Tracing his roots from recording beats in his mom's attic in Edmonton to performing with some of the most recognizable names in rap and electronic music--De La Soul, Public Enemy, Mos Def, Questlove, Diplo, and more--Rollie captures the joy in finding yourself, and how a sense of place and purpose entwines inextricably with a music scene.
From competitive basement family karaoke to touring Europe, from fights with an exploitative label to finding his creative voice, from protesting against gentrification to using his music to centre political change, Rollie charts his own development alongside a shifting musical landscape. As Rollie finds his feet, the bottom falls out of the industry, and Rollie captures the way so many artists were able to make a nimble name for themselves while labels floundered.
The book also captures a wide-ranging and crucial history of hip hop, with an international perspective that's often missing from rap music journalism. Rollie integrates the gestation of American hip hop with UK grime and niche scenes from the Canadian prairies, tracking the influence of the genre. Bringing his obsessive knowledge of hip hop to bear on his subject, he's created a definitive history here.
Rollie takes us into New York in the '70s, Edmonton in the '90s, the legendary Montreal DIY loft scene of the 2000s, and traces the ups and downs of trusting your gut and following your passion, obsessively. Music fans and creators alike will relate to the dedication to craft, obsessive passion for what came before, and desire to shift the future that is embodied in every creative project Rollie takes on.
ROLLIE PEMBERTON is a writer, rapper, producer, poet and activist who performs under the name Cadence Weapon. He won the 2021 Polaris Music Prize for his album Parallel World. His writing has been published in Pitchfork, The Guardian, Wired and Hazlitt. Currently based in Toronto, Pemberton was a former Poet Laureatein his hometown of Edmonton.