Who knew that the little heard 12inch single “Shatterproof” would eventually blossom into four albums, a successful independent rap label, two Juno Awards and unparalleled popularity as leaders of Canada’s rap scene, with popularity even crossing over into the U.S. Yes, Swollen Members went from being the brainchild of Madchild and Prevail, to being one of the most popular groups currently representing underground hip-hop. So naturally, they are faced with the question that every artist who has achieved a cult following has had to come to terms with: what is the next step to take their popularity to the next level, without sacrificing the integrity of the music? That question is answered with Heavy, however how fans will react to this record remains to be seen.
The group has expanded from the original line up of Madchild and Prevail, now including a third lyricist, Moka Only, as well as official in-house beat-machine, Rob The Viking. However, the differences in the sound of Swollen Members aren’t chalked up simply to the new additions to the group, but a complete overhaul in sound. While the Madchild and Prevail remain on point lyrically, Moka lends sung hooks to the majority of the songs, and Rob’s beats have taken on a new form, and while they still maintain the darkness of the previous albums, they now match the polished sounds of today’s current chart toppers, such as Dr. Dre, The Neptunes, and Rockwilder.
The album begins with Prevail thanking his fans for supporting Swollen on their previous efforts, hinting that Heavy will be a different release than the previous ones. And it is – when the females jump off the album with the salsa influenced “Block Party”, fans of the hard-hitting beats of Swollen’s past will surely be disappointed. And this trend continues throughout the majority of the album, as the Members attempt to make club-packing crowd pleasers such as the Rockwilder-esque “All Night” or the “In The Club” tinged “Ambush”. But while Rob’s beats keep the album sounding redundantly jiggy, old pal Evidence does step in with two of the album’s better selections, on each “Remember The Name” and “Paranoia”, however while even Ev’s selections are some of the most commercially viable beats he’s ever made, the crooned hooks on both still make it hard for the longtime fan to latch onto.
On the album’s last track, Madchild states “I’ll go double platinum and come back for my true fans. I had this shit planned out the whole fucking time. This is for you. You little sissies might not get this shit. We made this for our fans, man, the people that fuckin’ discovered us and supported us from the beginning. Word up.” But while Madchild defends Heavy as it closes out, he may find those very fans turning their backs on Swollen, considering this was a group that heads turned to as a means of escaping the current sounds of rap radio. Granted, Madchild is still coming with the clever wordplay when he delivers his rhymes, while Prevail litters his lyrics with numerous sub-pop culture references for the hipsters, so all is not lost. And in all honesty, the production isn’t that bad, it’s just not what the longtime Swollen fan is looking for. Let’s just hope they stick to the plan and return to the real hard beats and raw rap when it’s time for album number 5.
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