Back in January, Cadence Weapon released his fourth full-length album. Born Rollie Pemberton, the Alberta-born, Toronto-based rapper laced the record with acute social commentaries, and one of the most pronounced of these was “High Rise,” a track that dismantled Toronto’s unhinged condo boom and gentrification.
"High Rise" is a missive that dissects the social ramifications of the city’s steadily-growing income gap, and the way that chasm is stimulating division and threatening communities. Pemberton fires off stream-of-consciousness associations with the city's vicious, "hundred thousand over asking" housing market: "Rising rent, open house/Bidding war, working poor/Massive debt, family loan, overstressed/Gentrifier, take me higher/Sell it to the richest buyer." Pemberton's delivery is monotonous and indifferent, resigned to its fate, while the hook ("Swimming pools all in our suite/Beats the view on College Street") is even more banal and defeated. His voice, panning over Montreal producer Jacques Greene’s glitchy, Queen West boutique-fashion-store beats, mirrors the lack of character and compassion in condo culture.
According to Pemberton, “High Rise was inspired by my experience looking for a place to live when I first moved to Toronto. It made me imagine a demonic real estate agent chanting at me to give up the search for a house, to move into a condo. I think many people are dealing with rampant gentrification and the erosion of community today so I decided to write a protest song about it.”
The video for “High Rise” was directed by Lester Millado and produced by Toronto creative collective Pique. The video for "High Rise" is shot from a voyeuristic, 20-stories-up view, as it surveys the sporadic comings and goings of the downtown core's mid-day hustle. It zooms in and out, like someone looking through binoculars at the street below, as Pemberton walks and raps, and dancers Caden Mackinnon and Chantelle Mostacho, decked out in alternating shock-pink sweats and pristine white top, use the sidewalk as a stage. The viewpoint simulates a disconnect from Pemberton, the dancers, and the energy below, ending with an upwards-scanning shot of the seemingly-endless doldrums of blue-green and grey units that pierce the downtown skyline.
June 15 – Toronto, ON – North By Northeast Festival @ Yonge-Dundas Square
June 20 – Winnipeg, MB – Winnipeg Jazz Festival @ The Good Will
July 13-15 – Guelph, ON – Hillside Festival
September 28 – Kingston, ON – Grad Club
September 29 – Ottawa, ON – The 27 Club
October 2 – Regina, SK – The Exchange
October 3 – Calgary, AB – Commonwealth
October 4 – Edmonton, AB – Buckingham
October 5 – Kelowna, BC – Fernando’s
October 6 – Vancouver, BC – Fortune Sound Club
October 10 – Saskatoon, SK – Amigo’s
October 13 – Chicago, IL – Sleeping Village
October 18 – Fredericton, NB – The Capital
October 19 – St. John’s, NL – The Ship
October 20 – Halifax, NS – TBD
October 25 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
October 26 – Richmond, VA – Strange Matter
October 28 – Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory
October 30 – Boston, MA – Middle East
November 1 – Montreal, QC – La Vitrola
Luke Ottenhof is on Twitter.