SOCAN member Cadence Weapon won the 2021 edition of the $50,000 Polaris Prize for the best album in Canada, on Sept. 27, 2021, in an online version of the event, broadcast online from a rented loft in downtown Toronto.
It was the veteran rapper’s third time on the short list, after Breaking Kayfabe in 2006 and Hope in Dirt City in 2012. His winning 2020 album – on which the 11-person Polaris Grand Jury agreed – is Parallel World, a work of strong social comment set to electronic beats and sounds, created in an urgent burst of activity in the wake of the racial reckoning touched off by the death of George Floyd.
“I was listening to Sly’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, The Clash’s Combat Rock, Gil Scott-Heron’s Winter in America, all kinds of political albums,” he said in an online press conference after his win, and added that he was trying to update that kind of content with the with the trap, grime, drill, and futuristic rap sounds that he makes.
Cadence Weapon (born Rollie Pemberton) accepted the award virtually, from last year’s winner, Backxwash. At the press conference, he seemed truly surprised and pleased, saying, “I feel like I’m dreaming.” After a brief congratulatory call from his sister in New York at the beginning of his appearance, he said, “It was really emotional for me. To get to this point it was a lot of hard work… This is a really important thing.”
He also shouted out Edmonton, where he was born and raised; Montréal, where he lived and worked for many years; and his current hometown of Toronto.
Asked how he would spend the prize money, Cadence Weapon said he was going to start, or complete, a GoFundMe to support Black Business grants the Little Jamaica community in Toronto. “It was like, ‘How can I use my platform for positivity?’” he said.
The 16th annual edition of the Polaris celebration was hosted by CBC Music’s Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe, and featured CBC Music’s Jess Huddleston, Polaris jury members Michelle Da Silva and Calum Slingerland, and CBC Music Afterdark’s Odario Williams, playing and discussing music from the 10 finalists – as well as two spooky, intense song performances from Backxwash.
While Cadence Weapon received $50,000 for the win, the nine other short list nominees each received $3,000, courtesy of Slaight Music. The 2021 Polaris short list was:
- Leanne Betasamosake Simpson – Theory of Ice
- Cadence Weapon – Parallel World
- DijahSB – Head Above The Waters
- Dominique Fils-Aimé – Three Little Words
- Mustafa – When Smoke Rises
- The OBGMs – The Ends
- Klô Pelgag – Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs
- TOBi – ELEMENTS Vol. 1
- The Weather Station – Ignorance
- Zoon – Bleached Wavves
SOCAN congratulates all of the nominees, and winner Cadence Weapon, on their great achievements!