Rollie ‘Cadence Weapon’ Pemberton’s Bedroom Rapper is a memoir of perseverance

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At 36, Rollie Pemberton already has a full story to tell – certainly enough to write a memoir, which he has.

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Memoir to this heavyweight,says the Edmonton-born author of Bedroom Rapper. “But you know, I personally feel like I’ve lived several different lives already. And I feel like there’s a story worth telling now.

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In effect. Consider, for starters, that at age 15 he was already a guest on Edmonton radio station CJSR with his well-like DJ father Teddy Pemberton, widely known for playing the capital’s first on-air hip hop. A few years later, Pemberton (also the grandson of local CFL football hero Rollie Miles) released his scene-melting film, clearly Breaking Kayfabe album ahead of its time under the now familiar name Cadence Weapon.

Soon Pemberton was writing album reviews for Pitchfork, and his first of several Polaris Prize nominations came in 2006 – the only black electro rapper among white indie rock bands – beginning one of the main arcs of the story of the book: the persistent misfit. He signed a distribution deal with Epitaph Records’ label ANTI the following year and, not for the first time, connoisseurs of Alberta’s music ecosystem caused a stir.

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Pemberton will be in town to talk about his book and other literary topics as part of Wordfest’s 2022 Imaginary, which begins September 29.

With his heavy, slightly nerdy electro vibe, the restless rapper didn’t always feel embraced by the hip-hop scene, which was stingy, but not entirely comfortable in the world of white indie rock. But one of the key ideas in his groundbreaking book – which also explores the history of hip-hip and British grime – is how he intentionally studied and researched, learned the rules so he could break them.

This was exemplified to a new high in 2009, when Pemberton became Edmonton’s poet laureate (not everyone over 70 was happy), just in time to enter the legendary DIY loft scene. of Montreal, doing art and DJing shoulder to shoulder with the rising star. friends Mac De-Marco and Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) – no big deal.

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Meanwhile, around the world, Cadence Weapon has collected a mad roster of opening spots, including Public Enemy, Rihanna and De La Soul, while back in Edmonton – which he never lets go through 300 pages – his poetry lined the art of the Avenue banner. Jasper and a monolithic sculpture on the grounds of the Northeast Legislature for years.

Growing up I always wished there were things like this to watch,” he says. “My whole life has been like this. The music that I made, I always wished it existed. And so I did.

Never stopping, Pemberton found himself in Toronto in 2015, where he still lives and makes music. This Ontario production of course understands its policy confident fifth studio album, Parallel World, which won the Polaris Prize last year.

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Rollie Pemberton's autoboiography Bedroom Rapper will be released on May 31.
Rollie Pemberton’s autoboiography Bedroom Rapper will be released on May 31. .jpg

And yet, if Bedroom Rapper was just a linear, bottom-up story of goals and equal work Hit it wouldn’t be a third as interesting. For example, when Pemberton started the book at the start of the pandemic, things were shaky enough that he didn’t know when — or even if — he would make another album.

But it’s the exact same feeling of frenetic courage and occasional dread on his first hit Oliver Square – plus repeatedly seeing the bottom fall on his hopes and dreams – that makes his story of endurance so compelling. We know how the story ends; we just didn’t know how many times it basically ended along the way.

Pemberton took body shots that could have stopped him dead: racist daggers thrown on the schoolyard; his father’s artistic discouragement; his imploding relationship with Pitchfork; a catastrophic opening spot for Rihanna; and being downright extorted is the story of a young musician as old as this lip licking devil At the crossroads.

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Even the title of the book is an ironic nod to an early national misunderstanding.

I did this interview with Maclean’s and in the article it’s like, ‘He makes music in his room,’ laughed Pemberton. “I actually went to (Edmonton polymath) Nik Kozub’s legitimate studio. It felt like it was almost a slight. But now I’ve reversed the phrase, and it sounds more like a rallying cry.

Pemberton states at the beginning of the book that he considers being fired as an Edmonton rapper a badge of honor now, to the last line of the book, in fact, and wants to pass that strength on.

I want everyone to get something out of this book,” he says. “I wanted to create something useful. Especially for people who are like me or people who are different, who will follow me. When I was growing up, there would never have been a book written by someone with my past. And I know I won’t be the last.

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Pemberton notes throughout how his trials constantly forced him to put his “ideologically stubborn but stylistically flexible” work ethic to the test, and that he feels more comfortable on stage now than talking to people in casual conversation.

The stage is my domain in a way it wasn’t before, when it was a source of anxiety,” he says. “When I’m on stage, I feel like the most complete representation of myself.

As the book ends – unbeknownst to him when he started writing – with the Polaris to win, what has changed for him since then? “A lot, man. People look at me differently, I feel like an old statesman, especially when it comes to people who want to rap differently.

I feel more respected.

The world, finally, is ready for Rollie Pemberton.

Bedroom Rapper is available in bookstores now, and Pemberton will be at two Wordfest events, the Sept. 30 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and again Oct. 1 from 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., both at DJD Dance Center, 111 12th Ave. SE Tickets available at

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