Presented by the Interstellar Rodeo Festival
Saturday, July 28 at 7:15 p.m.
Heritage Amphitheatre in Hawrelak Park (9930 Groat Rd.)
Single day tickets $79, weekend passes $169 at sixshooterrecords.com
It’s been years since Rollie Pemberton, better known as Cadence Weapon, first coined Edmonton’s nickname: “Dirt City.” While it’s not the most glowing of endorsements, the now internationally known rap artist still harbours sentimental feelings for his own former hometown, despite the at times self-deprecating attitude of his latest album, Hope In Dirt City.
While the city’s former Poet Laureate chose to relocate to Montreal last year, Pemberton’s latest album still uses Edmonton as its key referential point, a creative choice echoed in earlier works.
“I’m an MC,” Pemberton explains. “I’m a rapper, and rap is very tied to personal condition. It’s tied to realism. If you look at New York rappers, there’s a commonality. They talk about where they grew up; they talk about the hood. That’s the whole idea behind ‘keeping it real.’ You talk about what you know about. For a long time, Edmonton was, and still is at this point, my main influence that I drew from.”
While his fondness for his own dirt city is clear from the album title and song of the same name, Pemberton knows dirt cities are not exclusive to his own experience. Claiming to have turned to influences like Randy Newman and Paul Simon as a guide, Pemberton says he’s been working to repurpose his personal stories to make them more universal for those who might hail from an entirely different type of dirt city.
“In the past, I’ve written about Edmonton in a hyper-specific way that people from (outside) of Edmonton have trouble relating to,” Pemberton says. “As I tour more and more and I have other experiences, and as I hang out in Montreal, there are more places to talk about. And I’ve also, inherently, become broader about the way I present things.
“So my idea now is to talk about Edmonton in sort of more general terms, in a way that it can extrapolated to other places.”
While Edmontonians may feel that their dirt city is alone in its drabness, Pemberton can vouch from his recent travels that this is far from being the case. Even in places as far away as England, where he was last touring, Pemberton found people had no problem relating to the idea of living in a dirt city.
“With this last tour (of England), there were a lot of places that were working-class and a lot of people were relating to the sentiments that I had,” says Pemberton. “And I think that’s what I mean by it being a universal thing. I expect to see that more and more as I tour around.”
Reviving his listeners’ faith in dirt cities everywhere, Pemberton knows that just because something is universal doesn’t mean it can’t be challenged. He argues these metropolises can demonstrate astounding resilience, and often rebel against the unpopular moniker.
Still, Hope in Dirt City isn’t meant to insult dirt cities. Instead, the album serve as a testament to the influence and conditioning effect these places can have on artistic individuals like Pemberton. He’s proof that dirt cities like Edmonton can inspire its artists to be wildly creative and diverse, if only to prove that they can.
“Basically, when I say ‘dirt city’ it’s meant to be a self-deprecation thing, (but) also, you know, like a rousing cry,” Pemberton explains. “You know, it’s like, ‘We’re here, this is how we are, this is how we look and deal with these things, we can get through these things by creating a document of
work here.’ ”
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