Cadence Weapon Wins 2021 Polaris Music Prize for Best Canadian Album

Edmonton rapper Cadence Weapon has won the 2021 Polaris Music Prize for his album 'Parallel World.' The award is given to the best Canadian album of the year.

Cadence Weapon

Image via Colin Medley

Cadence Weapon

Cadence Weapon has won the 2021 Polaris Music Prize for his album Parallel World

The award is presented annually to the best Canadian album, based on artistic merit as decided by a jury of music journalists and broadcasters.

2020 Polaris winner Backxwash announced Weapon’s victory via a virtual ceremony.

“I can’t believe this is happening, this feels amazing,” the MC, born Rollie Pemberton, said shortly after the announcement. “I wanna talk my stuff because I’ve never won anything before.”

After thanking his family, partner, and team, Weapon expressed gratitude to the artistic community in Toronto, mentioning that Parallel World is about their experiences in the city. He also said that next year he plans on using some of his Polaris prize money to organize voter registration events around the Toronto municipal election and Ontario provincial election.

“We need some changes to our leadership and we need to make things more equitable for people in this city to be able to vote,” he said.

“I also just wanna take this time to mention that Justin Trudeau has worn blackface so many times he can’t even remember how many times, and he was just given a third term,” he added. “And that’s exactly why I need to be making rap records that are political, that are about these subjects, because that’s still a fact today.”

Polaris winners receive $50,000, as well as the international attention that comes with snagging the award.

This is Cadence Weapon’s first Polaris Music Prize win. He’d previously been shortlisted for his albums Breaking Kayfabe (2006) and Hope in Dirt City (2012). 

Parallel World beat out a shortlist that included TOBi’s ELEMENTS Vol. 1, Mustafa’s When Smoke Rises, and DijahSB’s Head Above The Waters.

When speaking to Complex about the album earlier this year, Weapon said he was compelled to make music in the vein of Public Enemy and the Clash, that had meaning and held the powerful accountable. “I feel like a lot of musicians, especially rappers, are afraid to get political, to mess with their brands or TikTok following,” he said. “They don’t want to take chances like my heroes did.”

Weapon ended his acceptance speech by shouting out his hometown of Edmonton.

“I wanna show everybody, all the young artists listening right now, watching this, you don’t have to be from Toronto. Your experience is valuable and your art matters,” he said.

“The Prairies got something to say.”

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