Cadence Weapon
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Cadence Weapon

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The best kept secret in music


"Weirdness Is His Weapon"

WEIRDNESS is his Weapon
Sandra Sperounes
The Edmonton Journal
Saturday, May 21, 2005

EDMONTON - "Weirdo" is one of Rollie Pemberton's favourite words, even when the Edmonton writer and rapper talks about himself.

In grade school, he was always the quiet one. (He still possesses an air of intimidating aloofness.) Last year, he went to an all-black college in Virginia, but never felt like he fit in with his sheep-like classmates.

"I wasn't challenged at all," he says. "I felt downtrodden and bored."

Pemberton, a.k.a. Cadence Weapon, also thinks he's a misfit in the world of hip-hop.

His rhymes are influenced by Edmonton's idiosyncracies -- our bus route numbers, Oliver Square -- and his glitchy beats are inspired by video games and unlikely rock acts ranging from Death From Above 1979 to Supertramp and Big Star, a direct result of his father's vast record collection.

"I think I'm kind of a weirdo," says Pemberton. "I'm worried that people will label me as the punk rapper or the weirdo rapper in town. I just approach things differently and totally think differently about music and stuff.

"If you're not ambitious, why are you even doing anything? I find there's so many rappers putting out the same album over and over again. What's the point? Eventually, people are going to figure out what you're doing and they're not going to check for you anymore."

At 19, Cadence Weapon isn't anywhere near the recycling phase of his career.

His first album, Cadence Weapon Is The Black Hand, is a mix of his own smooth, authoritative raps -- including Oliver Square -- and bootleg remixes of Death From Above 1979's Going Steady and M.I.A.'s Galang. Not content to simply add sprinkles of synths or subtract vocals, Pemberton chops and dices beats, synths and hand claps to completely rework songs such as Gwen Stefani's What You Waiting For.

Influential MP3 blogs, artists and record labels around the world are starting to take notice. He was recently paid $3,500 (US) to remix a track for Lady Sovereign, a rising British rapper. He's also the first Edmonton act to be reviewed by the notoriously stuffy website,, earning a 7.8 on their 10-point scale. (He used to write reviews for the zine, but was fired. "Whatever, I write for Stylus now," he shrugs.) Based on the strength of Oliver Square, several labels offered Pemberton a deal.

"I think I sent it to this blog (Fluxblog) and the guy really liked it, he put it up on the site and I kept getting these offers and e-mails from all these people who wanted to work with me," he says.

Pemberton eventually settled on Toronto's Upper Class Records, an indie imprint with a roster of innovative and respected artists such as The Russian Futurists. His label debut, Breaking Kayfabe, is scheduled for an August release. The title refers to a wrestling term -- to break character.

"I used to be a wrestling nerd, back in the day," he says. "Wrestling and video games. I was very liked, you can tell."

Pemberton is also an Internet geek who used to engage in rap battles over the web in his mid-teens. ("Really embarassing," he says of his attempts.) He also wrote video game reviews for various sites. He now has his own blog,, where he writes about his favourite artists, including Edmonton's No Hands and The Wet Secrets.

"I'm very blog-centric," says Pemberton. "You see what Pitchfork does -- they have total control over the indie rock landscape. I think the same thing can happen with blogs. It's where people who like to consider themselves the taste-makers go to find the taste-making products ... I want to break stuff, too."

At the moment, Pemberton is more interested in making stuff. He's already finished the beats for his second Upper Class album, he's working on an instrumental suite featuring samples of three Supertramp songs -- Breakfast of Trampians -- and he's collaborating with Sean Foster, who fronts 7 and 7 is, a local indie-rock group. The two might even debut a track or two at the Shark Tank, 10249 97th St., on Sunday.

Pemberton's creative efforts don't end there.

"I'm doing free remixes for all the bands in town -- Mark Birtles Project, Dietsche V, Shout Out Out Out Out," he says. "I'm just trying to get my name out in as many sectors as I can. My plan is to do all these free remixes, right? And then, when they're like 'Can I get another one?' I'll be like, 'Hey, you have to pay me. I'm a big shot now!' It's like crack -- you get 'em hooked, then you pull 'em back in at twice the price."

- The Edmonton Journal

"Ciara "Oh" remix review"

Ciara: "Oh (Cadence Weapon Smart Bomb Remix)"
genre: r&b

The best thing about the original "Oh" is Jazze Pha's slow-rolling production custom-built for candypaint cruising through East Point. Even dicks like me with late model dented-to-fuck Mazdas can slump into cracked beige leather and get some decent looks with a beat like that.

The best thing about Cadence Weapon's remix is his apparent disdain for any posturing that such a beat might induce. His industrial synth scrapes the luster right off Ciara's candy apple vocals, and the beats are just plain rude. Clattering sheet-metal snares leave Ciara searching for her rhythm, her surgically enameled nails poked hastily into her ears-- anything to silence the brutal dismantling of her perfect pop song.

If you haven't heard Cadence Weapon's mixtape yet, you suck, and you don't know that one of his assets is his chin-grazing change-up. A track can go from boom-bap to robo-funk in a nanosecond. Here, he juxtaposes the destruction of the main body of the song with an almost reverent synth organ breakdown for Ludacris' verse. If the only difference between a preacher and a pimp is where he spits his game, then Luda's running in and out of the church on this one.

Really, was there anything anyone could do to make this song better? No. Well, maybe make the video an hour long, but apart from that, it's nice to hear Jazze Pha get kicked in the balls. [Peter Macia]

(3.5 / 5 stars)

"Review of Cadence Weapon Is The Black Hand mix tape"

Cadence Weapon
Cadence Weapon Is the Black Hand
[self-released; 2005]
Rating: 7.8

Turns out Rollie Pemberton wasn't just another one of Dominique Leone's secret Pitchforka non grata rap writing alias. The Edmonton hip-hop head Pemberton aka Pimperton aka Cadence Weapon has just released his debut "mixtape," scribbling the e-pen that skewered Juelz and Vast Aire to put his own rhymes on the e-line and rep the production skills that already got Lady Sov going blah blah blah (a good thing).

I scarequote "mixtape" cause the term beguiles here. The 19 tracks on Cadence Weapon Is the Black Hand aren't actually mixed, and confusing things even more gloriously, Cadence's chameleonic delivery suggests the tape's got a whole crew behind it. One track he's all paragraph pilates like Gift of Gab ("Reeking of rifle precision, like my life is a prism/ Then mark off the list, I bark often, twist off the tryst of a prism/ And life is an ism, on the real, vice versa, verse a vice/ When you're labelled by your genre, my personal price/ Of immersion in the right right"-- he gets that all out in about five seconds), the next he's Doomy ("Up in the club on some 'How're you?'/ But I don't like photos like Howard Hughes"), and in between he softens his consonants like Z and irrrrs his ers like Aesop and Sage Francis.

Elsewhere, Cadence's hometown shoutouts get Simon Reynolds off his back. While most of us can't appreciate the local flavor of "Oliver Square", we feel Cadence's connection to them, and the low-level mystery of it all-- like the best low-level mysteries-- keeps us on pins. The city, seemingly forgotten by as many Canadians as the millions of Americans who don't watch ice hockey, serves as an ideal backdrop for Cadence's occasional "people are gonna respect me if it kills them" demeanor: "Don't generalize, you must think and wonder/ Why I drink 40s and memorize BusLink numbers/ Well, I don't have a license, but I'm tryna gain prominence/ 'Cause I'm living in a house with a fridge full of condiments."

And in case it's not clear, Cadence knows genre-- "old school new school need to know this," as it were-- impressively adapting his flow to production and even playing with the anachronisms: 80s throwback on "Falco vs. Starfox" is paid in full when Cadence flat-out pokeballs. (And for the record, my friend who's the best at Smash Brothers is better than your friend who's the best at Smash Brothers.)

Behind the boards Cadence's just as bizzle, remixing Beastie Boys, M.I.A., Gwen Stefani, and fellow countrymen Death From Above 1979 to deep bass hip-hop abstractions but otherwise with no pronounced shtick. Here we get the most definite hint that Cadence, as a listener, devours most everything.

Is the Black Hand puts Cadence's best feats forward, but his extremely varied musical interests seem to hold him back from developing a cohesive on-mic personality-- no callings cards, let along overarching concerns or worldview, even when showing his hand on pregnant heartbreaking closer, "Julie Will Jump the Broom". But that's a debut thing-- most debuts are mixtapes in that way-- and, maybe, just an age thing, too: He's 19! Jay, here's your Saigon. -

"It's corrupt where he's from"


It’s corrupt where he’s from, Edmonton

Cadence Weapon • With Mark Birtles Project, the Frosted Tipz, Blacklisted and DJ Miss Mannered • Shark Tank • Sat, Feb 12 For most people, to say “Edmonton rap” is an oxymoron would be a giant understatement. But apparently, there’s more going on here than meets the eye.

“There is a scene here, believe it or not,” proclaims Roland Pemberton, who performs under the stage name Cadence Weapon. “I feel like the Edmonton scene is just starting to get into the rap side of things. Rap is on the come-up, for sure.”

One could argue that up is really the only trajectory possible when you’re starting at zero, and while Pemberton admits that there’s certainly more of a hip hop scene in, well, any other city this size, that hasn’t dampened his affection for Edmonton—in fact, it even emerges in his music. “It’s really important to stay true to where you are,” Pemberton explains, citing his song “Oliver Square,” a track that namechecks local institutions like New City, the Funky Pickle, the Strat and the number 7 bus, as proof. “People hear that song and are like, ‘I’ve been there’—people like to be able to identify with the music they listen to, I think.” Pemberton points to British acts like the Streets, who raps about Leeds and Bristol instead of Compton and the LBC, as a good example of what he’s talking about. “People appreciate honesty, for sure.”

When pressed to name his influences, Pemberton becomes pensive, somewhat sheepishly confessing a general distaste for the current state of hip hop. “I listen to very little new rap—I listen to a lot of indie rock, to be honest,” he admits, listing Bad Religion, the Vandals, the Faint and TV on the Radio as favourites, although he is quick to add that he typically culls his samples from far more obscure sources, eschewing the rap tradition of nicking riffs from ’70s funk tracks in favour of classic krautrock and old ’80s electro records instead. “You have to be versatile with your samples,” Pemberton says. “Lots of the ’70s funk stuff has been picked bare. You have to work extra hard to make it sound original.”

True to his word, Pemberton loves mangling his already obscure samples to the point of total unrecognizability. “I do a lot of weird stuff to my samples. I do a lot of chopping and flipping,” he says. “People will definitely give you props when you do something different to a piece of music instead of just copying something.” (RM)
- Vue Weekly

"Cadence Weapon Is The Black Hand"

Cadence Weapon pumps champion city


Cadence Weapon


4 out of 5

Check these rap lyrics: "Well I don't have a licence but I'm trying to build prominence, cuz I'm living in a house with a fridge full of condiments. See me on the bill, better follow me there. I solemnly swear I'll make it back to Oliver Square."

That's right, our Oliver Square - and the name of this song. Cadence Weapon (aka Rollie) is an incredible, inventive rapper-producer walking quickly through the streets of our very own "champion city," as he calls it.

Just this song, friends, is worth rooting around for. Mr. Weapon on his eponymous website tells us he sells this disc at select record stores and out of his backpack, so be prepared to work for your meal.

But it's worth it.

In that song alone, he name-drops Tuesday nights at the Black Dog, the RCMP, local producer and DJ Nik Kozub, IGA and Jasper Avenue. Against such familiar set design, his lyrics and hard-luck stories hit home like a hammer of meat. He's a very skilled MC, and his retro robot samples remind me of how fun the Sugar Hill Gang was. Not that he's any kind of old school purist, which is what's so great about him. His sounds range from gangsta rap (sounds, mind you) to hardcore industrial with super thick beats that could grow hair on the wall - and he's easily as spooky as Amon Tobin, farming the screams of alien vegetables for effect. You have to hear the aggressive, spacey The Gorilla is for Sand Racing, a title which sounds like a Tony Baker painting currently hanging in the EAG. CW's words are really touching, too, especially the last song, Julie Will Jump the Broom.

He also does some pretty solid remixes which I won't get into in case the Man is tapping the line.

Cadence gets a little out of breath when he takes on his full vocal gymnastics, but then again, you know it was done live off the floor. Like All Purpose Voltage Heroes, you have to ask yourself where these sounds are coming from in such a meat and Joey Tomatos town, but I ain't fussin'.

Find this disc, buy it - and that's the end of me telling you what to do.
- Edmonton Sun

"Lady Sovereign Remix"

Fluxblog - April 20, 2005

Ain't No Party Once We Crash The Party

Lady Sovereign "Blah Blah Blah (Cadence Weapon remix)" - This is a very inspired team-up, and not just because they are both ridiculously talented up-and-comers under the age of 20 - there's some real chemistry going on here. Lady Sovereign's bratty rhymes sound as though they've been shot like a pinball through Cadence Weapon's track, accelerating around the curves of the 007-gone-grime guitar breaks and zooming through the lyrics til it hits the jackpot. (Click here for the Lady Sovereign site and here for the Cadence Weapon site.)
- Fluxblog


Click Hear

March 2005

By Cam Lindsay

Cadence Weapon "Sharks"
Though the initial attraction to Cadence Weapon is likely his feisty, cowbell-heavy remix of Beastie Boys’ “Ch-Check It Out,” his own composition, “Sharks,” is a far better example of this MC/producer’s abilities. Based out of Edmonton, Alberta, this young hopeful sums up everything in the first sentence on his website: “I’m 18 and good.” The bravado may seem a little risky, but Cadence Weapon backs up the confidence with some truly stupefying hip-hop. Incorporating minimal beatscapes, video game noises and crafty bursts of synth, his lyrical flow is pure, effortless and playful like a young Canuck Roots Manuva. Currently working on an album titled Breaking Kayfabe (due in April), his mix-tape, Cadence Weapon Is The Black Hand, is currently available to buy via his website. (
- Exclaim!


Is the Black Hand Mixtape
*** 1/2 (out of five)

Edmonton’s (and SEE Magazine’s) own Rollie Pemberton has released the Black Hand Mixtape under his Cadence Weapon moniker. If you’ve happened to read any of his music writing, you know that he knows his shit. If not, you should start. He’s probably got something on this page. Not content to just sit around bemoaning the state of hip-hop, Pemberton has thrown his hat in the ring. With this mixtape (though not really mixed, nor a tape), Pemberton proves his potential as a gifted emcee developing his own style.

His delivery sits somewhere between the Aesop/Jux camp and the Eyedea/Rhymesayers side of things. I’m also reminded of Beans, but more in terms of structure and production. But unlike sounding like he’s borrowing heavily from the likes of the Slugs or Sages out there, Pemberton thankfully avoids the tendency to over-emote. When he drops his flow down to hushed or earnest tones, it lends a character to his cadence that sounds natural. That’s the whole key to this thing, really. It sounds very natural, even when at just 19 years old he’s warning us to "stop biting [his] shit," and on his first release at that. We’ll call that a pre-emptive strike, then. His timing and lyrics are sharp, and he can turn a phrase cleverly, keeping things interesting and often funny. But he also incorporates elements from all sides and schools of hip-hop into his work, which should ring true to those fed up with half-baked intellectualizing found on less-realized records. Cadence Weapon likes to get his booze on, and there’s a certain pleasure to be found in civic name-dropping on record.

The drawbacks are few. You can hear the eclecticism throughout the record, and though it’s always refreshing to hear less homogeny in hip-hop, it has more of a scattered feel than was probably intentional. The production varies from okay to good, not great, and it’s usually mixed too loud, dwarfing the vocals. While boosted production is usually the norm for work of a more cinematic nature, it just doesn’t work as well with Pemberton’s more subdued/relaxed delivery.

I’ll say this–what he’s good at, he’s good at. This thing has promise written all over it. Expect good things.
- See Magazine

"Cadence Weapon Is The Black Hand"

Cadence Weapon
Cadence Weapon Is the Black Hand

Alberta, Alberta, where you been so long? As place, class, and race figure pivotally in the ongoing authenticity fracas fomented by critics and artists alike, Stylus’ own Rollie Pemberton hails from a province best known for its hockey teams and rollicking Conestoga wagon races. For American audiences, let’s face facts: thanks to the ongoing subsidies dedicated to the nostalgic revival of that conservative chimera, the placid small town, America is less urban today than it was a century ago, which with the consolidation of MTV’s homogenized youth culture programming by the early ‘90’s, meant the direct importation of gangsta rap into tract homes with driveways and garages in ways that disturbed the Executive Office, resulting first in banned records and then Tipper Gore’s ubiquitous parental advisory sticker. The rise of gangsta rap in the early to mid ‘90’s is coterminous with the ostensibly self-defeating aims of grunge rock and fashion, a subculture of absurd alienation and self-loathing, an atomistic, introverted movement priming a generation (and conveniently, a marketing demographic) allegedly hell-bent on undermining the GDP, each affecting across conventional race boundaries. Those were tumultuous times at home—but as Rodney King was beaten and Los Angeles burned, Washington blithely waged war in Iraq and cultural consumption continued apace, and before you knew it happy days were here again.

A quick decade passes, and everything old has become new again, except those once deemed horrorshow are either dead or recast as toothless Stepin Fetchit caricatures of their former vicious incarnations, the “where are they nows” a cautionary bromide indicting their prior convictions. And while industry executives conflated grunge with resurgent album rock, mainstream hip-hop remained inventive, recovering from the deaths of the genre’s most prominent artists, to say nothing of Sean Combs’ grotesque parasitism. Cadence Weapon’s mixtape demonstrates the breadth of that history, which at a meek nineteen years old spans his lifetime. His beats reach back to Superfly on “Poulet De Funk” and LCD Soundsystem’s open water on “Sharks,” and the transitions from funk to metronomic motorik match his lyrical venom, drawing comparisons to Jay Z and Pharoahe Monch. Cadence intermittently breaks character, with the rhymes straight reppin’ Kaplan AP History prep style (try googling “Carpathian”)—but tracks like “8 Ounces” are high-fivin’ street corner summertime jams and dance mixes like “The Gorilla is for Sand Racing” barbeques breakbeats with a loop that just kills. Of the remixes, including tracks by Gwen Stefani, DFA 1979, and M.I.A., it’s Sway and Tech’s “The Anthem” that mesmerizes with Cadence Weapon’s iron-masked beats and samples.

For a mixtape, Cadence Weapon is the Black Hand sounds almost too polished to be a debut. Rather than take on materialism’s world historical complex, or unwittingly fall into the traditional underground stylistic well that doubles as a critics’ ghetto, Pemberton sticks to what he knows: Edmonton and his place in it, reflected in his party raps about drinking and going to the mall. The album’s tipping point might be its final track, the downcast elegy “Julie Will Jump the Broom” which in somber two and half minutes communicates the narrator’s heartbreak when he learns that his true love is pregnant with another man’s baby, and will marry him instead. When Cadence stutters, it’s not for lack of words or that Pemberton’s bankrupted his epistemic checking account, but because he has too little space and time to say what’s bugging him. Cadence Weapon Is the Black Hand bears the hallmarks of artistic humility; absent are the “Vote Paul Martin or die’s,” in spite of Canada’s perplexingly accommodationist coalition government. Should this be seen as a shortcoming? Stakes is high after all, right?

Critics who treat hip-hop as a perfunctory populist art form that unselfconsciously accepts its own decadence, rather than become a revolutionary force and vehicle of unrest, militance and vigilance, lament its death. They find it guilty of the same sort of paternalistic Booker T. Cosbyfication that goes on in political discourse, a chastisement for bad behavior and a further withering of the welfare state, wearing but a liberal bowtie and three-piece suit. Today the material conditions are essentially identical to those in 1992: a war in Iraq, a President Bush, a sputtering economy, and a schizophrenic political opposition—but as times change, those accidental coincidences accrete neither gravity nor meaning, and the expectation of extramusical exploits as the aesthetic factor determining success seems farfetched—by that standard how would the corresponding indie rock cohort fare? That hip-hop’s equivocal politics are shot through with homophobia, misogyny and consumerist fetishism, factors that often resonate eithe - Stylus Magazine Brooklyn


2005 - Cadence Weapon Is The Black Hand mixtape
2005 - Debut Album BREAKING KAYFABE being released October 25 on Upper Class Recordings


Feeling a bit camera shy


Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, 19-year-old rapper/producer Cadence Weapon (aka Rollie Pemberton) has prepared a full-length debut with Toronto’s Upper Class Recordings entitled Breaking Kayfabe. As a journalist for Chicago’s now-legendary, Brooklyn’s and most recently, his own taste-making blog Razorblade Runner (, his writing has made him an influential figure in the modern independent hip-hop landscape. Following the massive grassroots support of his independent mixtape Cadence Weapon Is The Black Hand, Cadence Weapon returns with a more focused sound. Sparring with angular electro beats and frantic samples, Cadence lives up to his namesake, altering his flow constantly. The album is expected for a Summer 2005 release, with first single “Oliver Square” based on Cadence’s experiences with hometown Edmonton’s current socio-political climate. Outside of the album, Pemberton plans to produce a side project with vocalist Sean Foster of 7 And 7 Is, as well as remixes for Sean’s label Rectangle Records and Island UK up-and-comer Lady Sovereign. Plans for a Fall tour are in the works, and Cadence has already booked dates opening for Canadian hip hop mainstays mcenroe and Birdapres on their current tour. More information and songs can be found at