure, it might have my sig­na­ture on it and my vibe, but it will not the same as any of my records which went be­fore it.”

Pem­ber­ton says he’s look­ing for­ward to work­ing out how Af­ter­party Ba­bies will sound when he starts to play the album tracks live. That was one of the big learn­ing curves he ex­pe­ri­enced af­ter the re­lease of his first album.

“I just never thought about it. I made the album and then I re­alised I had to play it live so I didn’t re­ally know how to present my mu­sic to peo­ple in a live set­ting. But I’ve got a lot bet­ter at that now and it’s be­come eas­ier to en­gage the crowd and get them ex­cited by and in­ter- ested in what I am do­ing. It’s be­com­ing equally as in­ter­est­ing as mak­ing mu­sic and, yeah, I do think about how a track will work live when I’m in the stu­dio.”

Last year Pem­ber­ton toured the US and Canada on a dou­ble-bill with Owen “Fi­nal Fan­tasy” Pal­lett. The op­por­tu­nity to tour with an­other idio­syn­cratic tal­ent, Pem­ber­ton says, was in­spir­ing.

“I think we’re both peo­ple who want to stay away from do­ing what peo­ple think we should be do­ing or play­ing. We don’t want to be ob­vi­ous; we want to bring some­thing dif­fer­ent to an au­di­ence who may not be too familiar with what we’re do­ing. We’re look­ing at the aes­thetic and how we can fur­ther our par­tic­u­lar gen­res. Owen does that re­ally well and I learned a lot from be­ing with him.”

The live show as it cur­rently ex­ists may be short on bells and whis­tles, but Pem­ber­ton thinks that’s part of its charm. “I’m try­ing to harken back to the ba­sis for a live rap show to be­gin with, that thing of a DJ with two turnta­bles and a dude rap­ping and the room rock­ing. It’s like a new take on Grand­mas­ter Flash’s The Mes­sage, you know.”

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