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1 January, 1999@12:00 am

While Canadian emcees like Saukrates and Choclair have been getting their fair share of attention as of late, the Vancouver duo of Madchild & Prevail may be the best Canadian import yet (discounting Canada’s tasty alcoholic beverages).

First and foremost some hardrocks may have trouble relating to SM’s dungeon & dragons topic matter. Romancing the elements of nature, their witching hour lyricism delves deeply into topic matter that has yet to be captured, or pontificated on wax. Hip-hop fans may not be ready, or know how to embrace this group, as their fascination of the infinite consumes this project from beginning to end. SM are shaman like oddities in this game, and judging them by topic matter alone they would seem to fit in really well at a Renaissance festival.

Prevail & Madchild divulge their cloak & dagger lyrics in a highly animated manner. Their chemistry is overwhelming, seamlessly trading verses like tested vets. Madchild has a raspy eerie voice and delivery, while Prevail is more of a conventional rhyme slayer. The production just thumps from the get-go, as Zodak, Evidence of Dilated Peoples, The Alchemist, Paul Nice, Kemo, & Joey Chavez all lace SM with a diverse selection of premium beats. Western guitar riffs, and staccato high hats augments SM’s mental gymnastics on “Out Of Range”. The Alchemist leads a one man symphony on the mystical “Circuit Breaker”. The mammoth West Coast cipher session “Bottle Rocket” feat. Evidence, Everlast, & Divine Styler. Evidence holds down double duties, in addition to his slowly caressed melancholy piano loop, he also leads off the verbal festivities. But Evidence does not steal the show, as Prevail & supporting cast mesh their contrasting styles convincingly. Del’s Hiero ambiance is prevalent on “Left Field” feat. Unicron, as its boom bap arrangement sets the tempo for SM’s profound lyrical thrashing. Paul Nice blends the chanting of “Lady Venom” with aggressive bounce and cow-bells. With “Counterparts”, feat. Dilated Peoples, SM sets out to “change the whole sound of art”. Evidence’s bluesy guitar licks, and whirlwind strings assures that their mission is completed. Prevail & Madchild elegantly “Bless & Destroy”. Zodak’s cascading piano chords with an unbridled display of lyricism, finished off by severely cut up voice samples of KRS-ONE. While the production is top-notch throughout, SM does not relay too heavily upon it, as their sick vocab propels “Sunburn”, and “S&M On The Rocks”.

With cuts like “Valentines Day Massacre” feat. Hobo Junction, “Forceful” feat. Mr. Brady, Evidence, & Tony Da Skitzo, and “Battle Axe Experiment” w/ Evidence, SM definitely take the road less traveled, as they bludgeon the wax on some totally next shit. Yet this is where the may experience problems with more conventional heads. While each track is compelling, there’s no debating their mental gymnastics are extremely complex, and medieval in nature. Also, like EPMD says rap is outta control, in regard to LP lengths. 20 songs deep, SM obviously had a great deal of material to release, but condensing their over 70 minute debut would have made for a more concentrated listening experience. After listening to the Swollen Members’ debut you’re view of hip-hop may never be the same, but just because its different, does not mean its wrong. The witchdoctors of hip-hop are definitely at the forefront of developing a new style, and as Prevail states on “Strength” you won’t want to miss out on “riding the wave of the future”.

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