Cadence Weapon Is as Clever as Ever on 'Parallel World'

Cadence Weapon Is as Clever as Ever on 'Parallel World'
Although each Cadence Weapon album could be billed as his 'return to form,' the truth is that the Toronto-via-Edmonton rapper has never lost his form in the first place. But it may be the infrequency in which Rollie Pemberton releases his albums that makes each one a standout event.

On his fifth full-length, Parallel World, you can tell just how hard Pemberton works on his craft, ensuring the album's 10 tracks don't just pass by passively. His beats are exploratory, his flow enormously flexible, his guests relevant and his lyrics eloquent. Although it's been three years since his stellar self-titled album, Pemberton has kept himself extremely busy. He's made music with Montreal electronic producer Jacques Greene, acted in Sean Nicholas Savage's Please Thrill Me musical, written a forthcoming book, been a mentor at the Banff International Songwriter Residency and advocated for the Edmonton CFL team's name change. This may be why Pemberton sounds so confident and poised on tracks like on the rubbery tongue-twister "Play No Games."

Although the record clocks in at a brisk 27 minutes, Pemberton nonetheless packs the album with a bevy of ideas and moods, from the brief Kool Keith-style futurist opener "Africville's Revenge" to the minimal whisper rap closer "Connect." Though the music of Parallel World is powerful, the message is infinitely more so. The bouncy "On Me" (featuring grime MC Manga Saint Hilaire) has the duo rapping about facial recognition technology's links to racial discrimination, while the plain-spoken but commanding "Skyline" explores Pemberton's struggles with gentrification within the city of Toronto, featuring the immortal couplet, "Ford Nation's for the corporation but he don't care about the public / Whenever we ask for what we need he says there's no room in the budget." "Eye to Eye" explores his fear of being targeted by the cops for the colour of his skin. Even when Pemberton switches gears to boast on the dank "Ghost" (featuring a bone-shaking turn from Backxwash) and the jittery "Hard to Find," he still manages to come off commanding and stimulating.

Although producers Greene (on the aforementioned "SENNA") and Jimmy Edgar (on the Fat Tony-guesting "Water") disappointingly deliver of-the-moment trap beats that just yearn to sound dated by decade's end, Pemberton still figures out how to save those tracks with his buoyance and clever songwriting skills. While it's true that Rollie Pemberton is known to release music on his own unpredictable schedule, Parallel World proves that a Cadence Weapon record is always an event. (eOne)