Cadence Weapon wins Polaris Music Prize for hip hop album 'Parallel World'

·2 min read

TORONTO — Cadence Weapon has won the 2021 Polaris Music Prize for his album "Parallel World."

The Edmonton-raised rapper's project — which fuses hip-hop, electronic and grime music — was selected by an 11-member grand jury as the best Canadian album of the year, based on its artistic merit.

The 35-year-old musician's win, announced Monday, comes after two of his previous albums were shortlisted, 2006's "Breaking Kayfabe" and 2012's "Hope in Dirt City."

Cadence Weapon, born Rollie Pemberton, is based in Toronto and has a storied life in Canada's arts scene and beyond.

He was named Edmonton's poet laureate for two years in 2009 and once contributed to Chicago-based music website Pitchfork in its early days.

His familial ties to Edmonton run deep. His late father, Teddy, was a hip-hop DJ on campus radio while his grandfather, Rollie Miles, was a player with the CFL’s Eskimos for 11 years.

While accepting the $50,000 Polaris award, Pemberton laid out some early plans for how he intends to use the money, including devoting some of the funds to organize voter registration events around the Toronto municipal and Ontario provincial elections.

"We need some changes to our leadership and we need to make things more equitable for people in the city to be able to vote," he said, calling on other musicians to join him in his quest.

In a news conference after the award announcement, he told reporters that he also plans to use a portion of the prize money to help some Toronto crowdfunding campaigns cross their goal, including one for the Little Jamaica community, which is being impacted by gentrification and a light-rail transit line that will soon be passing through the area.

Pemberton also reflected on the political landscape of the nation a week after polls closed for the snap federal election.

"I also just want to take this time to mention that Justin Trudeau has worn blackface so many times he can't even remember how many times, and he was just given a third term," he said.

"And that's exactly why I need to be making rap records that are political, that are about these subjects because that's still a fact today."

The Polaris Music Prize awards the artist or group that created the standout Canadian album of the previous year — irrespective of genre or sales — as chosen by a team of journalists, broadcasters and bloggers.

It is considered one of the country's most prestigious music awards. Former winners include Backxwash, Haviah Mighty, Jeremy Dutcher and Kaytranada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 27, 2021.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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