Reviews::Swollen Members - Black Magic

For a hip hop group coming out of Canada, Swollen Members have had some impressive success. Their DIY debut, Balance, was excellent and put them and their Battleaxe Records label on the map with underground fans and media in Canada and the US. They went on to create a couple very solid albums filled with their D&D;, semi-goth raps, but they also managed to produce some catchy jams (Fuel Injected, Take It Back, Breathe) which made their way onto radio and Muchmusic. This development was good or bad depending on your perspective as it lead the Swollen fellas to pursue the catchy formula and create a whole album, Heavy, that seemed geared towards the kids.

Well Heavy didn't get much run as far as I know, and pretty much removed them from my conciousness. I suppose this is why I didn't know they had a new album coming out until it, ahh, came out. From what I can tell, MadChild and Prevail made a concious effort to revert back to their original sound and lyrical focus. Did it work? Let's find out.

The brief Blackout kicks things off, as a warning that the gimmicks are back on the shelf. The straight ahead drums, semi-sinister violin stabs, and lyrics about swords and evil geniusness are a bit of a Swollen throwback. Swamp Water has a flute sample makes this a solid beat and guest appearances by Phil Da Agony & Planet Asia make this some excellent '06 west coast underground.

Moka Only returns, but in a less overtly commercial form, as he adds some subtle crooning on Grind (The Black Thought sample in the chorus steals Moka's thunder in fact). The relentless piano on So Deadly makes the beat a winner, and an un-credited cameo by Evidence help save the song from a kind of weak chorus.

Normally any appearance by the Wally Champ is a winner with me, but Ghost's appearance on Weight doesn't really fit. He kicks an average coke-themed verse, which is followed by Prevail's D&D; styles. Unfortunately it's forgettable. Too Hot is catchy in a golden age way with some quality tambourine and a bouncy bassline. DJ Babu scratches also earn this one bonus points. Dark Clouds is a nice change as it gives Mad Child and a once-again un-credited Evidence a chance to rhyme about something semi-tangible. Unless I'm mistaken, that's two tracks featuring Madchild and Evidence, but no Prevail. What does this mean? More than likely nothing.

Go To Sleep features Barbie Hatch on the chorus, no idea who that is. Good idea for Mattel though: Hook Singing on Underground Love Jams Barbie. The Everlast assisted Put Me On, isn't bad - a jam for the ladies with Everlast getting his croon on (with an assist from Moka Only).

So what's the verdict? I think Swollen manages for the most part to capture the feel of their darker more underground albums. My main problem with the album is the length, 21 songs is too long. Really I think 15-16 songs is the max you need on a hip hop record. Unless through some miracle, or a Garth Brooks-style deal with Satan Ferrell (Fred's got slacks on the boulevard!), chances are you don't have 20+ stellar songs. The filler on Black Magic takes away from the solid songs. Another small beef is the plethora of guests on the album. Kind of gives it a mix tape feel and sometimes it seemed like Prevail especially got lost in the shuffle.

But in the end I think this is a decent album, the production overall is very good, and there's plenty of DJ work which is missing from most "hip hop" albums these days and always earns Naedoo bonus points. The MC talent you'll find here is for the most part top notch, and as per usual, there's not much drug or gun talk from the Swollen camp, and that's a good thing. Canadian hip hop on the whole needs support, and I think Swollen Members have put out an album worthy of supporting. So, ahh, you know, support it.

@ 3:04 PM, Adrian kicked the following game:

A great CD, well worth the standard 13 or 14 bucks, The standout tracks are Too Hot (mad catchey song), and Put Me On. My favorite is Brothers, they realy tells the Batleaxe succes story and their growth since the begining, cuz you know these guys came up from eating out of motherf***ing dumpsters; the streets were their home for some time. I feel they tried to go back in time and recapture some lost talent at times when they oughtta be moving on. It dosn't always work. BM tries to be a Balance, but comes off sounding like a Heavy. Besides this, I enjoy listening to BM a lot. 4.25/5.


@ 7:36 PM, DontWorry kicked the following game:

how can you say "For a hip hop group coming out of Canada, Swollen Members have had some impressive success" That is by far the stupidist prejudice comment i have heard, canada has less groups mainly because canada has LESS PEOPLE, to tell the truth, if you didn't realize that, you must be very stupid


@ 8:55 PM, Naedoo kicked the following game:

Don't come on the hill and get all uppity with me chumly. I could respond by pointing out you used the word "stupidist", which isn't actually a word, and that makes you kind of stupid. But I'll digress, and actually answer your crazy comment.

I'm guessing you don't realize, but I'm Canadian, this is a Canadian site. I was actually giving the Swollen Members a compliment. How many Canadian hip hop groups have come out of Canada and had the sustained success Swollen Members have had? Not very many. The urban music market in Canada is quite small because, as you know, we have LESS PEOPLE, and many of those people enjoy Shania Twain or the Nicklesack.

So bottom line, you're taking me to task for giving them a compliment, which is the stupidist thing I've heard all day.


@ 8:06 PM, Gringo Allstarz? kicked the following game:

Hey mommy where did you put my shorts?


@ 11:03 PM, cjay kicked the following game:

Say what Say what Say what Say what

Swollen Members is the shit, their lyrics are clinicaly insane.

What do you expect from Canadian Hip-Hop, Canadians are more intellectual
so it only makes sense that we prevail in that.


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