Toronto-based rapper, producer, & Polaris prize shortlister Rolle Pemberton, known professionally as Cadence Weapon, is prepping his upcoming album Parallel World. Mixing together house, hip-hop and some grimier rhythms, Pemberton attacks tackles themes close to home like systemic racism, structural inequality, police profiling, gentrification and how the surveillance state attacks black people disproportionally. It is an album that you can dance to with beats by the likes of Jimmy Edgar and Jacques Greene, while also making you think about the ills of government, corporations and racism.
The album arrive at the end of this month on April 30 and several tracks have emerged from it already that you can listen to throughout this piece. A lot of themes covered on the project are universal, but he applies them to his own world in Toronto. It isn’t always a rosy picture, but we wanted to see what Cadence Weapon’s Toronto experience is like in a City Guide feature. Obviously COVID has impacted these, but it was done outdoors and at a distance. Save some of these for when they are open and bustling again and support others now before they disappear.
Pre-order Parallel World here.
We all like a good drink, so where are the top spots to head to before a night out?
Toronto has no shortage of great bars and restaurants. Black Dice, Bar Piquette, Paradise Grapevine, Cocktail Bar, The Little Jerry, Imanishi, Paris Paris and Grey Gardens to mention a few. I really like Donna’s a lot. Great wine selection, amazing food, just a nice vibe all around.
Where can you find the best clubs / late night venues in town (when they were open)?
Back when you could properly go out on the town, I’d usually just hit up the Dundas West strip. The Garrison is a go-to for live shows and they have epic dance parties during TIFF with extended hours. Their sister venue the Baby G is dope too. There used to be several after-hours spots on Geary that you might end up at when the shows were over but I’m not sure what their status is nowadays. Bambi’s is the nerve centre of the local electronic scene, I DJ there from time to time.
Brunches are a weekend staple, which spots stand out to you?
Toronto is really good for brunch. I would recommend Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, Lady Marmalade, Aunties & Uncles and The Federal. My favorite spot is a very underrated Persian restaurant near Dufferin and College called Takht-e Tavoos. It’s insanely busy on the weekends but it’s always worth the wait. They have a really mellow atmosphere and their breakfast platters are incredible, I usually get the Mushroom Shahrudi or Guisavah.
Best dirty late-night street food option?
We don’t really have street food in Toronto per se but Rap’s is usually open into the wee hours. It’s a legendary spot in Little Jamaica with the best jerk chicken in town. Horace “Rap” Rose cooks the chicken in a barrel outside and in the summer, there’s usually people hanging out around him all night. It feels a bit like a street festival. I live in the area so it’s one of the restaurants I frequent the most.
Where can we shop for records and music memorabilia in Toronto?
I’ve got love for Sonic Boom, Rotate This, Pandemonium and Play De Record but Invisible City Record Shop is definitely the spot in Toronto. Gary is something of a legendary digger and his curatorial eye is razor sharp. I always come away with something interesting when I stop by. They’ve cultivated a really vital dance music community around the store, Toronto wouldn’t be the same without it.
Your Sunday escape plan when you need to get away from it all?
You can take a ferry or a water taxi from the waterfront downtown to a paradise called Toronto Islands. There are several different beaches on the island with different vibes. One is clothing optional. Vendors will come by and sell you freezies made of juice and alcohol. People have houses on the island, I even know a few people who have studios there. Hitting the island gave me so much life last summer. It’s one of the crucial ways to be in a natural environment in a city that has become more of a concrete and glass jungle over the years.
Something everyone should do when visiting Toronto, but probably hasn’t?
Come to Little Jamaica! It’s a vibrant neighborhood with a rich reggae history and lots of great Caribbean restaurants like Randy’s Patties and Rap’s. Outside of Brixton and Kingston, Little Jamaica was the most popping place in the world for reggae in the ‘70s and ‘80s with lots of record stores and labels in the area. An LRT line has been under construction for the past decade, causing over a hundred local businesses to close. I recently wrote an article about the situation, hopefully more people support the community while it’s still there.
A song that reminds you of when you first moved here
“Know Yourself” by Drake was really ringing off in the city when I moved here in 2015. When I started DJing around town at places like Parts & Labour, it felt like the roof was going to come off when I dropped that track, people were screaming every word and slapping the ceiling. I also think of soca and dancehall songs like “Yeah” by Cham because I had to really expand my knowledge of those genres to be able to hang on the decks in Toronto.
What are other great exports that come from Toronto?
Shout out to Neil Young, Catherine O’Hara, Kardinal Offishall, Jessie Reyez, Jully Black, David Cronenberg, Glenn Gould, Andrew Wiggins, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers and P.K. Subban. Other than celebrities, one of the biggest exports in Toronto is the slang and music of the Caribbean diaspora that has gestated here.
A gift you can’t leave Toronto without taking home for friends?
What you bring back from Toronto isn’t necessarily something physical, it’s usually something cultural. Maybe it’s some new slang or some incredible dancehall song you heard at a club or maybe you had the best roti of your entire life. Maybe you saw a life-changing film at TIFF or watched the Raptors win on a buzzer beater. Toronto is nothing if not an experiential city.