Rollie Pemberton, also known as Cadence Weapon, broke down musical barriers when his debut album, Breaking Kayfabe, hit record shelves in 2005. Hailed as a rising hip-hop star in the independent scene, he was lauded for avoiding the stale formulas that are too commonly found in mainstream pop but also for straying from the too often reclusive nature that characterizes a lot of underground rappers. His biting rhymes laid over his own synth-heavy, electro-fused beats have prompted some to label him as the Canadian response to British grime MC Dizzee Rascal. His admiration for IDM acts like Aphex Twin is much more apparent in his material than some of his other influences, such as hip-hop veterans Prince Paul and Timbaland.
Pemberton's musical roots, however, can be traced back to his father, Teddy Pemberton, a DJ who is credited for introducing hip-hop to his hometown of Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Teddy Pemberton created The Black Sound Experience radio show on the University of Alberta's CSJR station in 1980. Following in his father's footsteps, Cadence Weapon discovered that he truly wanted to rap around the age of 13, but his mother wanted him to pursue a career in journalism. He attended journalism school in Virginia for some time, but it didn't suit him. Nonetheless, by the age of 18, he still established a name for himself as a tough music critic, writing for the Brooklyn-based Stylus webzine and the influential Pitchfork Media.
After he quit the former and was fired from the latter (the Pitchfork editor-in-chief stated via email that his reviews were too vague), he began immersing himself into rhymes and producing his own tracks. In 2005, he pressed and released his first effort, the mix CD Cadence Weapon Is the Black Hand. His blog, which featured this work, caught the attention of a few labels, including Def Jam, who wanted him to remix a track for their budding garage artist, Lady Sovereign, and Upper Class Recordings, the Toronto-based label that signed Cadence Weapon and released his first full-length in December 2005. Breaking Kayfabe (later reissued) received rave reviews from the independent press -- including from his former employers. It was also nominated for the first Polaris Music Prize in 2006, which awards the best Canadian album regardless of genre or record sales, and though he didn't win, the increasing attention he was receiving helped him get a deal with the American label Epitaph/Anti. His next full-length, Afterparty Babies, then came out in March of 2008. Four years passed before the rapper returned in 2012 with the diverse Hope in Dirt City, an album that featured tracks based in electro and indie rock along with hip-hop. ~ Cyril Cordor