Swollen Members – Blackout

August 28, 2009

Today’s MSMOTD

Swollen Members – Blackout (buy this song)

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I don’t think I’ve really posted any Rap/Hippity-Hop yet, so here we go!  I’ve been a fan of Swollen Members for a while now (hyuk hyuk, we’ll get the penis jokes out of the way right off the bat).  They’re an “underground” west coast rap duo from Vancouver, Canada.  Rappers Prevail and Mad Child, along with regular collaborators Moka Only (he sings) and Rob The Viking (he produces – writes the beats).  They’re pretty huge for a Canadian rap outfit, and are definitely Canada’s biggest hip-hop export.  Each one of their 4 albums has won best rap album of the year at the Canadian Juno awards, and they’ve collaborated with musical luminaries such as Chali 2Na (of Jurassic 5), Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Nelly Furtado, Everlast, Talib Kweli and Ghostfaced Killah.  Mad Child (the white dude) was even inducted into the Rock Steady Crew, which is apparently a big honour (?).

What really makes them unique (the Rough Guide to Hip-Hop calls them 2 of the most innovative people in hip-hop), are their dark/brooding orchestral musical arrangements and their penchant for inserting mythological and what reviewers mistakenly believe to be AD&D references into their songs.  Now, they do occasionally say the words “dragon”, “insane sorcerer” and “battle axe”, but that’s because “Battle Axe” is their label!  They even mention rapping about D&D in a few songs, but until they sing about adamantine bastard swords of +3 vs. undead, I don’t buy it.  They do however enjoy all things mythological and even fantasy-oriented, as I mentioned, working those references into more standard lyrics about how tough they are and how you’d better not cross them and so forth.  They act hard, but they’re probably pretty harmless in real life (I mean, they’re from Vancouver of all places).  Pleasantly absent are lyrics about money and women and cars and mansions and so forth.  It’s a nice change.

Update: Maybe not as harmless as I had thought!  Apparently they have connections with the Hells Angels, who have been featured in several videos (perhaps the ones below?).

Mad Child, Prevail and who I can only imagine is Rob The Viking looking as hood as they possibly can.

Mad Child, Prevail and who I can only imagine is Rob The Viking looking as 'hood as they possibly can.

Blackout is the first track from their latest album, 2006′s “Black Magic”.  It’s really short, at only ~1:45 minutes long, but I think it’s a good intro to the group and the groove is catchy and representative.  A deep beat with ominous stabs of choir and strings.  The first half is Prevail rapping, with Mad Child taking the lyrical torch for the second verse.  I really like their voices, and think the combination of Prev’s smoother baritone with Mad Child’s more nasally slurred delivery is effective and compelling.  Lyrically, it’s not the most interesting track, but that’s why I’ve posted some other tracks below.  Check them out!

(Lady Venom is actually my favourite Swollen Members track. It’s from their debut album, 1999′s “Balance” and has great lyrics and a super catchy beat!) (buy this song)

I want to highlight a few other songs as well, as they move from straight up rap to smoother hip-hop songs with sung vocals by Nelly Furtado (see the video below) and long time collaborator Moka Only.  The first track below – Dark Riders – is a great lyrical showcase, much like Lady Venom in the video above.  It’s from “Bad Dreams”, their second album and is one of my favourites.  I love the creepy little tune that plays behind the vocals, setting the mood for lyrics such as:

Sea-Salt, Eye of Newt, Horn of Bison
I’ve sworn allegiance to the league of striking lightning
We fall when we choose and confuse you with patterns
The legend of the two who induced you like Dragons
We strike like swooping Gargoyles of Saint Catherine

Or from Lady Venom:

On the plane in which you reign, it’s classified as “Do or die”
But in the realm in which we dwell, its “Puncture necks and multiply”
Imagine the madness, the return of the Jew from Nazareth
The hunter and the hunted, the colonizing and savages
The only challenge is, did they bring enough to dirt to bury us?
Be aware, I hunt with the gods as a cerberus

The second track I’ve posted below, Take It Back, also from “Bad Dreams” is one of the tracks where they actually start out by saying “we don’t always have to talk about Dungeons & Dragons”.  It’s also a bit of a funkier track, featuring famed producer DJ Revolution.  The disco/funk beat and hits sounds really great, and give the song a lot of life, lifting it out of the darkness which surrounds some of their other tracks.  Also below is the video for Breath, which was a big radio hit in Canada a few years back.  It features Nelly Furtado and Moka Only on vocals along with the dynamic duo, and the video is actually directed by Todd McFarlane, of Spawn fame.

(Swollen Member’s Breath, from 2002′s “Monsters in the Closet”, featuring Nelly Furtado and directed by Todd McFarlane) (buy this song)

I’ve called these guys the Bal-Sagoth of hip-hop, except that they’re really really popular (Bal-Sagoth not so much).  They write interesting, intelligent lyrics and have some great beats/songs.  As a Canadian, I enjoy featuring Canadian music on my site (though in the end it’s all about the music itself, not the nationality).  Let me know what you think of Swollen Members in the comments!

More music from Swollen Members

Swollen Members – Dark Riders (Ft. Buc Fifty) (buy this song)

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Swollen Members – Take It Back (Ft. DJ Revolution) (buy this song)

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Further info about today’s MSMOTD

Official Website: http://www.swollenmembers.com/

Wikipedia Article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swollen_Members

Myspace Profile: http://www.myspace.com/swollenmembers

Featured Review: Review of “Black Magic” on Herohill.com

Support Swollen Members (and me!) by buying their albums “Black Magic”, “Bad Dreams” and “Balance” (their 3 best albums, imo) from Amazon.com!  You can also get the individual tracks as DRM-free MP3s via the links above.

2 Responses to “Swollen Members – Blackout”

  1. that surprised me, Mons, the music style is totally different with the one you posted before. Nice anyway.

  2. Yeah, it’s a bit different. I don’t listen to a LOT of hip hop/rap, but I do enjoy a lot of what I hear from others, and this is one group that does appeal to me. Hopefully some other readers can recommend other, similarly excellent groups. :)

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