Cadence Weapon (aka Rollie Pemberton) had a vision for Hope In Dirt City, one that was surrounded around being expressive, but concise. From studying poetry to sports metaphors – the Edmonton MC talks about the craze in his head and the value behind the words.
“I feel like I was trying to be more succinct with my statements and the way I say them, I’ve been studying, [this will sound nerdy], Imagism, so learning about saying the most with the least amount of words as possible. That’s what I was trying to do on this album.”
The tracks featured on Hope In Dirt City don’t drag on, with many averaging three minutes in length. The verse maze isn’t necessarily predictable; it’s actually anything but.
Take ‘Cheval’ and its bare bones freestyle and then listen to ‘Crash Course For The Rivers’, which incorporates more panicked pop beats with bluesy sax interludes and drum taps. Then listen to the single ‘Conditioning’ and you can further hear Pemberton’s signature rap flair.
Personally, ‘Conditioning’ instantly brings me back to sitting in my folks basement, drinking Pepsi while watching Master T and RapCity – I have no concrete conclusion why (nor do I need one), but it does and I love that.
Having shared stages with some of the most iconic names in the rap world (*cough* Mos Def, Public Enemy), Cadence Weapon is a troubadour of the generations and the new album reflects his own view of the culture.
“Hip-hop is this open ended way of life. It’s like hip-hop and rap specifically, it has the most potential for creativity in all music genres because it’s based on transforming pre-existing forms.”
Pemberton has seen the expansion of new and old rap scenes and can still laugh about trying to evolve into the hype.
“I can’t really fake things. I’ve done these experiments sometimes where I’ll just go and try and make a krunk track and I’ll make it and it still ends up being so f*** stupid,“ he says.
“Trends change so quickly and I think one thing that will never go out of style is substance. Substance and depth. But, I think eventually if I stick to my guns and make something with value and depth I think what I’m doing will be the norm.”
‘There We Go’ is a medley of dark poetic lyrics filled with realizations of self and persona, the moments of afterthoughts. It’s a candid experiential portrayal of the music circuit both from an observer and for those moving through the motions within the lifestyle.
Then there is the aggressive track ‘You Cant Stop The Machine’ where smooth hip-hop ballads are delivered against rough and androgynous pounding instrumentation, one that is dirty yet delightful.
Simply put, each song finds its own rhythm, but there’s strategy.
“Growing up I studied and followed Freestyle Fellowship, a rap group from California. They were really about that style, every song sounded completely different from each other. Like ‘Cornbread‘ is total gibberish, but it’s so fun to listen to and stylistically cool,” Pemberton explains.
He furthers, “I read this amazing article by David Foster Wallace about tennis, describing why Federer is such a good tennis player. He plays the game, but he can think ahead, so when he’s hitting he’s thinking ten plays ahead and everything is about trying to lull them into where he wants them to be.”
Hope in Dirt City is a strikingly solemn yet punch-hungry rap album and it’s worth snagging.
“It’s upbeat, but dark. I wanted it to be some sort of triumph to my darkness.”
Cadence Weapon is currently on tour with Vancouver garage rockers, Japandroids. Check out the tour dates here.
Update: Hope in Dirt City has been long-listed for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize.