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Alberta-born rapper brings message of social justice to Calgary concert

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Alberta-born rapper brings message of social justice to Calgary concert
Edmonton-born hip-hop artist Cadence Weapon will be hitting the stage on Saturday night as part of Calgary’s Block Heater festival. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports on his efforts to create awareness and promote change through his music – Feb 19, 2022

When Cadence Weapon’s album Parallel World won the 2021 Polaris Prize in September 2021, he started getting a lot more attention.

Songs on the album cover issues like racial profiling.

“I talk about surveillance and how it disproportionately affects Black people and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. I have songs about racial discrimination, microaggressions,” said Cadence Weapon, who was born Roland Pemberton.

Read more: Cadence Weapon captures Polaris Music Prize for hip-hop album ‘Parallel World’

He plans on using some of the Polaris Prize money to support political advocacy groups and using his wider audience to hold political power accountable.

“I feel like that is the responsibility of an artist. I feel like that’s been lost in recent years where people think more about, ‘I don’t want to offend anyone or I want to make sure I have the highest-streaming numbers,’ but for me, it actually comes really naturally,” Pemberton said.

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“I feel like if there is something I can specifically speak to in the political realm or social-political realm, I feel like I have a responsibility to talk about it.”

Pemberton was born in Edmonton and was the city’s poet laureate in 2009.

Cadence Weapon (Rollie Pemberton) performing on stage in the U.K. in 2008. Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns/Getty Images

He says performing at the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s Block Heater concert is a perfect fit for him. He’s scheduled to play at Olympic Plaza on Feb. 19.

“I am born in Alberta. Folk music is protest music. I consider myself to be quite similar to someone like Bob Dylan. I want to be this generation’s Leonard Cohen,” Pemberton said.

“I don’t think anyone would question someone who looks a little different than me whether I should be playing at a folk fest.”

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Read more: Reuben and the Dark plays during 2022 Block Heater event

The artistic director of the Calgary Folk Music Festival says great lyrics can be presented in many different ways.

“Hip-hop definitely fits when people are spreading great and interesting messages and really good ideas and lyrics. It doesn’t matter to us the delivery,” said Kerry Clarke, who has been booking hip-hop artists for over two decades for the festival.

Pemberton said his writing has been inspired by the George Floyd protests in 2020. He said he was impressed with seeing the power of collective action and racial justice addressed in the media.

Cadence Weapon. Courtesy: Cadence Weapon/MNRK Music Group

Pemberton hopes the power of song will help that conversation continue.

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“I think ultimately with my music, I like people to have the germ of an idea to take away from the show,” Pemberton said.

“I hope people really like to listen about what I’m talking about and maybe think slightly differently about the way they treated other people in their lives. I think that would be a really big win for me.”

Pemberton is writing a book about his career called Bedroom Rapper that will be published in May.

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