Edmonton, Alberta. It's Canada's sixth largest city, but has 10 percent of New York's population density. It's given us Robert Goulet, Jill Hennessy, and, uh, Tommy Chong. It's home to the Oilers and North America's largest mall, a 1.2 billion (Canadian) dollar monstrosity with more than 20,000 parking spaces. (Frozen) Compton, it ain't.
But, nonetheless, Edmonton is where the next great Canadian hiphop hope—the last was either the elastic-but-average K-OS or the embarrassingly famous Snow, depending on whom you ask—calls home. That'd be the aptly named Cadence Weapon, an Aesop-recalling, Kweli-nicking 21-year-old who'd rather go by his given name (Rollie Pemberton) and write for the local alt weekly (he does) than develop anything resembling an ego. Some hiphop fastcomers spit shallow tales so loud they can't be tuned out. But Pemberton, who wrote for Pitchfork as a teenager, marches to, well, a different beat.
"I'm DJing a puppet show in a couple of hours," says Pemberton from the Edmonton thinkspace where he's in the midst of mixing the follow-up to spring's Breaking Kayfabe. "Don't worry, man. I'm DJing after the puppet show. I don't want to interfere with the magnitude of the hipster puppetry."Nominated for a Polaris (that's Canadian for Mercury) Music Prize in 2006—an award Pemberton eventually conceded to current tour companion Final Fantasy—Breaking Kayfabe's a proper initiation to Pemberton's real-world rap poetry and fashion-free artistic aesthetics. Impressive, considering it's ultimately just the product of his rare, and very precocious, talent."It's funny, because it came out in Canada at the end of 2005 and I made a lot of it a year and a half before that," laughs Pemberton. "Here's this album that I made when I was 15, 16, and I'm performing it at 21. It's like, 'Man, I was this little idiot.' But the new one has way more dance beats and a song where I'm beatboxing, like slapping my knees and hands. It'll have some new stuff and be different."
In other words, no, it's not the product of frozen Compton. But it ain't Robert Goulet, either.