It’s only right that we start 2017 where we left off at the end of 2016. The last show we covered was one half of the Juno award-winning group Swollen Members, Prevail, performing with his new group Alpha Omega at The Rockpile. Now we’re back at the same venue to see the other half of Swollen Members, Madchild. Like Prevail, Madchild has also been working on side projects when they’re not collaborating as Swollen Members. He’s released several solo albums in recent years and is preparing to release his fourth one, Darkest Hour, in March this year.
This would be my first time seeing Madchild perform, and would be my first time hearing most of his songs, as I’m not too familiar with his solo work other than a few music videos. He has established a near twenty-year legacy with Swollen Members and only started releasing solo material in this current decade. He would reflect later on in the show by saying that although he’s old, it means he’s maintained the longest relevance out of any Canadian Hip-Hop artist. While I may lack familiarity, the numbers prove his point, as his social media as a solo artist has more followers than the former platinum-selling group.
By the time I got to The Rockpile, there were still a few opening acts left to perform, and Tragedy was just getting on stage. Tragedy is a local MC who also opened for Alpha Omega here in December, and just as last time, he stood out with his rhymes and punchlines. The delivery was smooth and it was easy to pick up on the lyrics. After him would be another local group I had seen many times, but it had been a while. The host Stacee Brizzle referred to them as her “favourite assholes,” as Marmel took the stage.
It’s been at least a year since the last time I saw Marmel perform, and the six-man group seems much more refined now. They perform more like a group than a loose collective of individual artists, and they seem to have a more clear direction on where they want to take their sound, with hard-hitting rap verses surrounding reggae-flavoured hooks. They brought great energy, had well-structured songs, and controlled the stage smoothly between the six of them. After rocking the house, they gave away some free CDs, and there would be a bit of a wait before the next artist.
The DJ spun some songs and really got to know the crowd, starting off with some rap classics before suddenly switching to hard rock. He played some Rage Against The Machine and Limp Bizkit, and Stacee Brizzle brought back some middle school memories by picking out “Last Resort” by Papa Roach. The crowd was absolutely with it, and even called for more rock music when given the option to switch back to hip-hop. You could tell this wasn’t your typical hip-hop crowd just by the look, as some fans wore more biker style clothing, and some even showed up in Halloween costumes!
We eventually got back into the hip-hop, as DJ Dow Jones took over the stage and spun for a bit before the final opener came out, Vancouver’s own Joseph Rose. I had seen Rose perform back in 2015 with his group Aileron as they opened for ¡Mayday! here at The Rockpile, but this would be my first time seeing him perform as a solo artist. He had some cool songs promoting positivity, and also performed his guest verse on Madchild’s “Little Things,” although Madchild didn’t come out for the collaborative track. He seemed to wrap up his set quickly so that Madchild could come out for the headlining set shortly after midnight.
The whole Marmel crew along with some Battle Axe Warriors lined up along the back of the stage so it would look like Madchild had a whole mob with him when he took over. He got things started with his 2012 single “Devil’s Reject” before pausing to take in the energy as the crowd chanted his name. One of the first things he did was got RezMade, another artist who had opened for Alpha Omega last month, to get brought on stage in his wheelchair so that he could have a better view of the show. He then got the crowd jumping with a performance of “Lawn Mower Man.” I didn’t recognize several of his songs, but the combination he used was simple: dope beats and hard rhymes.
There was a moment when Madchild gave a big shoutout to the Marmel Entertainment crew, and let the guys go off on some freestyle raps as the DJ switched the beats on them. They made flowing off the top look easy. More lyrical exercises would be done, as Madchild then brought a fan on stage to rap his songs “Gremlin” and “Tom Cruise” with him. It was hard to tell how well the fan was doing, as Madchild rapped along with him, and I’m pretty sure they had the recorded vocals playing on the speakers too, but both Madchild and the crowd seemed impressed and the fan got to pick out an item to keep from the merch booth.
Madchild performed some more older tracks I wasn’t familiar with, but also did the new single off of the upcoming Darkest Hour album, “Write It Down.” He jumped down into the crowd and rapped the entire song among the people, taking selfies and giving props as he rapped. The Marmel crew would play hypemen and controlled the energy as Madchild stayed amongst the crowd for the next couple songs. When he returned to the stage, Madchild brought a few female fans up with him to dance during the next few songs, including the sexually aggressive “Dickhead.” Despite the aggressive lyrics, the ladies seemed to enjoy themselves.
Madchild pretended to end the show, but really wanted the crowd to chant for an encore. He had to prompt them to do it, but the chant was loud! He then did one more track before officially ending the show by getting DJ Dow Jones to play some trap music for the ladies on stage to dance to. Madchild would stick around on stage to sign autographs and take pictures.
Overall, this was a fun show to start the year off with. While there were several songs I didn’t know, I could tell that the bars were well-crafted with the sharpness of a skilled battle rapper. Madchild has entered a new chapter in his career and has proven he can be just as successful as a solo artist or as a Swollen Member. He has one of the most unique voices in Hip-Hop and is able to stand out among other artists. Madchild will continue his tour across Canada throughout February, with a couple more shows in Ontario before heading out west.
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