Edmonton’s poet laureate turned Montreal-based rapper Rollie Pemberton, a.k.a. Cadence Weapon, is hot off of the back of a second Polaris Prize shortlisting with a North American tour lined up that is set to secure his spot as Canada’s top hip-hop emcee.
Pemberton may have lost the Polaris nod to the much decorated Fiest on Sept. 24, but the online chatter that night was about Cadence Weapon.
His live performance at the awards show, dressed in a futuristic jacket by Montreal designer Denis Gagnon, was the perfect launching point to start his new Hope in Dirt City tour that sees him covering every inch of Canada and the U.S. including Windsor’s teeny tiny Phog Lounge.
“The most fun I have on the whole tours is the small venues,” he said drawing connection to his home town of Edmonton. “It was like Mata from the gods when a good show stopped in Edmonton.
“I decided to play where I play,” said Pemberton, who has never played the city in the past. “I’m stoked to come through and play Windsor. I rarely get to Detroit, so I’m happy to get over there too.”
I’m a really big fan of (Detroit rapper and Metro Times’ Artist of the Year) Danny Brown and (Detroit electronic artist) Deastro who is opening the show in Detroit,” said Pemberton. But it’s acclaimed Detroit producer D Dilla that gets him excited.
“(J Dilla’s 2006 LP) Donuts is my favourite album of the last decade,” said Pemberton. “It was a total revelation when it came out. We listened to that album on tour non-stop, we called our car the Donut-mobile. He was huge for me.”
Edmonton has constantly maintained a solid music scene that Pemberton is quick to lay props to, pointing out the successes of emcee and producer Mitchmatic and Born Gold, the project of Cecil Frena, formerly of Edmonton freak-popsters Gobble Gobble. “He is always doing something cool.”
Pemberton is no stranger to the Edmonton electo scene, working with vintage synth poppers Shout Out Out Out Out. “I used to DJ with Nick and Jason from the band back in Edmonton … we’ve done a lot of work together. They are defiantly the homies back in Edmonton.”
Like so many before him, Pemberton has gone east to Montreal to orchestrate his career. Quickly making friends with Claire Boucher, better known as Canadian indie ‘it girl’ Grimes among others, Cadence Weapon is a name that is more often than not preceded by ‘Montreal’s.’
“I still miss Edmonton,” he said, of the town that named him their first poet laureate. “I don’t know if they morn my loss, but I know I definitely made an impact there.”
The biggest impact Pemberton feels he can make now is on the road as his eight-week tour takes him from Toronto to Chicago and Austin to Brooklyn, with all the dates written on a poster designed for the Windsor gig.
“Once we saw that (poster), we said ‘that’s perfect for the tour,’” Pemberton said of a poster initially designed by Christofer Elkjar, local designer and guitarist in opening act Learning. “That poster just makes me even more excited to come down to Windsor and play an amazing show for you guys. Obviously this is a place that really cares about music I’m just really excited about it.”
Pemberton has a soft spot for the industrial cities he’s visiting on his tour. Dirt City is about his experiences in Edmonton, though he admits there are deliberately a number of dirt cities on the Dirt City Tour.
“I wanted it to be relatable to anybody from any city who felt disenfranchised. Any young person who has made art in a dark place in their lives can relate to that,” he said. “Dirt City is where we make it. Dirt City is more of a state of mind.”
Cadence Weapon plays Phog lounge on Oct. 14 with Learning who will be joined by Lee Reed formerly of Hamilton experimental rap group Warsawpack. Tickets are $15 and doors open at 8 p.m. He plays the following evening at Detroit’s Majestic Theatre with Deastro, doors are at 8 p.m. and cover is $10. For both Windsor and Detroit shows, the first 40 advance tickets receive a limited edition Cadence Weapon Conditioning / Loft Party 7” single.