Three years, a member change and a serious drug addiction later, Swollen Members and the Battle Axe Warriors have returned to the hip hop scene to reclaim the throne. The duo of Mad Child and Prevail were a huge Canadian hip hop success story at the turn of the century, releasing four studio albums to impressive sales, and garnering five Much Music VMA wins and four Junos along the way. And then: nothing.
Indeed, for a while it seemed like Swollen Members had disappeared off the face of the Earth. With no new material coming out for three years, and their label’s, Battle Axe Records, website not having been updated for years either, it appeared as though they may have ceased to exist. It turns out that the guys were still very much around, just struggling with a number of personal demons. Group MC Mad Child, for instance, went through a period of living on the streets, and overcoming a debilitating Oxycontin addiction.
These struggles ultimately provided a wealth of inspiration for a brand new CD, Armed to the Teeth, which dropped on Oct. 27. Album highlight “My Life,” for instance, was a “great testimony of what Mad’s struggle was. It was a great song that he would be able to write and it was therapeutic and definitely part of the healing process,” said Prevail in a recent interview with the Manitoban. He said he also felt it helped handle the inevitable media inquiries into the situation by simply laying everything out on the table and not trying to hide anything. Since it was also the first song that all three members (Mad Child, Prevail and Rob the Viking) sat down and wrote together, it also provided a thematic focus for the disc.
With new Battle Axe Warrior Tre Nyce on board for the majority of the project, Armed to the Teeth also sees the group updating its sound somewhat. With the exception of a couple tracks, the underground hip-hop sound of old is all but gone, replaced by more energetic, vibrant and mainstream sonic leanings. Despite loving the sound and response of the record so far, Prevail said he still looks forward to “getting back to a couple more of the Swollen Member signature sounds, which will be the focus on the next record coming out next year.”
This forward-looking optimism and new-found motivation, combined with the help of collaborators including Taleb Kweli, Tech N9ne, Young Kazh and Everlast, amongst others, means that there will be no slowing down again for Swollen Members any time soon. Whether this will lead to a second Golden Age for the group, however, isn’t even on the guys’ minds yet. Instead, Prevail said the group is just “focusing on re-connecting with fans” on their current Canadian comeback tour (which recently saw the band come through Winnipeg). He encourages any fan, old or new, to come check out the shows and see a band renewed and revitalized by hardship, saying that if people are paying “they’re going to want to come and have a good time and we’ll just enjoy ourselves and let it all loose on stage with high energy, having fun and good music.”