Cadence Weapon on coming up rap

Cadence Weapon, playing the M for Montreal festival tonight, talks misconceptions, the Montreal scene, the CFL connection and growing up on rap and funk records.

Rollie Pemberton and friend

If MC/producer Cadence Weapon (born Rollie Pemberton) were a P-Funk AllStar and certainly, to fans across the national indie landscape, he is, in his own right Bootsy would probably dub him The Prairie Funk Child.

Having called Montreal home for some time now, Cadence Weapon gets up for the M downstroke tonight, and took time to shoot the breeze with me for a spell.

Given 2004s Breaking Kayfabe, which he dropped at 18, its successor Afterparty Babies and the still-shiny-new Hope in Dirt City, it’s safe to say the man has put in work, which Montrealers recognized last spring in what would become the last-ever  Best of Montreal hip hop category, ranking at number two (right behind Alaclair Ensemble), an achievement which he describes in sincere terms of pride.

Darcy MacDonald: In the aftermath of that, I heard a whole bunch of people saying, on my Facebook for instance, Who the fuck is Cadence Weapon? Ive followed you for years, so hearing the kind of backlash like, Oh, some trendy motherfucker just moved to Montreal, and so on, I found it kinda ignorant, personally.

How do those attitudes sit with you? I dont want to ask you like, How do you fit in to the Montreal scene? or what have you, but what would you answer back to someone asking, Why this guy?

Cadence Weapon: Its always been a weird thing for me even when I was in Edmonton, you know? Everyone knew me in Edmonton, I was firmly involved in that scene, but that said, everyone thought what I was doing was just weird. They thought like, it wasnt even rap. Right before I started getting popular, people had certain perceptions about me, and then when I did get popular, they were like, Oh, this guy is never around. You know how rap people are, man. They always have a way to turn things around.

But you know, in Montreal, honestly, the music community has been really good to me in general. Ive never limited myself to you know, being just like, Im a rap guy, Im only gonna hang out with rap people! Ive just always been down to hang out with whoever is down to hang out, you know? Thats led me to be way more creative. Just living in Montreal has been so dope because Ive had opportunities where Im, you know, recording with Doldrums and making what I think is this very futuristic music. Whereas Ive had other times where Socalled called me up and then I end up being in this big rapstravaganza with all these other rappers from town. Thats when I started to get to know some of the other rappers here, and Im like, man, Montreal is fucking wicked!

DM: I did think it was unfair though, especially when hearing it from other media, show promoters – people I think should know better.

CW: Thats another problem overall that I think is just related to the way the Canadian hip hop infrastructure is in general. I think a lot of it is informed by what America says. Especially when it is coming from somewhere say like Toronto, you know, where it is so insular, and then you see the kinda things that get nominated for Junos. Itll be like, an EP of some dude from Toronto that nobody has heard of. But this dude is able to get played on like, regular city rap radio, whereas I never do. All these barriers stop people from even giving it a chance! And I think that most people who come to my show and this isnt even toward the rap people who are gonna read this article youre gonna get a good rap show.

I think its a misnomer, people think Im on some super abstract trip. But you know, my dad was a rap DJ for 25 years. I grew up listening to it my whole life. And Ive been playing rap shows for almost a decade. Im proud as hell. I want people to know! I want people to believe in me.

DM: Please tell me in general terms about your dad, and how growing up with hip hop music around you in the time and place that you did shaped your sound.

CW: Growing up in a household like I did obviously really informed what I ended up making. I was in a really unique circumstance, especially being from Edmonton. If it werent for my dad, rap wouldnt have come to that part of the world for probably quite a much longer time. Etymologically speaking, he was the dude that brought rap to Edmonton.

DM: He did an overnight show, was that it?

CW: He did a Saturday night show on CJSR called The Black Experience in Sound. It was a pretty late-night show.

DM: When did he found it?

CW: I wanna say 1980. And even around that time, or before it, he had a record store in Edmonton, which I cant fully remember the name of it because I didnt exist yet!

He used to import records from Brooklyn, because my dad was from New York, originally. So hed order records and bring them to Edmonton. It was like the only place you could get funk or rap records.

DM: What brought your dad from New York to the Prairies?

CW: My mom! My mom is from Edmonton. My grandparents my moms parents were from the States, and my grandfather is a CFL legend named Rollie Miles. He is who I am named after and he is the reason my entire family is in Edmonton. He moved there and played for the Eskimos.

DM: So you must just remember being surrounded by records from the time you were in diapers!

CW: I grew up, literally, in an archive of records. So its obvious, when you listen to this record [Hope in Dirt City] you know, Im learning more about myself as I get older, realizing that all of this shit influenced me. the fact that I would be hearing like, Funkadelic and Jimi Hendrix and then Nas and stuff exactly when it first came out. Like, hearing George Clinton Computer Games when I was three?!

One of my earliest memories is being in pre-school. And it was my birthday. Theyd make you go up to the board and write all of your favourite things: your favourite colour, your favourite food and your favourite music. And when I went up there, they said, Whats your favourite music? and I said Funk. And they thought I was saying Fuck! They were like, What, what did you say?!

So yeah. Live for the funk, die for the funk. Thats me. ■

Cadence Weapon plays with openers Mozart’s Sister and Karneef at Il Motore (179 Jean-Talon W.), 8:30 p.m., $12

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