Release Date: May 29, 2012
Record label: Upper Class
Genre(s): Rap, Underground Rap
Cadence Weapon kicks off his third LP Hope in Dirt City by employing similes bursting with classic hip-hop boastfulness: “Nobody fresher, flyer than a single engine Cessna / With the propellers, I’m stellar, more electric than Tesla”. The opening cut that contains this couplet, “Get On Down”, is no Saturday night club banger, mind you. Commencing with (perhaps self-mocking) laughter, the smile is quickly wiped off of its face by a tinny television score sample and a tripping old-school drumbeat.
In the four years since the release of his last record, the excellent Afterparty Babies, Rollie Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon, has hardly sat idle. Whether serving as poet laureate for Edmonton, Alberta, DJing parties in Montreal, or tweeting about masterful Yo Gotti verses, Pemberton has kept involved with music even while he wasn’t making much of it himself. Cadence Weapon’s moment of silence ends with Hope in Dirt City, his new album, which shows the rapper’s snotty charm giving way to a more sophisticated appraisal of the world around him.
An exciting mix of weird and tough, Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon often sounds like Del the Funky Homosapien if he were a member of G-Unit, but on Hope in Dirt City, he's much more, breaking into a chest-beating, rock ballad scream on the hooky highlight "Conditioning" and going full dub poet on the reverb-drenched, reggae-drenched "Small Deaths. " A mixed batch of genres like electro (the anti-industry "(You Can't Stop) The Machine"), Hot Chip-styled indie funk (the twitchy "Jukebox"), and trunk-rumbling hip-hop from the Wu-Tang side of the street (the dark highlight "Hype Man") makes this the underground rapper's most musically ambitious album to date, and his superior rhymes don't take a hit at all, even if he's mellowed and slowed his pace a touch, which fits his increased love of introspection. Hook-filled songs are built to be accessible up front, and the album is well-designed as a whole, spacing out its prime numbers all the way to the end where the new wave-inspired title track offers an '80s beat and that rambling wordplay that only exists in the post-Mos Def world.
“[I]Show a hype man the middle finger on my right hand/I don’t need a fucking hype man[/I]” drawls Canadian rapper Rollie Pemberton on ‘Hype Man’ which, to these ears, sounds like a sly pop at heavyweight hip-hoppers appearing on tracks by lesser-known oiks to lift their status to ‘bloggable’. It’s a fair point, apart from the ugly truth that Cadence Weapon does need a hype man, because even though this is the third album in a row (following ‘Afterparty Babies’ and ‘Breaking Kayfabe’) to display his impressive wit and imagination, the world doesn’t care. ‘Hope In Dirt City’ is the most soulful and hazy he’s ever sounded (his previous stuff having been more hard-edged and bleepy) – there’s old-skool James Brown vox on ‘Conditioning’ and generous amounts of brass on both ‘Small Deaths’ and his reworking of Bowie’s ‘Driving Saturday’.
CADENCE WEAPON plays on June 23 at Lee’s Palace. See listing. Rating: NNNN In the four years since his last non-mixtape LP, Cadence Weapon (aka Rollie Pemberton) served a term as Edmonton's poet laureate, relocated to Montreal and abandoned plans for a "rock" album called Roquentin. All of that informs Hope In Dirt City, his dense and eclectic third album.
You know, snobbery just isn’t what it used to be. No more than six or seven years ago, music journalism pretty faithfully engaged a particular rhetoric, wielding a relatively appreciable dogmatism that bore no qualms in dispensing proclamations of acceptability, authenticity, and so forth with pontifical self-assurance. It was, generally speaking, a brand of appraisive, self-approving elitism that seemed much more delineated then.
The rapper Cadence Weapon, onetime Pitchfork contributor Rollie Pemberton, was the official poet laureate of his hometown of Edmonton, so it's a surprise that the strength of his third album, Hope in Dirt City, doesn't lie in his writing or his rapping. It's an album from an artist who has improved the overall direction of his music, but who still has room to grow as an MC. Hope in Dirt City is not a great album-- and there are more than a few moments that make me wince-- but as much I want to dismiss it, I'm left with the sense that Pemberton is working toward something, and that he's fearless enough to one day achieve it.
It’s been three years since Rollie Pemberton (AKA Edmonton-born rapper Cadence Weapon) released his Polaris Prize-nominated Afterparty Babies, and he spent that time developing a wonder of an album that bends genres, rearranges samples, and splices noise. Pemberton has always been a unique voice, but on Hope in Dirt City, he has worked out a record full of uniquely blended beats and bleakly grinning intelligence. Lead single “Conditioning” sounds partially indebted to a surprising influence in Nine Inch Nails, as Pemberton shouts the chorus more aggressively with each iteration; twisted and chopped samples and a heavy drum machine pulse underneath.
Poetry and rap aren’t so different, with both widely using rhyming, rhythm and metaphors. So it’s not hard to believe that Edmonton, Canada’s former poet laureate Rollie Pemberton, better known to the hip-hop world as Cadence Weapon, has no trouble penning innovative, ear-catching hip-hop lyrics. But on his latest album, Hope In Dirt City, Pemberton’s strongest asset isn’t his lyrical flow–it’s his wild and complex genre-crossing production.On his first two Polaris Music Prize-nominated albums, Afterparty Babies and Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon laid witty, blistering lyrics over hard-hitting electronic samples.
Entertaining and inventive, this is a fine third LP proper from the Canadian rapper. Mike Diver 2012. A writer? With credits on Pitchfork and Stylus reviews, sure. A poet? Certainly, as he served as poet laureate in his hometown of Edmonton for two years. But a genius, and he knows it? Hardly ….