Cadence Weapon - Breaking Kayfabe (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Cadence Weapon

Breaking Kayfabe (2006)

Upper Class

Joining Sage Francis, Atmosphere, the Coup, and Busdriver in the budding hip-hop stable on Epitaph Records is Canadian born rapper Rollie Pemberton, who performs under the stage name Cadence Weapon. Breaking Kayfabe was originally released in late 2005, the same year his debut mix tape …Is the Black Hand dropped. Although he has been receiving positive reviews for being an intelligent and quick-witted artist, avid reads of Pitchfork may be more familiar with the Pemberton surname as he used to write hip-hop reviews for the popular website.

Breaking Kayfabe's charm stems from CW's unique rapping style along with his energetic and unconventional beats. The latter do not drastically escape the norm that we've come to expect in modern indie hop-hop, but at times it certainly feels as if you're listening to a Nintendo game with danceable background music (see: "Sharks" and "30 Seconds"). Perhaps these were Rollie's intentions as the video for "Sharks" pays homage to classic video games such as "Donkey Kong" and "Frogger" to name a few. Not to mention "Grim Fandango" samples the popular thriller game "Silent Hill."

"Black Hand" finds our protagonist performing with a vocal style akin to a combination of El-P's and MF Doom's; even the loose background rhythm sounds like one of their productions. His flow is slow and memorable as the chorus breaks "It's down soft like a pillow / for real though / Black Hand like a thriller." Near the midway point, "30 Seconds" is a perfect example of how Breaking Kayfabe relates to a video game's soundtrack as the striving pulse is a stimulus that resonates adventurous and thrilling emotions. Lyrically, the song is one of the most important on the album, with its cunning take on consumers. In the latter innings the songs are primarily mellow, giving Rollie the chance to stress his emceeing talents. He may not be defined as one of the paramount rappers in the genre, but the confidence in the swagger of his voice will certainly always be noteworthy. Case in point on the urgency during his commentary on the genre during "Lisa's Spider." The song also takes us back to that video game analogy with the lyrics, "You might be telling some things to intelligent thinkers / until I run in your house and take your jewels, like Zelda's Link."

With Breaking Kayfabe getting an American release on the renowned punk label Epitaph, a plethora of people who are not very familiar with hip-hop will be hearing this record. I believe the diversity and social awareness of the album will help convert a few fans to the genre. It will also aid the other artists on the label, as Epitaph becomes a serious contender in the independent hip-hop arena as they were in their early days as a punk label.