Over the years, Rollie Pemberton has built a career both writing about music for outlets like Pitchfork and making music under his rapper alias, Cadence Weapon. He's also the host of VICELAND's new show Payday, which follows young people across North America as they attempt to make a living amidst our modern-day economic realities and anxieties. In advance of tonight's new episode, we talked to Pemberton about what viewers can expect from the show.
VICE: Tell me about the message and mission behind Payday.
Rollie Pemberton: Payday isn't just about the different ways people make money—it's also about how people make money today. It's a very contemporary view on the different kind of jobs people can have today. Some of the people we feature have jobs that I'd never thought of them holding. There's one guy who's a funeral director in his twenties—you wouldn't necessarily think of that as a young person's job. It's a show about the economic realities for young people in America today.
What stigmas is this show trying to break when it comes to young people and money today?
In Canada, the Finance Minister recently said young people should get used to having temporary jobs—that's going to be the future. the way the economy is going now. Our government is telling us that we should rely on inherently unreliable jobs that don't have benefits. So it's important that a show like this shows the lengths that people will go to make a living, and how dynamic and creative people can get when they don't have the option of having a typical salary-based job. Some of these people are working multiple jobs. In the Baltimore episode, we follow a tattoo artist who's also picking up scrap metal. People are doing whatever it takes to survive.
The baby boomer generation almost has an aversion to the level of freedom that our generation has—they're mad that we get to take chances and choose different things, because that wasn't an option to them. I don't think we're necessarily that different from the previous generation, I just think that we have the option to make these choices.
If you had to give a young person advice on how to financially survive in North America, what would you tell them?
One of the first things that I would tell them is to be knowledgeable, figure out something that you're passionate about, and become an expert on it. The younger generation feels like it's a startup generation—all of these people who've come up with their own ideas and created their own jobs that didn't exist before, in fields that didn't exist before. I went to journalism school, but I knew that I wanted to make rap music the whole time. Everyone around me was telling me, "Don't do it—you have to stay in college, because this is the way people have always done things." Follow your own vision. We have access to so much that you can become extremely knowledgeable about something in a way that wasn't possible when we were young.
What do you think is the greatest economic barrier that this generation of young people currently faces?
Debt is one of the major issues for young people—specifically student debt, which is one of the biggest issues for people today. You have to go to college and get a job, and then you're getting a job to pay for college. You're fighting a mounting fear of monetary control, and I find that a lot of people on the show are dealing with debt in various ways.
What's the worst job you've ever had?
I worked in the garden center at Canadian Tire—it was one of the first jobs I'd ever had. I didn't know anything about plants, and there was another person working there who was an expert and was my age. People would get mad at me daily for not knowing what I was talking about because I had no training whatsoever.
You can catch Payday on VICELAND. Find out how to watch here.