“I am THE afterparty baby,” declares Rollie Pemberton (aka Cadence Weapon). He’s been neck-deep in promo for his new record Afterparty Babies (Upper Class) for the last week, and has probably had to explain the album title three times per hour.
“My Dad used to call me an afterparty baby. He would tell other people, ‘Oh Rollie, he’s an afterparty baby,’ and I would ask ‘Oh, so I’m an accident?’ But it turns out I’m not an accident. I was planned, I was just conceived after a party.”At 22, this fresh-faced electro rapper came straight outta Edmonton, busting onto the indie scene in 2005 with a mix tape demo, Cadence Weapon is The Black Hand
. Later that year he dropped his debut, the Polaris Prize-nominated Breaking Kayfabe to widespread critical acclaim.As he describes it, Pemberton learned a lot from his first recording experience, namely what not to do this time around.“The first album, Breaking Kayfabe, I recorded in seven hours, but the actual production of it took a few years. It’s such a convoluted process, I was losing stuff, I was missing parts, I couldn’t get it mixed properly, everything was fucked up. This time I got everything streamlined, everything was mixed properly, I had all the separate parts of the beats mixed individually, everything was popping. It’s far and away more focused than the last.”Pemberton is much more than just the voice of his songs. In a genre where routine practice pairs a talented rapper with an experienced producer, Pemberton functions autonomously in both capacities, both conceiving of and programming the music, while writing and performing his lyrics.“I’m a control freak like that, I have a very specific vision. That’s why I don’t have other people rapping on it. Like, I’m not going to have Ludacris rap on it because Ludacris is not going to be able to do a song about Rousseau properly.”In terms of subject matter, Pemberton brings an intelligent, unpredictable mix of stories and cultural references to his lyrics.“It’s a record about being youthful, making mistakes, and having fun,” he says, “A lot of the songs are about the mistakes people I know have made, it’s a coming of age record.”His lyrics focus on criticisms of everything from club-culture, to politics, to how text-message etiquette is emptying our lives of real meaning.In “Your Hair’s Not Clothes” he rhymes, “Now sit, it used to be, I wanna be your dog, now it’s who let the dogs out, you wanna crawl out.” This comparison of Iggy Pop to Baha Men is a good example of how Pemberton’s lyrical content both reflects and recognizes the fact that his hip hop music is actually situated as a subgenre of indie culture, which has a separate history and set of cultural touchstones from straight-up rap. This is probably the only record where you can hear rhymes about Ryerson, The Dandy Warhols, Ian Curtis, and the Edmonton Oilers all in the span of a few minutes. While at times it sounds like he could be reading posts off of “Stuff White People Like,” his unabashedly nerdy side is a large part of his honest, laid-back appeal.In between Afterparty Babies
and a recent jaunt through Europe, Pemberton has somehow found the time to remix fodder for locals Camouflage Nights, Sally Shapiro, and Ireland’s Super Extra Bonus Party. “It’s another cathartic thing,” he says. “It’s making music in a completely different way than I’m used to.” But even talk of remixes finds him repping west coast indie rock, “I’m a big Destroyer fan, I listen to his music constantly, and I would love to make a dance tune out of one of his songs.”While he seems to focus on the Canadian music scene (dude’s an encyclopedia of Canadian electro), Pemberton (a dual U.S./Canadian citizen) pays close attention to the American Presidential primaries.“I’m a Democrat,” he admits. “It seems like the only logical thing to do at this point. In a perfect world I’d like to rep for the Greens, but I don’t think that there ever will be enough people to make them viable.”So who does he like in the current democratic contest?“I actually like the leadership qualities of Barack Obama. I think he’s a really smart dude, and he seems less politicky than a lot of people. He’s a more regular dude. I feel like Hillary Clinton is a lizard woman, it creeps me out like crazy. She’s like a reptoid from the centre of the earth, and in 2010, she’ll reveal her true self.”Like all indie artists awaiting the imminent release of a new recording, Pemberton is readying himself for the onslaught of online criticism, mainly from his former employer, the feared and revered Pitchfork
.“Yeah, I got fired,” says Pemberton of his former life as a Pitchfork
music scribe. “I was bad with deadlines, I started sending in reviews that weren’t finished. Back then Pitchfork was not the hot shit that it is now. I didn’t realize that it would become the all-mighty goliath of music criticism— whoops.”But their parting ways didn’t leave a chip on Pitchfork’s shoulder. Back in 2005 they awarded Breaking Kayfabe a stellar rating of 8.0. I ask him if he dares to speculate what they’ll give Afterparty Babies
. “Well, they gave my last record an 8.0, and I think this record is a lot better, so for the sake of consistency I’d say they’d have to give it an 8.7.”Afterparty Babies hits store shelves tomorrow, and Cadence Weapon will be back in Toronto, April 24.