If US crack-rap brothers Clipse had crammed on indie hip-hop ethics and chomped through a record collection of European techno instead of pushing contraband, they may have arrived somewhere close to precocious Canadian emcee Cadence Weapon.
Breaking Kayfabe, the debut album from 22-year-old Edmonton resident and erstwhile Pitchfork journalist Rollie Pemberton, finally emerged on Big Dada in the UK last year a significant stretch after it dropped t’other side of the Atlantic. Put simply, it bumped like little else in 2007 this side of Hell Hath No Fury, by the aforementioned Clipse, while kicking around biting lyrical themes and up-to-the-minute wiseassery. It was sufficient to warrant a nomination for the Polaris Music Prize, Canada’s Mercury if you will.
He’s eased up on the straight heat for his sophomore set, however: Afterparty Babies definitely rocks a more conceptual bent. And, as DiS found out, hipsters are in Pemberton’s crosshairs this time around...
You originally claimed this album would revolve around “the hipster condition”. There are plentiful digs at fashionable types on Afterparty Babies, so presumably that ended up being the case?
That’s definitely the way I feel about it. I wanted to frame this, as a time, what the youth was like, basically a really Canadian album about right now. The album is really inspired by summer 2006, a time where I wasn’t touring as much as now so I happened to be home a lot. I was just hanging out with people, getting crunk and seeing the way people would react to certain situations. And some of them involved me. I found it really fascinating.
It was the cooler-than-thou hip slackers who put your back up in those scenarios, then?
Totally. Most people that were in the [Edmonton] scene that I would attribute to the hipsters are high school and college dropouts and people who work at American Apparel. It’s definitely my most personal album so far, ’cause I’m really saying names this time. Like the last song (‘We Move Away’), I’m naming people who’ve moved away. I put some people on blast; you can’t help it.
Were you ever in danger of being sucked into that hipster lifestyle?
I would say I’m not too far... I’m a hip-hop hipster. Some of my friends are artists and stuff but I wouldn’t necessarily say they were hipsters for sure. Some people take it to an extreme. Those are the people I’m putting on blast. But I’d definitely say I’m a part of that culture.
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What inspired the title, Afterparty Babies?
My dad. He’d be at a party or something and I would overhear him like, “Oh Rollie, he’s definitely an after-party baby” . I took that to mean I was an accident: my parents were drunk, they were boning and they made me. Whoops! I talked to my mom though and she tells me that I was planned!
You’ve previously professed a love for the way Mike Skinner depicts the minutiae of life as The Streets. Is that reflected in the amount of Edmonton landmarks you mention during the record?
Well I definitely like the idea of having a local identity, especially being from Edmonton, a place that’s not really been represented on record before. I really like the idea of talking about where I’m from as much as I can. A lot of my stories just happen to involve places where they happen. I’m creating a story about Edmonton and they just keep happening at these same places. So I talk about this dance club, Halo, I talk about [bar/venue] The Black Dog, places where the youth culture congregates. The cover photo is done in the basement of The Black Dog. The Black Dog burnt down, so that place where that photo is has completely gone. They’re reopening but the basement part is destroyed.
Who are all the people on the cover?
They’re all friends of mine, people I know. Some are rappers [from Edmonton], some are people who’re just down with the hip-hop scene, some are hipsters, some are rock band musicians. My deejay’s right there at the front, I have an ex-girlfriend in there, a girl that I hooked up with, my current girlfriend. I wanted to make my friends the focus because the album is all about my friends. The back cover is me in the same space, completely alone, which is my way of saying, “Eventually all these people will move away”. But I will still be here.
Musically, what has changed since Breaking Kayfabe?
When I made the first album it was just me. I wanted to make a collection of songs, complete it and put it out, that was the goal. I never thought about having to play them live, the presentation, people buying it, I just wanted to make an album. I had to learn how to do shows and it was kind of difficult using those songs in a live format. I guess this album is more influenced by doing shows, seeing how people react and being more comfortable with the live format. But also it’s connected to learning to deejay more, getting into deejay and mix culture and realising people could potentially mix my music into a deejay set. I guess the idea was trying to make, like, a Basement Jaxx album; really electro but with rap over it.
Video: ‘Black Hand’
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Do you pay close attention to Pitchfork still? Or the music press in general?
I check out the music press, I like to read magazines, and music journalism has always been fascinating to me. I occasionally check Pitchfork but usually for news, I don’t really read their reviews anymore. It’s crazy how much pull they have nowadays. When I was writing for them I didn’t think of them as such a big deal, because they weren’t. Now it’s like they are the authority; if I get a shitty review from them it’s not a good look. It’s funny, I never really realised the power I had as a writer there until I started seeing it first hand, like (adopts jaded music fan voice) “Well, that album got a 7.5 so I’m not even gonna download it” . Like, whoa!
One of your previous tours saw you hook up with Final Fantasy. It’s not the most obvious combination; how did that go?
It was a great experience, a lot of fun. I feel like both of us are trying to break down the walls of what is typically considered okay in our genres. I’m trying to get people past what they think a typical rap show has to be like and he’s doing the same sort of thing for the indie scene. It was a really good match that people wouldn’t expect.
What should people coming to your DrownedinSound show in London on February 20 expect?
I’m gonna really go for it. My stage idols are Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. I like to get pretty hyped: I’d say a cross between Iggy Pop cutting himself onstage and Grandmaster Flash party rocking in a Brooklyn basement. So kind of new and old.
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Afterparty Babies is squeezed out into the world on March 3, via Big Dada, beaten to the punch by first single ‘In Search Of The Youth Crew’, due February 18. In the meantime, preview said single and one other Afterparty... cut at Cadence Weapon’s MySpace.
More pertinently, though, get yourself down to his one-off DiS show at Bardens Boudoir on February 20, more details of which can be found by ambling over here.
Full European dates:
20 London Bardens Boudoir with The Carps, Cutting Pink With Knives, DiS DJs; TICKETS
22 Dublin Crawdaddy with Ebony Bones
23 Paris Le Fleche D'Or