Late night in Chicago where Swollen Members just finished headlining the Oldominion show, I caught up with them for an interview. About 2:30 AM I was waiting for the club to kick everybody out so I could start this sit down with Madchild and Prevail. I continued to wait as Prevail went outside to join a cipher of local Chicago heads trying their game against a professional, while inside the slightly drunk Madchild was attempting to drive on a Grand Prix Arcade Game. After Madchild crashed and burned and Prevail got done serving the locals I sat down with them and this is how it went…
OB1—First of all I would like to congratulate you on receiving the JUNO award in hip hop. I know you weren’t there to accept the award so what does this award mean for you guys?
Madchild—What it means for me basically is, actually let me tell you the truth, we did a Sean Paul show the night before in Portland Oregon and we had two days off before we went back on tour and I wanted to be home to see my family, my dogs, and my friends, know what I’m saying. I actually got to see it on TV with my family, yo that shit was incredible! They were so happy and proud so that’s what it means to me. The fact that my grandma, my ma, my dad, my brother and my sister were there with me and they were all jumping up and down all excited. That’s what it means to me because that’s something they can understand, a JUNO.
Prevail—In Canada, that’s like something everybody strives for. I’ve been watching these awards since I was a kid, before I ever started in the music industry.
Madchild–They understand that so they were extremely excited, very proud because all their friends understand it. That’s what it meant to me and basically that’s it.
Prevail—I gotta say the same thing man. I watched the show but I knew two hours earlier because my grandma called me and I thought she was having a heart attack. She was like “oh my god, oh my god.” Yeah, she let me know before; it’s all about family.
In the states a independent hip hop artist wouldn’t win a award of this stature. How are the awards different in Canada compared to the states?
Madchild—It’s no secret, I’ll just tell you what happened. Ten judges were chosen to rate the best hip hop recording of 2000, or whatever it was, out of thirty groups. We were just fortunate enough that these ten people were obviously underground hip hop heads, or maybe college DJ’s, or skaters, or whatever. We were just fortunate that these ten judges happen to pick us, it’s simple. There is no conspiracy theory, we were just chosen, there is no big equation.
I heard that Maestro Fresh Wes was pissed off about the award, or how the awards were judged?
He made it very clear that there was no disrespect towards us. Maestro broke a lot of ground, and his album to me, Symphony in Effect his first album is one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time, it’s a classic. He made it clear that there was no disrespect toward us, he was just voicing his opinion towards the system of judging. That was it.
Madchild—We didn’t take it personally.
Prevail—There was no disrespect in that
With Battle Axe having eleven albums scheduled for release this year, when can we expect Bad Dreams to drop?
Madchild–…more like September or October, but we have another album coming out called Monsters in the Closet coming out four months after that.
Will Monsters in the Closet have the European version tracks on it from Balance?
Madchild—What it has is some of the stuff from the first European version album, some tracks that were unreleased, a lot of the tracks that didn’t make Bad Dreams but are still really good. I wouldn’t lie to you, they are real good. Some solo tracks from both of us. There is going to be like 19-20 cuts…
Prevail–…and they’re all dated so you can work through the progression with us from 1996 to 2001.
Who are you working with on your new album?
Madchild—We worked with the same producers that we worked with on the first album, Joey Chavez, Alchemist, Evidence, our family we love them cats; and Rob the Viking, one of our new producers.
Prevail—DJ Shawnsky did a cut.
Madchild—We did some stuff with Kemo from the Rascalz, who did a couple of things on the first album. As far as guest MC’s we decided not to have as many guest MC’s, but we have been fortunate to work with Dilated Peoples, Planet Asia, and Charli Tuna from Jurassic 5, and Buc Fifty from Battle Axe. Were going to keep it at that, were not going for anything extravagant.
Now that Dilated Peoples and J5 are moving up, is it your goal to reach commercial success as they have, or do you enjoy your freedom on the independent level?
Madchild—It is our goal to be exposed to as many people as possible with out changing our creative control, or compromising what we do as artist. For example 10, 15, 20 people go shopping at the GAP, three of those people might really like our music if they were exposed to it, but more than likely those people might not go and dig for music like underground hip hop heads do. I would like very much for those people to know about our music so they can have it in their CD collection, but me and Prev are not trying to change what we do artistically for anybody.
Prevail—That’s the beauty of being on a indie, as an artist from that point of view.
Madchild—Being a label owner, and being in the group Swollen Members, we’re going to keep doing it independent. We sold almost 40,000 of the last album independently, which is quite impressive, with very little promotional dollars. We are hoping to do 50, 60, maybe 70,000 of the next album, that’s what we’re hoping for and you know what, it deserves it. It’s a more experienced album and we think a lot of people should hear it, but what we want to work towards is to show labels in 3 years that we’re ready to move to the next level and get a major distribution deal where we still have creative control. And focus on our group and a few other groups and take it to that next level.
You two are really coming together as a group to move to that next level…
Madchild–…that’s a really important part.
Prevail—That is a really valid point. People from our city know the history, Madchild and I came together from basically two different sides of the hip hop scene. If you ask people in Vancouver four years ago to pick two MC’s that you would put together to make a group, our names would not come up in the same category. We were really lucky because we been able to have the element of surprise in bringing both our creative different sounds that we’ve been sculpting over the past few years with out knowing each other. Then building on top of that with our relationship and put out what we do now, I’m really proud of what we do.
What is to the rumor that Prevail served Kardinal and Choclair at a Vancouver show a while back?
Prevail—Let me set the record straight. My perspective on it was that it had nothing to do with Choclair.
Madchild—This is hip hop and MC’s are supposed to battle now and then. There is nothing wrong with that. Crowd response, from what I heard, was that Prev took that shit. I wanna say one thing that is very important and I’m speaking for myself. I dig Kardinal’s music, he makes good songs, so I’m gonna say respect to that cat. Know what I’m saying. I know he was upset that we won the JUNO and shit, yo I understand that shit because he’s moving mad units on a major label. You have to understand that we are independent artists, in a independent group, on a independent label so our building structure is gradual. I’m not going to apologize for winning anything, because we put our heart and soul into our music, but respect to that cat.
Prevail—I got to say that too, I dig his songs that cat has done. Respect due. I have no beef with that cat, as far as I’m concerned the battle was over as soon as I stepped off stage, it’s finished, it’s over.
I see some crews that when they finally get a fan base they split up, like the Arsonists. Is Swollen Members going to stay a group effort?
Madchild—They broke up? (SURPRISED) What happened?
Prevail—You didn’t know that?
Prevail—Like 7 to 9 months ago…
Madchild—They were great! I can’t believe it, I’m shocked. Well we will always be a crew, without a doubt. We’ll have a Madchild album, a Prevail album, and a Swollen Members album. Please believe it, we just want to make music.
Prevail—If our kids aren’t playing together in the next few years something’s up.
Is there anyone you would like to work with that you haven’t met yet or just haven’t had the opportunity to meet yet?
Madchild—Yeah, I would like to do some different stuff, like maybe a track with Ben Harper someday. Maybe as a solo project I would do something with, if I get real big, Supercat of Willie Nelson. Just to experiment and do some crazy shit, but that’s some other kind of music I like, that makes me chill out. That’s what I like to listen to sometimes. As far as rappers go I think we have worked with most of our favorite MC’s.
Prevail—Yeah a lot of the people we looked up to when we were coming up but there are a lot of rappers I would like to do songs with, and a lot of groups and musicians as well; like AC/DC or something. That’s just music I like on the side, other than hip hop.
Who are you guys into right now musically? Battle Axe excluded…?
Madchild—Prodigy, Beatnuts, Phil Da Agony, Dilated Peoples, J5, Planet Asia, all the Hiero crew. Everyone in Freestyle Fellowship, Project Blowed, and the Massmen.
Prevail—The new Aceyalone album, Accepted Eclectic
The Freestyle Fellowship, Project Blowed type material seems to catch on outside the west coast. What’s your opinion on why people are reluctant to the underground west coast style?
Madchild—I’ll tell you why, it’s the production, simply. People are really fond of beats that Premier makes, Alchemist makes, which makes them real fond of beats that Evidence makes, and Joey Chavez, and Rob the Viking; who is up and coming, and this kid is no joke and we are very proud to have him as a part of our crew. It’s the production, not that the production isn’t extremely dope that Hiero does, they have made a lot of classics but I think people are checking for a certain type of sound right now.
How is Bad Dreams going to be different from Balance?
Prevail—On our album that’s coming out, like Madchild said, it’s a lot more mature album. I think one of the things being that we were solo artist coming together to do Balance which was a project that took us collectively 2.5 to 3 years to really compile to the point where we felt comfortable putting it out, to where the music we were putting out was something we would stand behind. To the way we are now, where we have developed as a group. We came with more conceptual songs on Bad Dreams, where as on Balance you’d find more of Madchild doing a verse and then me doing a verse and some how we tied it all together with whatever we could balance it with. That’s why it was titled balance because we were really finding out about each other and what we could bring to the table. With Bad Dreams we were able to drop more conceptual tracks like Temptation, Ventilate, and Camouflage. Things will equilibrate. It’s like this, I know your gonna do your thing so just meet me tomorrow and tell me what you got (from it), but this is my topic, this is what I’m gonna write about. So I’m gonna challenge you to write about it to, and I’ll meet you tomorrow.
Madchild—We have a song called Ventilate, which is an argument between us that happened in France. We almost boxed, it’s some real shit, we almost boxed. Lately, we have almost boxed a couple of time but it’s all good the next day. That was a real argument, our issues, and we made a song about our argument.
Prevail—Word, thank you for doing this…
Madchild—Thank you to everybody who is supporting us right now, we appreciate it, we’re so happy. We’re putting in work…
Prevail—…and we love it.