Though he's only 22, Rollie Pemberton - a.k.a. Cadence Weapon - fondly remembers a time when the music industry was different.

"I might be young, but I've got an old-school way of thinking of records," the Edmonton rapper said in a recent telephone interview. "I worked at a record store way back when, before it was easy to download everything.

"You'd go to the listening booth at HMV, you'd take 15 CDs, you'd listen to them, and then you sometimes had to take a leap of faith. People do not do that at all anymore."

So, he's rolling with the punches. He's just released a new 20-track mixtape called "Separation Anxiety," and he's letting fans pay whatever they want to download the record from his website.

It's a trick, of course, that was famously used by Radiohead when they released their Grammy-nominated album "In Rainbows." Pemberton says it's one way to stand out in a crowded music industry.

"There's so much music now," he said. "Nowadays, getting someone to even listen to your music - you've got to twist their arm."

The new mixtape is a breezy collection of remixes, covers, demos, live recordings and other tunes that slipped through the cracks.

Mixtapes, generally, are casual releases that come without the fanfare - or, usually, the production values - of official albums.

Pemberton says there's something gratifying about getting new material out so quickly.

"It's a weird thing I decided to do," he said. "I wanted to have kind of an in-between album.

"My thing is, I want to make it like it's the '70s again. All my favourite (stuff) came out in the '70s. Back then, Neil Young puts out a Neil Young album and a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young album, and another album, and it's like, who cares?

"If you're capable of making that much music, then try to put out as much of that as you can."

So far in his young career, Pemberton has rarely seemed at a loss for material.

He attracted some attention with his 2005 mixtape "Cadence Weapon is the Black Hand," before following it up a year later with his well-received debut full-length "Breaking Kayfabe."

Last year's "Afterparty Babies" really raised his profile, garnering strong reviews in the New York Times and the Guardian.

The album, distributed in the U.S. by venerable punk imprint Epitaph and overseas by Big Dada, showcased Pemberton's dense, cerebral rhymes and pointed sense of humour as he documented life in the Alberta capital.

"I feel like there's this kind of underlying sense of partying through bleakness (in Edmonton)," he said. "Trying to keep a positive state of mind in a place where you can't leave your house for about a month."

Still, he's reluctant to accept a role as ambassador of Edmonton rap, noting that he's not very representative of the town's hip-hop scene.

"It's a lot more traditional rap here," he said. "There's a lot of everything, a variety of rap styles, but I don't think there's anything necessarily like me.

"I'm kind of a weird guy, I guess."

Pemberton's Edmonton roots run deep. His father, Teddy, was a hip-hop DJ on a campus radio show there, while his grandfather, Rollie Miles, was a star with the CFL's Eskimos.

Pemberton says his whole family still lives in the city, but for the first time he's seriously considering leaving.

After spending the better part of the last few years on tour, he says he's feeling a bit disconnected from his hometown and is pondering a move to Montreal.

"I feel like maybe I have kind of confused view of the city," he said. "Because currently, sitting in my house and being trapped in here, with the weather and just the general vibe of my community - things have changed a little bit. I don't feel as welcome, I guess."

Yet he says the potential change wouldn't really be that significant.

"Moving for me doesn't really mean anything," he said. "Because I'm always going to come back here.

"I feel like I don't really live anywhere, at this point. More than anything I've been telling people I'm from Canada."

In the meantime, Pemberton is working on forming a band. He wants to have the backing of a live group for tours and for his next two records, which he says he's working on concurrently with the goal of getting one out this year.

"I'm trying to put out things in a timely fashion just because I feel like, you know, maybe you don't want to come out at the wrong time," he said.

In other words, timing is everything.

Pemberton attended Hampton University in Virginia for journalism before dropping out to focus on music.

He also had a gig as a reviewer for American music webzine Pitchfork Media, a job he doesn't remember fondly - "I'm realizing now that the things I did there had a big effect on other people's records, and I'm feeling guilty about it - like I killed people's hopes and dreams," he says.

He says he's glad he left college when he did, because he would hate to try to make a name for himself anew in today's anemic music industry.

"If I stayed and graduated, and came out and decided to put 'Breaking Kayfabe' out in 2008, can you imagine? It'd be a little bit different. ...

"It's a new world. But it makes sense to me. I think if the music's still good or interesting, people will find out about it."

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