Rollie Pemberton, better known as rapper Cadence Weapon and Edmonton’s 2009 Poet Laureate, has always pushed boundaries on his tracks, but for his third and latest full-length album, Hope In Dirt City, he chose a rather unusual way of getting from point A to B.

“It’s a completely different process than before,” Pemberton says. “The way I went about making these songs, I wrote them the way I would normally do, recording myself, creating samples and making beats with the computer, but then I took those songs to a band in Toronto and basically made interpolations of my own work with the help of this band.

“I’d never done that before. Then I took the results of those sessions and I sampled them again to make the final beats for this album.”

Pemberton created the sounds, recorded them at Chemical Sound with live musicians – Jered Stuffco (DVAS) on keyboards, Ian Koiter (Shad) on bass and string arrangements, Eric Lightfoot on drums and percussion, Paul Prince (The Cansecos) on guitar, and Brett Miles (Magilla Funk Conduit) on saxophone – then didn’t use them. Or at least, not the way they were played.

“I was influenced by a bunch of rap albums that incorporated live sounds.” – Rollie Pemberton

“They weren’t manipulated that extremely,” Pemberton says. “When you hear someone playing guitar, it’s a guitar take. But then again, there’s some examples, like on [the single] ‘Conditioning,’ where it’s something you wouldn’t necessarily notice, where all the samples are live instrumentation chopped up.

“But, again,” he stresses, “most of their work is based on original compositions that I wrote.”
While Hope In Dirt City has been recognized by a short-list nomination for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize in late September – an honour his debut album, Breaking Kayfabe, also received in 2006 – the innovative hip-hop musician, who has made his most accessible album to date, likely won’t go this route again.

“It was a vision I had, ” he says. “I was influenced by a bunch of rap albums that incorporated live sounds, like albums by UGK and Outkast and Devin The Dude. I just wanted to see what it would be like if I put my own spin on that.

“But that said, I probably won’t do exactly the same thing the next time I make an album. The idea is, now that I know how to do this, it will be much easier to do this next time, and I can incorporate aspects of this process into what I do in the future. That’s the way I’m looking at my future with producing music.”

Track Record
• In the single “Conditioning,” Cadence Weapon sings “My SOCAN strand is in high demand.”
• He now lives in Montreal to immerse himself in the city’s creative and supportive musical environment
• He created music with Laura Barrett and Mark Hamilton for a short documentary about Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park as part of the National Parks Project