Five Questions With… Cadence Weapon
The rapper/poet born Rollie Pemberton is returning to the spotlight with an imminent new album. He is also partnering in a socially conscious clothing line for Frank and Oak. Learn more about that in this interview.
By Jason Schneider
It has been some time since Cadence Weapon officially released new music, but the beloved Edmonton-born hip-hop artist is gearing up for a full-fledged return in 2018 by partnering with Montreal clothing company Frank and Oak on a line of unisex t-shirts and fleece sweaters sold under the name And. The garments, made by Petites-Mains, a Montreal-based organization that supports immigrant women in need with five dollars from the purchase of items donated to human rights organization, Equitas.
The company asked Cadence Weapon to write a poem that captured the essence of the And campaign’s goal to promote inclusion, equality and tolerance. It subsequently became the basis of a simple but powerful promotional video with Cadence Weapon reciting the poem (“We prefer to say ‘And’ instead of ‘or’…”) over images of ordinary Montrealers.
It’s an attitude that has always been reflected in Cadence Weapon’s work, so much so that his hometown named him Edmonton’s Poet Laureate in 2009. His reputation for innovative approaches in the studio has also notably set him apart from his peers, making his upcoming self-titled album set for release on Jan. 19 (eOne Music) an event that truly deserves to be called “long-awaited.”
“Large,” the third single from the album was recently released. For more information on And, go here
How did the concept of And come together, and what are your goals for it?
Frank And Oak reached out to me about the idea of collaborating on a project about social inclusion with some of the proceeds going to charity. I was familiar with their brand from living in Montreal and loved the idea of working on something positive that was grounded in bringing people together, especially in light of today’s political climate. I wanted to write a piece that touched on Canadian identity but wasn’t overly sentimental. I tried to make light of Canadian clichés and contradictions while also highlighting the idiosyncrasies that bring us closer together.
What makes this type of campaign useful for the issues you're addressing?
I think putting poetry into unfamiliar contexts can make the writing more impactful. Seeing people from all different walks of life while hearing my words about our differences bring us together. Rather than just doing a Christmas-themed ad campaign, I think it’s cool that Frank And Oak tapped me to do something a little more unique. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box to get people to consider an idea like this.
What are your fondest musical memories as you were growing up?
My first concert was Montell Jordan and Boyz II Men in Edmonton. I bought a hat that said “This Is How We Do It” at the show that I wish I still had today. My family has always been big on karaoke, and that’s where I really became excited about performing. I used to rap “Gin And Juice” by Snoop, but my signature song was Frank Sinatra's “New York, New York”. I’d be climbing on the furniture just belting the song out at eight years old.
What do you recall about your first time performing in public?
My first significant public performance was at my high school graduation. I was wearing an all-white suit holding a decorative cane, rapping a song in front of my entire school about how cool it is to graduate. Hopefully, all of the tapes have been destroyed.
What are your plans so far for 2018?
I’m releasing my new album on January 19, so I’ll be touring around North America in support of that. I’m working on another project with an electronic producer that should see the light of day sometime in 2018 as well. I hope to continue collaborating with other musicians and producers, as that has been a significant theme for me over the past couple years.