Interview: Cadence Weapon

A Tale of Three Cities

Photo by Levi Manchak

Since bursting onto the scene a dozen years ago with his Polaris Prize shortlisted debut, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been synonymous with Canada’s alternative rap underground. It’s a place that he’s happy to reside in, noting, “I never thought that being unconventional was a burden. I always felt like it freed me up to do whatever I wanted.”

Five years since his third album, Hope in Dirt City, the Edmonton raised rhymer is reemerging with new singles like ‘Don’t Talk to Me’ and a performance at The Apollo Cinema on November 4 as part of Night/Shift.

Speaking from Edmonton, he admits, “it’s been nice to put out a couple new songs after so long without an album out there.”

“The response has been really positive. The beat by FrancisGotHeat is very hypnotic and chill but it’s also a banger. I find that I gravitate towards beats like that. I heard a lot of negative space to fill in with different flows. ‘Don’t Talk To Me’ was something where I wanted to experiment with a more melodic way of rapping.

Recent releases like ‘Don’t Talk to Me’ and the Kaytranada produced ‘My Crew (Wooooo)’ have whet the appetite for a new self-titled Cadence Weapon album that’s set to be released on January 18.

“I think the best way to describe my approach on this album is futuristic electronic production mixed with the quality and depth of ‘70s pop songwriting. Storytelling was a big thing for me,” he says.

“I’m still rapping though. Just saying that I was as influenced by Harry Nilsson as I was by Future while making this album. There’s a lot of dance music on this record. I’m really interested in rapping over techno these days. There’s so much to explore in that world.”

The new sound is just part of a flurry of changes that Cadence Weapon has gone through. He recently moved from Montreal to Toronto with his girlfriend and praises the local scene.

“I’m really enjoying Toronto,” he says. “It has everything you could possibly want in a city. It’s got this energy that pushes you to work hard and it feels like opportunities keep coming up for me just from living there.”

“Montreal is fun and creative and artistic but I found it hard to maintain focus while living there. Edmonton has a great independent DIY spirit to the music scene there and it’s a very chill place to live but the pace be a little slow moving.”

While the specter of Drake looms heavy in his newly adopted home base, Cadence Weapon revels in Toronto’s evolution into a hub for rap and R&B.

“There are all of these new young artists making cool music,” he says. “The competition of it really inspires me. I still feel like the mainstream media hasn’t been focusing on what’s happening with rap, dancehall and R&B in Toronto quite enough. It should be all over every radio station. I hear more Canadian rap on the radio when I’m in Atlanta and LA than when I’m in Toronto. There’s still a reluctance to accept it. That needs to change.”

While his newer music seems worlds apart from his earlier abstract work, Cadence Weapon remains fond of his discography describing them as “time capsules for where I was in my life at those time.”

“There’s definitely some stuff that I wouldn’t do the same if I made them today but I think there’s something very unique about Breaking Kayfabe. It combined electronic music with rap before it became more accepted.”

As he preps his album and a corresponding tour that he’s shaping to be “an incredible multimedia experience,” Cadence Weapon is looking forward to some warm up shows that include stops at M For Montreal and at The Apollo Cinema on November 4 for Night/Shift.

“I’ll be sharing some songs from the new album and there might be some projections happening as well,” he says. “People should expect a high-energy rap party.”

Nov 4, 7pm. The Apollo Cinema, 141 Ontario St. N, Kitchener.