Q: You’re returning to St. John’s on October 19th with Fat Tony and Hua Li. Any impressions of Newfoundland and the east coast from previous visits?
I’ve been there a few times now. I really like it, it’s really beautiful. I feel like it’s one of the most underrated parts of Canada. Especially where I’m from – Edmonton originally – it’s very rare to get out there from the west. I’m really excited that I get to get out there and check it out.
Q: It’s been a pretty amazing couple of years for you – Polaris Prize short lists, acclaimed studio albums. Do you feel you have to be constantly improving and adapting to the changing music landscape?
It’s weird, I’ve been around for awhile, but I’m still like a young artist. I’m still in early to mid career. It’s interesting to see how things change and how you adapt with how music changes and rap changes over the years. Compared to when I was first starting out, rap seems to change every month. Every second there’s a new style of rap, a new hot rapper and a new way of rapping. If you blink you totally miss it, you could miss a scene.
Q: You grew up with a father who was a pillar of the hip hop radio community in Edmonton and a truly influential DJ in his own right. Did you always have that feeling of being immersed in music?
Growing up I was in a total library of music. I had an opportunity that a lot of people don’t really get and I really took advantage of it. Just being around somebody that archived music and was really selective about music, it really made me analyze my life in a different way than other people do. I spent so much time listening to music and studying, being like Ok, this is why they did this. It has made me a better producer and I would say a really empathetic songwriter. I write with other people in a way that I can appreciate what other people are trying to bring to songs in a way not a lot of other people can do.
Q: The book on your career is that you’re a careful and complex songwriter, not out there to just produce glossy, attractive hits. Has that always been key for you? Sticking by certain standards and principles?
I never want to make anything that is totally exposable. Even if I’m doing a party song or something I want it to have multiple layers. I want it to have more there to discover for whoever is listening. I do the same thing with the writing too. Obviously you mentioned I was poet laureate. I still do a lot of poetry events. It’s an exciting thing, it’s exciting to be able to make my mark in so many forms of art. I’m living the life of an artist. I really couldn’t trade it for anything else in the world.
Q: Take me back to that period when you were named poet laureate of Edmonton. Did you feel accepted by the community? Or did you feel the rap or hip hop label carried with it the idea of separation?
It’s funny, it was actually a really difficult period for me. I received a lot of backlash where a lot of people thought it was a joke or something, that rap isn’t poetry. There were all these things criticizing my lyrics to my songs. I thought it was very unfair. There was something in one of the major papers where they compared my lyrics to Shakespeare’s. Like ‘who wins this battle?’ kind of making fun of it like a rap battle. That whole process really made me go harder with my lyrics. It made me try to be unassailable. I wanted to make something of my career, make everything that you could put it on the page and you can publish that. That’s something that became really important to me, I wanted to make something with a level of density and depth that I could never have anybody take one of my lyrics and make fun of it in that way again.
Q: Hypothetically, if you were offered a lucrative, big money record deal at the expense of creativity or artistry, would you take it? Is it worth it to subtract passion for money?
It never is. I’m an artist, a true artist, and that’s the way I’ll always be. I could try to make a total commercial album to sell a bunch of records or whatever, but no matter what I do it’s going to be me and it’s going to be weird and it’s still not going to be as commercial as I would try to make it. I would never really make that decision. That said, I still want to be appreciated in my time. I feel like with a lot of artists like me who are more artistically minded and they try to do things like experiment throughout their career, oftentimes they only get appreciated after they’re dead. All these people come out of the woodworks like oh you inspire people! With the mainstream success I would be appreciated in my time, so that kind of legacy stuff is important to me … Ultimately my guiding principle is did I make something that I can stand behind?
Q: Take us through what we can expect from this tour, and from your own live performance?
With my live show I’m trying to have something where people will go away from and say oh my god, that was a holistic rap experience. I want people to be blown away by what they saw. I don’t really want a lot of bells and whistles, personally. That’s been my main focus lately, let the rap speak for itself. I feel like people don’t really know how good I am live. I haven’t played a lot, and I just wanted to show people that I’m one of the best rap performers in the world. I really believe that about myself. I train for it like an athlete. Hopefully people will see.
For tickets to Cadence Weapon and guests at The Ship in St. John’s on October 19th visit mightypop.ca & cadenceweapon.net