Album Review: Cadence Weapon—”Hope In Dirt City”

By Elena Gritzan

It begins with sampled strings, bongos and a reference to Tesla, signalling that Hope In Dirt City, the third album from Montreal-by-way-of-Edmonton rapper Cadence Weapon, is full of unexpected musical turns and a whole lot of pushed boundaries.  After spending two years promoting the arts and writing insightful lines as Poet Laureate in his hometown of Edmonton, he took off on a tour before relocating to Quebec’s hub of musical creativity.  The album serves as a travel log of his relocations: it is full of references to his native “Dirt City”, recounts tales of being lost en-route to shows in Austin, Texas and explores the Montreal after-hours party scene that he has immersed himself in.

The album’s hip hop production is infused with elements of electro, jazz, disco and punk – a mixed bag of influences that is tied together by his droll delivery and literate verses.  There are horn, saxophone and guitar parts, recreated with a live band and weaved in between samples, an appearance by Canadian stalwart Buck 65 and beats from a variety of luminaries, most notably electronic weirdo Doldrums.

Cadence Weapon sings, shouts and raps his way through a wide spectrum of emotions, from “heart-shaped sentiments” on “No More Names (Aditi)” to confrontational growls on “Jukebox”, although the entire set of songs is underlined with a sense of unease, despite the optimistic album title.  Still, this is an album that manages to transcend any possible niche that it could be placed in, full of atmospheric production and a healthy amount of wit.

As proclaimed halfway through the album, Cadence Weapon does not need a hype man.  His thoughtful words and inventive music speak for itself.


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