Weapon of Mass Distinction – Roland Pemberton professionally known as Cadence Weapon is Edmonton’s next Poet Laureate

May 27, 2009

“Whether it’s rap, music or prose, Pemberton’s writing has displayed little patience with rigid restrictions… he’s intimately versed with youth culture and the street”
– Edmonton Journal

“Although it’s probably the strangest laureate-related news since Robert Pinsky hosted a metaphor-off between Stephen Colbert and Sean Penn, it could actually set a nice precedent”
– FFWD Weekly

“Nimble indie rapper and former Pitchfork writer Rollie Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon, is now a poet motherfucking laureate. To be clear: There is a guy who used to write for Pitchfork who is now a poet laureate. See mom, I told you this isn’t a dead-end career!”
– Pitchfork Media

When hometown comrade Trevor Anderson of the band Wet Secrets called to say he was nominating the young Pemberton to assume the role of literary ambassador for the City of Edmonton, it was a natural extension to those of us who have followed his music steeped in references of Edmonton and its people. At 23 years old, Roland Pemberton is internationally recognized as an innovative and accomplished writer, producer, rapper, touring artist – and now Edmonton’s Poet Laureate.

Historically, a Poet Laureate served as the official chronicler of state events and occasions. In ancient times, the Laureate was the central means for recording and communicating history. For the City of Edmonton, the role of a Poet Laureate is to reflect the life of a city through poetry, as an ambassador for the literary arts; the Laureate incorporates poetry into a range of official and informal city activities. The creation of this position confirms the city’s support for the arts in general, and for the literary arts in particular.

“Rollie’s work already represents our City to its citizens, and that he acts as one of our most exciting municipal ambassadors when he tours nationally and internationally. Roland Pemberton is a poet of the people, and I think that might be the most important qualification for the Poet Laureate to hold”, writes Trevor Anderson in his nomination letter.

A 5-person selection committee, chaired by the Edmonton Arts Council reviewed the nominations for the third Poet Laureate. Roland Pemberton succeeds Edmonton poet and writer E. D. Blodgett and formerly, award winning poet Alice Major.

Pemberton’s albums Breaking Kayfabe and Afterparty Babies (Upper Class Recordings 2005 & 2008) earned him instant praise and notoriety from the international media. Cadence Weapon won a Canadian Independent Music Award for “Favourite Urban Artist”, the CBC Radio 3’s BUCKY Award, as well as nominations for “Best Rap Album of 2006” at the Plug Independent Music Awards, MuchMusic Video Award for “Sharks” and two nominations for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize.

“I’m honoured that the City of Edmonton has considered me to be their Poet Laureate, a worthy chronicler of events and a representative of the diversity and cultural breadth of Edmontonians.”

Pemberton’s roots in Edmonton run deep. He is the son of Teddy Pemberton who, as the host of The Black Experience on CJSR, is often credited with bringing hip-hop to the city. His grandfather, the great Rollie Miles, played for the Edmonton Eskimos from 1951-1961 and played in five CFL championship games.

The Edmonton Public Library’s Board Chair Joan Welch said “The Edmonton Public Library is very pleased to be a partner in this program and are looking forward to working with the Edmonton Arts Council to support Roland during his term as Poet Laureate.”

Edmonton Mayor, Stephen Mandel; “I sometimes hear that young people aren’t ‘into’ poetry – but Roland as a musician/rapper, will show them they are into the art form – they just don’t know it. We want young Edmontonians to be involved in shaping our City. I know Roland Pemberton will be a great Edmonton ambassador to the rest of the world. He will bring poetry to a whole new audience, and challenge the rest of us on our conventional perception of what it means to be a poet.”

Roland Pemberton assumes his role on July 1st and will serve a two-year term as Edmonton’s Poet Laureate.

Edmonton’s Poet Laureate

Cadence Weapon

Upper Class Recordings


For More Information/Interviews Contact:

Travis Lefebvre

Alison Turner
Communications Advisor
780-424-2787 ext 224

Carol Hurst
Senior Commincations Advisor

Press Releases
December 6, 2005 Cadence Weapon CD Release