I am hereby requesting a bandwagon late-pass. Out of nowhere a few months ago, someone sent me the video for “Sharks” by Cadence Weapon (embedded below). Like many who’ve heard the track, I was instantly hooked, and started looking for more. Well, lucky me, Cadence Weapon had just put out a new disc of his glitchy Hip-hop called Afterparty Babies (Anti, 2008). It’s been in or near the top of the playlist ever since.
I’ve been down since thirteen literally, bombing the whole system up, beautifying the scenery. — Big Juss, Company Flow
Before dropping the bubbly beats and fresh rhymes, Cadence Weapon a.k.a. Rollie Pemberton used to write reviews for a major music website, but way before that, his dad was Edmonton, Alberta’s premiere source for Hip-hop. At age thirteen, Rollie knew he wanted to rap, and his starting young is evident in the work: His records — though he’s only been making them for a few years — are those of a veteran. He’s grown up with this ish. It’s in his bloodstream.
Clever and catchy Hip-hop that doesn’t outsmart itself might be more prevalent now than ever, but it still isn’t lurking on every airwave. I’m glad to pass the name Cadence Weapon on to you. He gets respect for the rep when he speaks. Check the technique and see if you can follow it.
Roy Christopher: Tell me about the new record. What’s different this time around?
Cadence Weapon: This record is faster paced, more cohesive and tied to a connecting concept. It’s more personal and drawing from more dancefloor influences than IDM or grime.
RC: Your dad was a Hip-hop pioneer up there in Edmonton. What are your earliest impressions of Hip-hop and music?
CW: I grew up on rap music and culture so I just saw it as normal. Predictably, I was isolated not knowing many other people who were into rap music so it was just something I liked myself. I saw it as an extension of poetry or any other artistic expression, and I still do.
RC: Though Hip-hop as a genre is often innovative and rebellious, it’s also steeped in strict traditions and rules. What’s your take on this contradiction — and negotiating it as an artist?
CW: It’s one of the strangest things about the music. It’s the most open-ended genre in terms of possibilities. You can sample someone walking down the street and rap about your mom’s hat if you wanted to, because there are no constraints in rap, just the ones built by the individual. The regimented nature of rap is a response to its corporate status: People thinking you have to maintain the status quo to retain sales. It’s shitty.
RC: Comedian David Spade once said that acts spend the first part of their career looking for a hook and the rest of it trying to bury that hook. To me, this is analogous to one having a “hit” (e.g., De La Soul’s “Me, Myself, and I,” or more recently, Aesop Rock‘s “No Regrets”) Do you ever resent the attention you got from “Sharks”?
CW: The success of “Sharks” doesn’t bother me. As with any single, it’s seen as representative of who I was at the time of its release. It’s a catchy song, it’s youthful and aggressive and not necessarily who I am right now, but I accept it as a period in my life. I am not trying to get rid of the memory of that song, I feel like there are still layers to it that people haven’t necessarily uncovered.
RC: What’s next for Rollie Pemberton? And for Cadence Weapon?
CW: Next for Rollie Pemberton: making the most of my free time, playing basketball, getting back into party mode, bettering myself.
Next for Cadence Weapon: actually collaborating with people on my next album, writing about death and body image and the other side of the world, starting a band, rapping harder.
Here’s the video that launched the fandom, “Sharks” from Cadence Weapon’s debut record, Breaking Kayfabe (Upper Class, 2005) (runtime :4:22):