The shuffler: Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon (a.k.a. Rollie Pemberton), the son of pioneering DJ Teddy Pemberton, and a former Stylus and Pitchfork music critic. Rollie Pemberton put his genre-hopping musical knowledge to good use on 2005's Polaris-nominated Breaking Kayfabe; his latest, Afterparty Babies, tweaks his hipster fan base through stories of DJ nights gone awry and references to Ian Curtis over club beats lifted from early-'90s techno.
Devendra Banhart, "I Remember"
Rollie Pemberton: This is from his new album, but I don't actually recognize this song at all. I don't know if you do this when you have a new album, but you know how you'll really attach yourself to certain songs, and it'll take you forever to listen to the whole album? I was really into that song "Carmensita." I'd play it whenever I DJed—it was a real banger. That and "The Other Woman" are both totally awesome songs. But I have no idea what this one is. I feel like this is going to happen a lot. I have a lot of stuff on my iPod, and a lot of it, I've never heard even once.
The A.V. Club: I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone DJ Devendra Banhart at a club.
RP: That song's hot as hell, though. It's a special case, because it's like a Latin party banger.
Jay-Z, "Brooklyn's Finest (featuring The Notorious B.I.G.)"
RP: This opens up with this guy Pain In Da Ass doing a parody of Al Pacino in Carlito's Way going [Al Pacino voice.] "Okay, I'm reloaded!" Which I think is completely hilarious, because he doesn't really sound very much like Al Pacino. This song's awesome. I'm not a huge Biggie fan. I know a lot of people are like, "I love Biggie" or "I love 'Pac," but I'm kind of indifferent about both. But Biggie kills it on this one. When he's like, "If Fay had twins, she'd probably have two Pacs—get it? Tu? Pacs?" That's hot as hell.
AVC: Your own music is pretty far removed from any sort of gangsta posturing. Is that something you just feel like you can't identify with?
RP: I think a lot of Canadian rappers pretend to be something they're not. I feel like when you try to do something like that, people will see through it pretty quickly. I don't think I look like any of the guys on The Wire. I don't think I could keep that up for very long, so why even try? Don't get me wrong, I love the same thug shit as any other rapper. But if I ever do Cribs, I'm probably not going to have a big Scarface poster above my bed, or Scarface bed sheets. But I have thought about stuff like that. Like one of my favorite wrestlers, Razor Ramon. He's basically a rip-off of Scarface—his entire character is based on Al Pacino from Scarface, like a Cuban drug-dealer guy.
Madlib, "Understanding (Comprehension)"
RP: This is from [Beat Konducta] Vol. 1-2: Movie Scenes. I used to jam this album all the time last summer. It was really hot, and I would be sitting around shirtless playing video games listening to this album on the turntables. I remember one day was the hottest day of the year—and I believe it was the hottest day in Edmonton history—and I had this on the turntables, and my roommate switched it off and put on some drum 'n' bass at 33 [rpm], and that was the moment that I thought it was so hot that I was actually melting. But, uh, when that wasn't happening, I was listening to that Madlib album. He's a major influence of mine. He completely figured out the idea of making sample-based music sound organic, making it sound like it was made by a person. There are purposeful mistakes, and it just seems closer to someone playing an instrument.
Bob Dylan, "Tangled Up In Blue"
RP: Bob Dylan is probably my main songwriting influence. He is that dude. Believe it or not, though, I only recently heard this song. I've been a huge fan of Blonde On Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited, but only recently did I get that Biograph collection. This is considered one of those iconic Dylan songs, and I think it's really cool. One of my favorite things about Bob Dylan—and this is something I'd love to get into one day—is his capability of taking extremely simple melodies and having them go for a really long time, and not making you realize they've gone on for a long time. He'll have songs that are 10 minutes long, and they're floating above and around you and inside your head for a long time, and you feel like it could have been three seconds. I think that's a measure of a good song.
AVC: Do you buy the idea that Dylan was using an early form of hip-hop on stuff like "Subterranean Homesick Blues"?
RP: Yeah man, I dig on that. I consider him one of my favorite rappers. I see a lot of his technique in modern rapping, and definitely in my own stuff. It's talking blues, which is definitely a precursor to rap.
Blood Brothers, "Rats And Rats And Rats For Candy"
RP: I haven't listened to Crimes in a long time. I love Blood Brothers, but I didn't realize what their fan base was like until I went and saw them a year and a half ago. The crowd was entirely 15-year-old kids. I don't really know anything about their background; I just know this album. I was kind of blown away by the vibe of the crowd. At one point, this kid jumps onstage and tries to hang out, and the singer—who's probably like 60 pounds—he kicks the kid off the stage. [Laughs.] I wasn't really feeling it. I like this song a lot, though. I'm really into covering non-rap songs. I guess that's a weird thing for a rapper to do. I'm pretty sure I wanted to cover this song. [Sings.] "Candy girl, yeah! Candy girl, yeah yeah yeah!" Considering hip-hop is all about re-contextualizing different samples and different lyrical sources and ideas, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch.
AVC: Do you feel like hip-hop has written itself into malaise by relying too heavily on old soul and funk samples?
RP: I'd say so. The reason I don't apply a lot of soul samples myself is, I feel like it's been completely mined. Everyone has done everything. Every available sample in that style has been exhausted, and I feel like there's a limited palette of things you can do with the same old samples. Definitely.
Bird Peterson, "Nerdout Wizard Music 1978"
RP: Bird Peterson is that dude. He recently did a remix for my song "House Music." This is from his album, Hot Noise. I haven't had a chance to go through it as exhaustively as I'd like to, but there's one other song on here that's a complete dance-floor smash. It's called "Twurk Central." This song, I don't think I've ever heard. I may have skipped it because the title's too long. This is the thing about iPods, too. I feel like I can listen to anything at any time, right? But it's really hard for me to sit down and not move my hands around and absolutely absorb an album. The only way I can do that is if I put it on my iPod speakers and I'm not right next to it to change it. Otherwise, it's just too easy to constantly change. My iPod has made me into a psychopath.
Leonard Cohen, "Suzanne"
RP: Leonard Cohen is awesome. He's the patron saint of Canada. He's like the guy who taught me how to get impossibly laid while still being kind of funny-looking. I don't know what I would do if I met this guy. I was thinking of doing a remake of one of his songs, but I would only do it if I could get his blessing. I want to do "Death Of A Ladies' Man," and basically do a spiritual cover of it that also samples it, and get him on the hook. But he's like 75 years old, and I hear his voice isn't holding up very well these days. Leo's definitely that dude.
Del The Funky Homosapien, "Phoney Phranchise"
RP: A lot of people say I sound like Del. At shows, people say, "You really remind me of Deltron ." I guess there's some truth to that. He's a free-associative rapper as well, and I like his style. I like that he likes video games, because I like video games too. We have a few things in common for sure. You know he's cousins with Ice Cube, right?
Elephant Man, "The Way We Roll (Remix feat. Busta Rhymes and Shaggy)"
RP: I have never heard this song before, but it might be really good. I like Elephant Man. I used to be on a huge dancehall kick in 2003. I was listening to almost exclusively dancehall that year. I remember I really liked Elephant Man, because all his raps were about how his dick was so big—like an elephant trunk, you know? I guess that's the whole meaning behind his name. It's not that he feels separated from society. He just has a really big dick.
AVC: Do you think you'd be a bigger star if you rapped about your dick more?
RP: You know, I like to think I rap about my dick a lot already. It's just not as overt as other people. But maybe. Cock sells, man.
AVC: So wait, is that what "Julie Will Jump The Broom" is actually about?
RP: [Laughs.] Tell me about it. Yeah man, it's pretty deep stuff.
The National, "Green Gloves"
RP: The National is one of two bands that were introduced to me by these two girls I used to live with. They had fairly good taste in music. I knew about everything they knew about already, but there were two bands where I never really knew anyone who liked them except for them. They would play The National every day, whether it was in the room or the car. My one roommate, the only CDs in her car were The National and this band The Frames. I'd never once heard of The Frames from anyone, and it made me feel like if I'd never heard about them from anyone, then they've got to be really bad, right? It's like, if you go to rent a movie that you've never heard of—you've never heard any reviews for it, no one talks about it, you haven't seen any posters, no mention of it in history until you see it at the video store—that's not a good sign, I find. But sometimes you get something good. And in this case, The National is something good.
Mayo Thompson, "Good Brisk Blues"
RP: This is awesome! This is one of my favorite tunes. Mayo Thompson is the guy from Red Crayola, and this is his solo album. It's really cool electric rock from the '60s, I believe. His lyrics are incredible. He opens up the album with one of the illest lines: "I'm a student of human nature." Nice, man. I consider that to be so much like rap. Folk music is directly connected to rap, because a lot of it is free-associative, coded language for really basic things. Say, Kanye West is talking about how great he is, right?
RP: All the time. He's feeling his power. But Mayo Thompson is doing it in a slightly different way. In the most bare-bones way, he'll say, "I'm a student of human nature." It's like, "I know what I'm talking about." I feel like "brag rap" is not that far removed from folk music. Word.