Canada’s top hip-hop group, Swollen Members, returns
March 25, 2009
Swollen Members keep getting bigger ” while staying under wraps.
Canada’s best-selling hip-hop group emerged with its fifth release, “Black Magic” in 2006 and is back in the studio with the Dust Brothers (the producers behind “Paul’s Boutique”) working on “Beautiful Death Machine,” likely due out this fall. After aiming for the pop charts with “Heavy” in 2003, the trio ” Mad Child, Prevail and Rob the Viking ” targeted its cult following with the dark lyrics and gloomy beats.
“I think you gotta be able to do that to grow, which is what this album really represents,” Prevail said of “Black Magic,” which won the band its fourth Juno, the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy. Two years in the making, the disc features collaborations with Ghostface Killah (Wu-Tang Clan), Everlast, Dilated Peoples, Hieroglyphics, Planet Asia, Phil the Agony and others.
“Something that we’ve always tried to do is experiment, and we really did that on our last project, but we went in a direction that made us want to come back to our original style,” said Prevail, one of the two MCs. “On this album, we came back out the gates real hungry and real fierce.”
The group’s other MC, the vaunted freestyle rapper Mad Child, agreed: “There’s a lot more to life than just getting ready to go to the club and sipping champagne and picking up girls and going in your hot tub. It’s nice to have girls in your hot tub, don’t get me wrong, and it’s nice to have nice things, but there is more to life than that. We took a long time making this album, a couple of years, and paid attention to detail and really found ourselves again.”
Swollen Members canceled a number of tour dates last year but kept the South Shore and other ski towns on its schedule, cementing their status as cult favorites for hip-hop fans in the mountains. Rob the Viking remembered a stop in Colorado last winter while on tour with Ghostface Killah: “They were jumping so much that, by the fifth song of our set, they cracked four beams in the floor, and they had to evacuate the club that was downstairs and ultimately evacuate the whole building and shut the club down,” the beatmaker said on the group’s MySpace page. “So we actually did bring the house down that night.”
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Swollen Members dates to the 1990s, when the two MCs from Vancouver, British Columbia, joined forces to release 12 singles on Battle Axe Records, Mad Child’s label. The group debuted with “Balance” in 1999, then followed up with “Bad Dreams” in 2001. “Monsters in the Closet” capped a Canadian hip-hop hat trick: three Junos in three years.
While Prevail and Mad Child are the core, Rob the Viking became an official Member in 2002. Moka Only has been part of the group twice but departed for the second time to pursue a solo career.
Though Swollen Members spent several years promoting and touring almost exclusively in Canada, they have sold nearly 500,000 records worldwide, all through the independent Battle Axe label.
Swollen Members are playing Saturday, April 1, at the South Shore’s new live hip-hop venue, Mo’s Place. Goodword, BPos and As-Is will open.