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Music Rap & Hip Hop

Bedroom Rapper

Cadence Weapon on Hip-Hop, Resistance and Surviving the Music Industry

by (author) Rollie Pemberton

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
May 2022
Rap & Hip Hop, Personal Memoirs, History & Criticism
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2024
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Bedroom Rapper is a book for obsessive music fans who are looking for the definitive take on what’s happened in the last two decades of hip hop, from Cadence Weapon, aka Rollie Pemberton: Pitchfork critic, award-winning musician, producer, DJ, and poet laureate.

Tracing his roots from recording beats in his mom's attic in Edmonton to performing with some of the most recognizable names in rap and electronic music—De La Soul, Public Enemy, Mos Def, Questlove, Diplo, and more—Polaris Prize winner Rollie Pemberton, a.k.a Cadence Weapon, captures the joy in finding yourself, and how a sense of place and purpose entwines inextricably with a music scene.

From competitive basement family karaoke to touring Europe, from fights with an exploitative label to finding his creative voice, from protesting against gentrification to using his music to centre political change, Rollie charts his own development alongside a shifting musical landscape. As Rollie finds his feet, the bottom falls out of the industry, and he captures the way so many artists were able to make a nimble name for themselves while labels floundered.

Bedroom Rapper also offers us a wide-ranging and crucial history of hip-hop. With an international perspective that's often missing from rap music journalism, he integrates the gestation of American hip hop with UK grime and niche scenes from the Canadian prairies, bringing his obsessive knowledge of hip-hop to bear on his subject. Rollie takes us into New York in the ’70s, Edmonton in the ’90s, the legendary Montreal DIY loft scene of the 2000s, and traces the ups and downs of trusting your gut and following your passion, obsessively.

With a foreword by Gabriel Szatan, music fans and creators alike will relate to the dedication to craft, obsessive passion for what came before, and desire to shift the future that is embodied in every creative project Rollie takes on.

About the author

Contributor Notes

ROLLIE PEMBERTON is a writer, rapper, producer, poet and activist who performs under the name Cadence Weapon. He won the 2021 Polaris Music Prize for his album Parallel World. His writing has been published in Pitchfork, The Guardian, Wired and Hazlitt. Currently based in Toronto, Pemberton was a former Poet Laureate in his hometown of Edmonton.

Editorial Reviews

A GLOBE AND MAIL Best Book of the Year

“An intriguing window into a creative mind that takes creativity and the constant betterment of that creativity very seriously… You don’t have to be a hip-hop fan to appreciate ‘Bedroom Rapper,’ just a fan of art and artists in general.”
—Ben Rayner, The Toronto Star
“Pemberton has made a career out of defying expectation and staying true to his roots.”
—CBC’s The Next Chapter

“Pemberton offers a new perspective on rap journalism.”
—CBC’s Q

“One of the key ideas in [this] innovative book – which also knowledgeably explores the history of hip-hop and U.K. grime – is how [Pemberton] intentionally studied and researched, learned the rules so he could break them.”
Fish Griwkowsky, Calgary Herald

“Rollie Pemberton slays in this big-hearted, raw memoir that chronicles his journey from Edmonton teenager to critically-acclaimed rapper. Funny, heartbreaking and deeply honest, Pemberton’s insightful behind-the-scenes look at what it means to be a Canadian artist is a must read.”
—Amita Parikh, author of The Circus Train
“Charting the highs and lows of his remarkable journey from attic-bound experimentalist to award-winning MC, Rollie Pemberton remains as ruminative, engaging and forthright in the margins of Bedroom Rapper—as poet, journalist, critic, musicologist, documentarian, DJ and more—as he is on the mic.”
—Calum Slingerland, Exclaim!

“Rollie is a writer whose authenticity defines his work, making Bedroom Rapper a book that’s as beautifully compelling as it is sharp, honest, and insightful. His voice is powerful and empathetic; his retellings are vivid, heart-wrenching, and strong. An absolute privilege to read, and a story I can’t wait to keep following.”
—Anne T. Donahue

“Read this if you’re a hip hop fan. Read this for a delicious behind-the-scenes. Read this for a coming-of-age book unlike any other. This memoir by Rollie Pemberton is open, funny, sharp and filled with storytelling treasures. It’s a beautiful love letter to life as an artist in Canada as well as an incisive critique of our culture. His storytelling is raw and polished at the same time, the mark of great art. We all stan Cadence Weapon!”
—Hannah Sung