Swollen Members have been one of Canada’s hottest hip hop commodities for some time. They have received international fame, had solid sales and a worldwide fan base. But as the group grew in stature with releases like Monsters in the Closet, Balance and Bad Dreams, they collectively tilted their longtime fans’ heads with the outright commercial reach, Heavy. Gone was the dark production that separated them from the pack. Instead, a semi hip-pop album appeared and shocked everyone. Fans were pissed and a backlash against their once before hip-hop darlings was firmly in place. But after rethinking their blatant misstep, Swollen is back to reclaim what they feel is rightfully theirs with the release of Black Magic.
With this release, Moka Only has removed himself from the collective leaving Madchild and Prevail to handle the lyrical duties while Rob the Viking is still hanging around to assist in taking back what fans feel they lost with Heavy. Swollen Members do rekindle the flames and deliver some solid production with this album. The title track features a spooky whistle courtesy of Rob the Viking as MadChild and Prevail deliver their off the wall dungeons and dragons style. “Pressure” continues the medieval themes with a bouncy video game like beat while the dark keys and strings of “Prisoner of Doom” race back and forth between the emcees’ vocals. The rolling drums and haunting voice of Barbie Hatch make “Go To Sleep” quite an interesting ode to the elusive dream girl.
A healthy guest list also aids the cause. While some aren’t big fans of Swollen’s style, guest like Ghostface (“Weigh”), Casual (“Torture”) and the return of Moka Only (“Grind” & “Put Me On”) add some additional flavor to the album. But it does feel like the guests almost outweigh an already healthy album. Swollen is at a point now where they don?t need the names to make the album, just to sprinkle some extra flavor here and there. But Black Magic does feel a little over seasoned.
There still are some missteps on this album. “Dynamite” is a little too friendly for this album while some songs like “Heart” and “So Deadly” just don’t do much for the album. Swollen Members have escaped the pitfalls of Heavy, but are not yet the same group that delivered Balance. At best, it is a far cry from what made this group the pride of Canada, yet it is still a decent album. It could probably do without a few songs though. At 21 tracks it ends up being quite a long player. Nonetheless, this is a step forward in reclaiming the fans that they inherited years ago.
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