Rapping is easier with guns and drugs, so give credit to Cadence Weapon's 2005 breakout Breaking Kayfabe for proving that a former Pitchfork scribe with a Nintendo fetish—and a Canadian, no less—could make something as just captivating without either. Yet for all of its admirable idiosyncrasies, Kayfabe felt slightly detached; on his techno-flavored follow-up, Afterparty Babies, Cadence Weapon (a.k.a. Rollie Pemberton) lets his guard down, spinning stories of friends left behind and failed relationships that are personal enough to hit universally. Between bouts of self-reflection and ripping on hipsters who try too hard, Pemberton flashes his own indie cred with references to Ian Curtis, Marc Bolan, and The Wire, but somehow it never feels like posturing—it helps that he's got a sense of humor, whether dropping a Kindergarten Cop sample ("Messages Matter"), making a pog reference ("Limited Edition OJ Slammer"), or pumping up the meta jams ("House Music"). Throughout, Pemberton comes off like a clever friend who just happens to be lyrically gifted: He's the perfect hip-hop hero for the MySpace age.
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