The way Cadence Weapon performs live is a bit different from what you hear on his album. For his recent show at The Satellite, the Canadian rapper was full of energy, beating his chest with his fist and roaring like a rock star. While the venue wasn’t as full as it should have been given the talent of the artist on stage, if Cadence was discouraged from the lack of a wide audience, I couldn’t tell at all. The people who did make it out to the show were receptive, and I even saw some dancing with enthusiasm.
At one point during the set, Cadence hopped down to the open floor space with his microphone and performed at eye level with the crowd. It felt like one of those cool moments during high school when you’re with a circle of friends and someone is doing something crazy-fun, a moment that just makes you feel happy to be young. He was in the middle of the crowd having fun with us without the quality of his performance suffering in the least.
Cadence Weapon eventually did return to the stage where he performed a set that included a mix of funk, blues, old school hip hop, and some electro influences. The set list included the tracks “Loft Party,” “Crash Course,” “Sharks,” and “Olive Square,” as well as a brief interlude for a workout — he and his DJ, so excitedly, did a random, almost-synchronized set of push ups while the beats played in the background.
Luckily, before any of this, I did have the opportunity to interview the hip hop performer from north of the border.
Stepfanie: Can you tell me what goes on in your head when you’re in songwriting mode? Is it all experimentation? Do you have specific practices or techniques?
Cadence Weapon: Well, I’m kind of always in my creative zone. I feel that usually my best ideas come from hanging out with other people and being in social dynamics. I get a lot of ideas that cycle around my mind.
S: Can you give me an example of a situation that might have triggered something?
CW: It’s usually really simple things. I think of things differently, I guess. I go into a show thinking about my song “Crash Course.” It’s about people going into dance clubs and dancing in some capacity over all time. Dancing is a human quality that has gone as far back as making the wheel. It’s funny because all the interpersonal issues that I used to think were so unique to me when I was younger, I started realizing that they had always existed throughout history.
S: Back to songwriting — do you carry a notebook with you?
CW: I do. I usually have a bunch of different [instruments] of writing. Lately I’ve been placing scraps and fragments in my iPod or phone. That’s the best way to put it. It’s fragmented style. I piece this together until I have enough ideas for a full composition.
S: Once you’ve compiled all the different types of songs for an album, how do you decide on the track listing? Do you think about that a lot?
CW: I think about the titles of songs before I make the songs. I usually have an overriding concept for everything I do. The order is more from trial and error. Usually there is a distinct flow of the mood from different songs. Hope in Dirt City has a lot of different sounds, but it comes together.
S: Which song are you most fond or proud of? Can you break it down for us?
CW: I really like the song “There We Go.” It was my attempt at making kind of like a Soulja Boy or Lil B or just kind of a rap-rap track. It ended up mutating into something else entirely. I wanted to make a song that spoke about Montreal nightlife with my own spin on things. I feel like I’ve achieved a certain energy that was synonymous with those kind of parties. I just feel like I achieved what I wanted the most from that song.
S: What kind of parties are they or what type of nightlife is it?
CW: Right after moving to Montreal, I threw after-hours loft parties where I would be a DJ for a few hundred people from 2:00 a.m. to something like 7:00 a.m. They are usually in abandoned buildings or loft spaces. We had this underground night-world. Obviously it has been cracked down on by the police, and it’s been harder to party, but I feel like there’s something distinct about Montreal parties.
S: Do you see a big difference between Canadian rap and American rap?
CW: Definitely. I feel like Canadian rap is not necessarily as developed as American rap because it’s been around since the beginning of the art form.
S: What do you mean by “developed”?
CW: I mean, we don’t have rap radio the same way that you have multiple stations that play rap. Where I’m from, Edmonton, there’s no rap station.
S: So it’s not as accessible in Canada?
CW: It’s not as mainstream. There’s Drake and a couple of other people and me. There are fewer rappers in general, but I think the thing that ties all the different Canadian rappers together is that there’s this sense of introspection. There’s some emotional edge to all the rap that I hear, and it has more of an underground sound.
S: How’d you start listening to hip hop since it’s more in the underground scene?
CW: Well, my dad was a DJ. He was the main person who introduced rap to Edmonton. He was a DJ for over 25 years at CJSR radio. My house was like a hip-hop library. I got introduced to all of these things that none of my friends were really into or knew about. I had a particular upbringing that influenced me with my dad being a DJ but also my uncle being a funk musician. He used to bring me on stage. I’d be underaged sneaking into these bars. I’d sit in with the band. It was my first experiences with performing. My family also used to be really into karaoke for Christmas. I used to do “Gin and Juice” for karaoke. It was funny. Not everyone realized that I would end up with rapping as my job.
S: When did you start getting into rapping?
CW: When I was 13. I would do rap battles with people in school. I used to be into the battle [circle] in Edmonton. I used to enter competitions. I used to go on the internet and battle people there, which is funny to think about. There were message boards that people would battle in. That’s how I got people reading my lyrics or listening to me rap. It was good training.
S: Who do you listen to in America?
CW: Kendrick Lamar. Everybody’s been listening to [his recent album], yes. I’ve been excited about what he’s been doing even before this album. Then the album was beyond my greatest imagination. It was even better than I thought it’d be. That never happens for me. I love it.
Meek Millz. My DJ and I are really into The Future. I like a lot of the R&B coming out nowadays like Miguel, Jeremih, and Ty Dolla $ign.
S: Okay. So you did say that your songs have different sounds, and I’ve read everywhere that your music is considered genre-bending. Are there other genres or artists that influence you outside of hip hop?
CW: I listen to everything. In Montreal, most of my friends are into indie rock, abstract pop, or in the electronic scene — people who are into Doldrums, who made a beat for me. I’ve been listening to this band Tame Impala, an Australian band that makes kind of like a ’70s rock with a futuristic blend of old and new. I listen to a lot of ’70s music and early-80s. I like Grace Jones, Talking Heads. I also grew up listening to funk music.
I obviously love Golden Age hip hop. That’s the biggest sonic touch [and influence] for me. From Freestyle Fellowship to Nas to UGK to Outkast.
S: Hope in Dirt City is a pretty cool title. I’m from a small desert town with less than 200,000 people. People joke around and say that if you stay there, you’ll either join the military, get married, or get pregnant right after high school. What do people generally say about Edmonton?
CW: A lot of it is where you can get a job working at the oil rigs over there. Some people I know from high school got married right away, had kids, or bought a house. It’s the traditional domestic life. I don’t want to diss my hometown. Obviously, there aren’t a lot of options for those who have an extremely creative idea — it’ll be hard to execute. That’s what the idea is in Hope in Dirt City. You have to keep working on your art despite feeling disenfranchised. It’s a universal message. I’m talking about any young kid maybe in middle America who doesn’t have the infrastructure to create something cool or feels they don’t have the backing to make something cool. The idea is “Yes, you can.” Continue being creative.
S: You can correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel that artists from other genres don’t really sing about the cities they grew up in as much as hip hop artists do, who refer to their roots a lot. What do you think about that? Why so?
CW: I feel that rap is about the personal condition. That is the recurring theme in a lot of rap. For a rapper to become popular they have to have some kind of ground, solid support, and what better way to get that than talking about where you’re from? I think it’s a natural impulse. When listening to music, you want to be able to relate to what you’re listening to often, especially with rap, so when you hear someone rap about where you’re from, speaking in a way that you can understand or speaking about things you’ve thought about but couldn’t articulate yourself, that’s exciting. That’s the exciting thing about regional music, and even if you’re not from that place, you can appreciate it or learn about the world. I’m not from LA, but I listened to so much rap from here that I recognize street names.
S: What are you looking forward to after your last tour date? Any other projects?
CW: I’m looking forward to sleeping for a few days. I do want to work on more music and keep the momentum going. I’d like to release a book of poetry soon. I also am looking forward to seeing my friends.
S: What’s your internal reaction when you read reviews about your recent album?
CW: I try not to read reviews that much. I feel that sometimes people don’t understand what I’m talking about. I can’t assume people are going to understand my point of view because they’re not me. They don’t know exactly what work went into it. I don’t know whether they’re going to do the research on how I made something or why something is made the way it is or if they have a background in rap to really know what they’re talking about. That’s why I don’t really read reviews that much.
S: What do you think people would find most surprising about you?
CW: Some of the things that influence me. I guess some people may assume that because I’m a rapper, I wouldn’t know certain things. I like art films and extremely obscure pop music. I actually listen to Japanese pop from the ‘80s.
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