Not known much for its hip-hop scene, or even its rock scene (unlike other Canadian cities Toronto and Montreal), Edmonton is where rapper Rollie Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon, calls home. With a flow that sounds like something between Aesop Rock, Jay-Z, and Del, and that moves from conversational to quickly syncopated, Cadence Weapon makes his way through the 12 songs on his full-length debut, Breaking Kayfabe, with a consistency in skill and intelligence generally only found in veteran rappers' work. On "Lisa's Spider" he rhymes, over an Atari-based beat and crunchy bass, "I can't work day to day to live and starve, be in the lunch line/That's why my shows last longer than a Talib Kweli punch line/A rapper to the next bar like a Talib Kweli punch line/But I make no sense, like a Talib Kweli punch line," and even on "Diamond Cutter," about a prostitute, and probably the most predictable track (and thereby the most disappointing), he spits out "She has a steady man who loves what he hooks/But at work she's in a random house like she was publishing books." His songs are all little stories, descriptions of lives, often not his own, but that distance allows his personality to show as much as the more personal ones do. However, what might be most distinctive about Cadence Weapon is his beats -- grimy, pulsating rhythms that pan between left and right, jostling but also entrancing the listener, sometimes mixed louder than the vocals and sometimes soft and subtle. "Fathom" is almost factory-like, mimicking the sound of the assembly line as the MC complains about the state of the music industry and society, while "Sharks" is empty and gritty. It's still all very hip-hop, though, and even "Turning on Your Sign," which is the most indie rock-inspired, and could fit in easily with any anticon release, doesn't get overly experimental or turn too much into a downtempo vocal piece. Breaking Kayfabe is a cohesive set of songs, backpacker in the best of senses, smart and witty and provocative, experimental and well-produced, but at the same time very raw and very real-sounding. It's not often that a debut does all this correctly; listeners would be wise to pay attention.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown