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Blowing up

Swollen Members brings Canadian hip-hop down south


Swollen Members: Canadians, hip-hop artists  bank - robbers?
  • Swollen Members: Canadians, hip-hop artists bank robbers?

Fighting visions of snow, geese and "Kids in the Hall" and accompanying condescending pats on the head from America Swollen Members is out to redefine what it means to be a Canadian hip-hop artist, and by extension, maybe lend its country some street cred.

The group began in the mid-1990s, when members Mad Child, Prevail and Moka Only decided to work together while living in Vancouver, British Columbia. Soon, the group started recording its first album, Balance, and the Swollen Members ball officially began rolling.

The band won a Juno award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) for the infectious, old-school-flavored Balance. Then it won another the following year for Bad Dreams. And another for Monsters in the Closet, which introduced Rob the Viking, who replaced Moka Only.

"Winning three years in a row definitely set a tone," says Prevail, speaking while on tour in Montreal. "All eyes were on us. Our records were different, especially for what was coming out of Canada at the time. So we seized the opportunity and got on the road and toured."

When they weren't touring, they were at home, recording. The boys of Swollen Members may have mad rhyming skills, but they also have a serious work ethic. According to Prevail, they have to affix their noses to the proverbial grindstone if they're going to make it big outside their native land.

"The game is changing so much right now in the music industry you have to be ahead of the curve and how much the Internet and MySpace can do for you," he says. "Ultimately, though, it's about word of mouth. They can only say good things about you if we're putting out good music and putting on good live shows."

Ah, the live shows. Swollen Members emphasizes performance, harking back to Prevail's youthful days spent listening to AC/DC, Metallica and Black Sabbath. When he realized DJs would scratch every four or eight bars exactly where AC/DC's Angus Young dropped a guitar riff he realized the formulas were the same across genres.

"On the live tip, we like to incorporate the energy and showmanship of rock into our show; it's something that hip-hop could definitely learn from," Prevail says. "We don't have any instruments we're rocking with a DJ and some mics but there's jumping around, there's a lot of mosh pits at our shows," he says.

Much of today's hip-hop performances are watered-down, says Prevail. Hopefully it's Swollen Members' energy that will set the band apart from the rest of the pack. "Spitting lyrics is one thing that's cool, lyricism is obviously what we do but walking back and forth for an hour is boring to watch. You can't expect other people to get excited about it if you're not excited about it."

Swollen Members with Anomaly, a Teton Gravity Research Film

The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.

Tuesday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $12-$14, all ages; visit

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