Growing up to be like our parents isn’t necessarily something children dream of. The inevitable moment when we realize there’s more of our parents in our make-up than we’d care to admit is usually more burdensome than inspirational.
On his 2004 album, Feelin’ Kinda Patton, comedian Patton Oswalt has a bit about his preferred style of parenting: “I’m going to be a fucking awesome father. You know why? Because I’m going to be the lamest father ever. Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required is going to be the most contemporary album I own. And I’ll rave about it too: ‘Hey, have you listened to this? This is some rockin’ good stuff.’
“‘Fuck you, dad!’
“And I’ll smile to myself because I’ll know I’ve raised a fucking awesome kid.”
Rollie Pemberton, AKA Cadence Weapon, might be the exception to the rule that cool parents wind up with lame kids. Pemberton’s late father, radio DJ Teddy Pemberton, a Brooklyn native, is often credited with single-handedly introducing hip-hop to Edmonton---possibly all of Alberta---through his CJSR radio show, The Black Experience in Sound. The younger Pemberton earned a reputation as the next big thing in Canadian hip-hop by being shortlisted for a Polaris Music prize for his 2006 debut album, Breaking Kayfabe.
The title, wrestling slang about the breaking of staged events that are portrayed as real, is a reference to “just being honest...no more bullshit, this is who I am.” Pemberton’s admission that “people really responded to that” seems a bit of an understatement.
His latest album, Afterparty Babies, was released in early March on the Anti imprint of Epitaph Records, joining tour-mates Islands and fellow cerebral rapper, Sage Francis, of whose works Pemberton has previously admitted to having a bibliographicalknowledge.
The title of the new Cadence Weapon album is as much about Pemberton is as his last. “Afterparty baby” was a phrase that Teddy Pemberton used in reference to his son, “He referred to me as an afterparty baby, and I used to think he meant that I was an accident, but he meant more that I was conceived after a party.” The music on the album is inspired by those parties as Pemberton realizes he’s becoming more and more like his father: “I’m pretty much my dad now, I feel like I’m becoming more and more like my dad, the kind of records I buy when I’m DJing are the kind he used to buy...so why not take that same spirit and apply it to my music.”
Pemberton concedes that having a cool dad wasn’t always easy and not turning out “lame” might have been a bit of a struggle. “My dad was always actually really cool....I actually sort of resented him because he was so much cooler than I was, it made me look really not cool. He’d come to school and drop me off and he’d be wearing like a DMX shirt.... All the kids would be like, ‘Oh man, your dad is so cool.’ No one would even talk to me.” Clearly perceptions of the younger Pemberton started to change right around the time he left journalism school in Virginia to return to Edmonton. Feeling out of place, stifled and as though he was wasting his time, Pemberton decided that “I gotta go home and put out a record, before somebody does the same shit as me and I never have a chance to do it again.”
Embracing the similarities to his father isn’t the only thing that informs Pemberton’s music---the dichotic social interactions that occur between various types of workers and artists in Edmonton are an influence. It would seem, to some, that the dichotomy of Alberta, coupled with its predilection for Conservatism, would make it a difficult place to make art. Pemberton doesn’t exactly see the process as difficult. According to him, making art in Alberta isn’t necessarily harder than anywhere else in Canada, but it is sometimes harder to get your art out there, as “when people hear you’re an industrial design student from Edmonton they might not take you as seriously as if you’re coming out of Montreal.”
But with a vibrant music scene, Edmonton is a place where musicians like Pemberton don’t have to live in their mom’s basement making beats all day to pursue their art.