YAMANTAKA Facebook Friday night at Pop Montreal saw quite a few big acts…
- Posted on Sep 17th 2012 2:00PM by Anupa Mistry
"I made my bed for myself, you know? I can't be surprised," he tells Spinner, noting that rappers are already at a disadvantage within the general music landscape. "I make music that is inherently divisive."
His newest record, the newly Polaris Prize short-listed Hope in Dirt City, feels like a response to those detractors. It's Cadence at his most lyrically accessible and relaxed. Production credits are split between himself and some of Canada's fast-rising weirdos, like Doldrums and the LOL Boys. Considering the breadth of references, there's a nice cohesion between early '90s sample-heavy rap aesthetics and organic-sounding arrangements. And it was all intentional, he says, in an effort to be more accessible but without losing himself.
"With this record I feel like there's not a lot to complain about if you've felt like I've been a little too out there in the past."
Spinner talked with Cadence about the album, mixtapes and Talking Heads.
You've been touring a lot. You played with Japandroids in the U.S. and England, and Primavera Sound in Barcelona. There's a new tour set-up right?
It's me and a DJ, Kuhrye-oo. He's played in a band with Grimes and is an original member of Born Gold, and I know him from Edmonton as well. It's basically a live drum machine thing; a throwback, MC/DJ style set-up with some experimental drum machine funkiness.
That pretty much sounds like what you're doing on the new record.
It's definitely inspired by old school rap, but like really, really old school rap, pre-breaks. A lot of the stuff on the album originated as samples and live instrumentation. Like how "Rapper's Delight" is an interpolation of "Good Times." I wanted to get back to before rap had all these rules of what is or isn't a beat?
It's different than your earlier stuff. Was that intentional?
It was a conscious decision. From the beginning I said I'd never put out the same album twice, I'd never retread. It's annoying when an artist you like just keeps spinning their wheels doing the same shit. After Afterparty Babies, my last album, which was electronic-oriented -- house music and techno sounds and things like that -- I felt a pull toward a more organic sound. That's why I went with live instruments. And I wanted to stretch my range vocally so I got into singing and screaming and being more vocally dynamic. But the unifying element is an analytic touch.
What were you listening to at the time?
I was really into a lot of stuff from this studio in the Bahamas called Compass Point. A lot of my favorite albums were recorded there, by Grace Jones and Talking Heads' Remain in Light. I was listening to a lot of early '80s weird, mutant pop music -- and a lot of Black Moon.
I like how Talking Heads are so weird, but so crazy accessible.
Yeah, that's the ultimate goal. To retain my personality and the weird quirks that make me, me, but appealing to as many people as possible. David Byrne is one of my idols for something like that. Having a number one hit smash for a song where people totally don't know you're talking about? And Brian Eno, too. That's the goal.
So how exactly do you do that?
Lyrically, I've been trying to be less hyper-specific, less referential. I've been trying to make songs in the pop tradition, which might be based on real events that happened to me or people I know but written in a way that many people can relate to and get down with.
Do you feel like you're subject to double standards as a Canadian, as a rapper, as a Canadian rapper?
I do feel like I'm held to a different set of rules sometimes. But I created my own lane and set my own precedent. I used to be a lot more sensitive when I was younger -- I took negative reviews or criticism seriously. It might be hard for people to classify or understand it, but I think eventually the style of music I'm making, the direction I'm going in and the styles I'm mixing, eventually it'll be the thing to do.
Remember like, '07-'08 when the Cool Kids put out their first stuff and everyone lost their shit? And now everyone is a, for lack of a better term, "hipster rapper."
It can be lonely sometimes when you're doing your own thing. I look back at my idols. Some of them never got popular at all. Some of them, nobody ever listened to their shit and they're dead now, know what I mean? So I can never feel too bad.
The response to this album has been generally very positive. I realize it takes time, and I think eventually people will be fully on board. But yeah, I don't feel bad. When Breaking Kayfabe came out it was totally unlike anything, and since then there's been music that reminds me of myself and I don't take it personally at all. My mom likes it when she sees a rapper that sounds like me. She tells me!
Who does she think sounds like you?
You're always talking about mixtapes on Twitter. What's the draw to the traditional full-length, studio record for your music?
I'm old school that way. I grew up in a house with a lot of records. And I've always been obsessed with that aesthetic: creating the complete piece, all these pieces coming together to create a homologous whole. I know we're in a very singles-oriented, immediate gratification-based culture and I'm going against that.
But yeah, DatPiff, Live Mixtapes, that's where I get most of the music I listen to. I draw a lot of things from those albums. A song like "Hype Man" is very influenced by my obsession with rap culture in general. It fascinates me. Especially the periphery, everything surrounding the rapper, the trappings of the rapper -- the trapper. (Laughs) I find that more interesting than just the main guy.