Rollie Pemberton's first proper album as Cadence Weapon, 2005's Breaking Kayfabe, stood out for its jarring electro clatter and tangled, detail-rich rhymes. Two years later, the mainstream of hip-hop has moved in the Edmonton-based MC's direction, at least production-wise. Consider: Pemberton (full disclosure: a former Pitchfork writer) mashed up Rick Ross's "Hustlin'" and Simian Mobile Disco's "Hustler" before A-Trak released his own combination of same. That was before A-Trak inspired Kanye West to issue a single sampling Daft Punk, before the juke-house of Dude 'N Em's "Watch My Feet" and house-thwacked r&b of Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music". In short, Cadence Weapon's beats anticipated above-ground hip-hop producers' current fetish for sleek, European-style dance music.
The fragmented electronic loops of "In Search of the Youth Group" remain harsher and busier than what the Top 40 typically has to offer, though a simple, steady thud underlies the synth shimmer and chopped-up backing vocals. Pemberton's dense wordplay and rapidfire flow, meanwhile, are still too nerdily labyrinthine to be mistaken for anything but indie rap. He quotes Dylan, pokes Adam's rib, and juggles the word "drop" en route to disavowing the epithet "hip-hop hipsters": "Cover the phrase and keep it in your locket." OK, deal. It'll take a lyric sheet (or better headphones, maybe?) to decode all of Pemberton's hard-charging verses, but "In Search of the Youth Group"-- the first studio track we've heard from Cadence Weapon's forthcoming sophomore album (and Anti-/Epitaph debut) Afterparty Babies-- finds the underground rapper in good position to attract still greater attention.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: Pemberton's mother wouldn't let him play with Barbies.