Cadence Weapon, aka Rollie Pemberton, came to the attention of the alternative hip hop community after receiving a slew of independent music award nominations in his hometown of Edmonton. With early recognition from his peers and a growing fan base due to performances at major festivals, Weapon’s early albums gained critical and underground success. His latest offering, Hope in Dirt City is a smorgasbord of musical ideas where hip hop is just one element. Various genres are thrown into this free-spirited music melting pot including rock, rap, bossanova and reggae. Opener ‘Conditioning’ is an unusual rock/rap/jazz fusion with Weapon’s signature vocal sounding slightly off key throughout. Despite this, its catchy hook saves the day, making it surprisingly memorable. Instantly you realise that Cadence Weapon is an artist who refuses to be confined by the limitations of any genre, instead he uses his ability for charismatic story telling to reel in the listener.
The Bossanova style arrangement of ‘Jukebox’ is unexpectedly turned on its head with a loud, angry chorus declaring “get that speaker away from me”. It is an invitation to let loose and throw down on the dance-floor that leaves the listener powerless to refuse. Weapon’s rebellious nature hits us between the eyes again with “you can’t stop the machine”. This anti-establishment free for all, inspired by his dissatisfaction about the state of the music industry demonstrates that within Cadence there is a real hip hop anarchist trying to break free. A fantastically irreverent tune worthy of repeated listens. ‘Small Deaths’ on the other hand, doesn’t work as well – a reggae groove coupled with a dark, disillusioned rhyme delivery that seems odd and disjointed.
Meanwhile, title track doesn’t have the catchy hook you might expect as the 80s cheesy hand claps, chopped samples and distorted, droning vocals make for a disappointing finale to an otherwise interesting and innovative record. Weapon’s music has serious attitude makes no bones about showing “the hype man his middle finger”. Thank god, finally somebody with balls and the talent to back it up. Cadence Weapon will never swim in the mainstream and he doesn’t want to. Just as well, there are too many sharks there anyway.