There are peaks and valleys in life. Highs. Lows. Madchild went through his lowest point, rock bottom, before turning his life around. Less than 23 months ago, Mad was lost, by his own admission. Life became a “dark, strange place.” He knew he had to get out. He knew things had to change.
Driving around Vancouver, a place he calls his city, he turned a corner. He looked at himself. He was overweight as a result of his addiction, downtrodden, numb, searching for more. As he explained it, he felt as though he was about to have a heart attack. Looking at his reflection, he cried. That was the point of no return. That was the moment for change.
There are peaks. His life had been a dream, to some. His career as part of the underground Hip Hop group, Swollen Members, had taken off. The group became known worldwide, a critically acclaimed crew with fans and fame. But when the air cleared after years of success, the valleys came.
Once time came to change, he started to climb. He went home. With help from his family, his support group, he changed his lifestyle. It wasn’t easy. Addiction is hard to kick, particularly when it’s all you’ve known for some time. He wound up in the hospital the first night of sobriety, in pain and in despair, but not alone. His support group kept him strong.
Through rehabilitation, he feels renewed. You can hear it in his tone, his joy. He says he appreciates life differently now, admiring the peaks because of the valleys. He knows that he’s lucky to be alive and he’s focused on keeping it that way. “God willing,” he says, holding on to hope that he doesn’t fall again.
His new album, Dope Sick, is a look into his journey from peaks to valleys and back again. In this HipHopDX interview, Madchild is as open and honest as he is in his songs off the new record. Here, he talks about his new music, his story and his new outlook on life. He sheds light on life, sobriety, hope and everything from battle rap to Battle Axe. Through peaks and valleys, he’s here and those travels have given him quite a story to share.
Madchild Talks "Judgement Day," Sobriety & Supportive Family
HipHopDX: "Judgement Day" is infectious but it’s also a new look at your career. Can you discuss what that song means to you in terms of a reintroduction to a lot of people?
Madchild: Yeah, I went to the homie Chin Injeti. He lives in Vancouver and he’s someone our city can be real proud of. He’s a real dope producer and he works with a lot of big names like Dr. Dre, Eminem, Drake and Nas and all these big name artists. To have someone of that stature in our city is one of the things that our Hip Hop community can be proud of. We knew each other from before so I asked him to make a track for the album that reflects where I am in life. He had Sophia [Danai] sing that dope hook so it kind of gave me guidelines to work on. It was real easy to write, man. I just sat down after I listened to the hook and it just poured out in one session. It was a reflection on what I just went through and where I’m at right now. It all tied together. It was a nice painless track to right but it was also therapeutic.
DX: On it, you say, “I should be dead.” What was your moment of clarity when you realized things had to change?
Madchild: Well, after losing three million dollars to my drug addiction and being flat broke, 55 pounds overweight, my left arm was numb and my lips were purple. I remember driving around, feeling like I was about to have a heart attack. I looked in the mirror and a tear ran down my eye bro. I was just like, “Fuck. I’m probably gonna die.” I went to my parents and I said, “I think it’s now or never. I’ve got to get this figured out.” We set a time for the doctor. I gave myself six weeks to mentally prepare for it. Every day, I told myself, “I’m living in a trap.” I was in a zombie state of mind but I focused on the fact that I wanted my life back. I gathered up the strength and like I promised my parents, I went to the doctor. I got off it. I ended up in the hospital the first night. I spent 11 days in my parents’ house, in bed. I just slowly started moving around again. Twenty-two and a half months later, I’ve been sober since then. Now I’m fucking loving life again, brother.
DX: You mention you had your parents supporting you there…
Madchild: Yeah, my family is real. They’re the greatest family in the world. I’m really blessed, for real, fortunate to have the mom, dad, brother and sister and grandma that I have. I have a great girlfriend. I have three dogs. My group is incredible. I have the best Rap group you could ask for. [Swollen Members are] my brothers. They stuck by my side this whole difficult time. I have a couple other close friends. I feel real blessed to have these people in my life. It’s funny because when I quit drugs, I had to also quit my lifestyle. I had to walk away from 99% of the people I was around at that time. It was nothing personal against any particular individual but I had to walk away from a whole lifestyle to get myself back on track, to become myself again, to make true art, my own real music again. I think people understand it wasn’t anything personal against them, but I was just trying to save my own life.
Madchild Speaks On His Girlfriend's Influence, "Crazy Heart," & "Wake Up"
DX: You discuss your girl’s influence on the song as well. How did she help you not make "stupid moves?" I thought that was honest of you to share on the song.
Madchild: When you have an addictive personality, it’s good to have somebody with you to keep you grounded. When we met, we partied a few times but I was at the point where I was like, “That’s enough.” She agreed. I think she was looking for a better path in life to walk herself. Not that she was near any problems like mine. Her life was fine but I think she was still looking for more positivity in her life and walking more in God’s light. We clicked on that level and supported each other. But I would say she had to support me more than I supported her. She’s very strong. It wasn’t a big deal to her. We said, “That’s it. No more bullshit.” Anytime I hinted at it, she was like, “No!” I was like, “Okay, you’re right.” After a few times like that, we just never brought it up again. Having her around turned my home into a positive place to be because those elements didn’t come into my life to tempt me.
DX: Now you work together. Is she on the cover art for “Crazy Heart?”
Madchild: Yes, she’s on the cover. She also works for me with Battleaxe Warriors and she does a lot of my social networking, answering emails and organizing things for me. She’s just incredible. It’s great having a relationship that’s also a real productive working relationship. It’s great to have someone in your life that really believes in you and truly wants the best for you and they’re there to help as well because they know if it becomes good for me, it’s gonna become good for her as well. Her, my dogs, my family, we’re all a unit. I’ve had relationships in the past, and I’m sure you have and everyone has, where it’s almost like your girlfriend is a fuckin’ hater on the side. Being on Swollen Members and going on tour before, I felt like, strenuous situations. The girl I was with at the time didn’t want me to succeed. It was weird vibes. The girl I’m with now is not only fully down for this to be a successful venture but she’s also a big part of why it’s beginning to become so successful.
DX: "Wake Up" is an open letter about addiction but the whole album is open. What allowed you to be so candid with your story?
Madchild: It’s an interesting story. “Wake Up” is the only song on the album that I made when I was on drugs. The song is on there because there was a song that I made when I got sober with Prevail and the beat was by Rob The Viking. It was called “Shed the Light.” That song is incredible. I’ll say it’s incredible. For my album, it would have been incredible. It really covered the topic. If anyone was like, “Why is he calling his album Dope Sick?” That was the song that would have made it so nobody asked that. It had this incredible infectious hook that we sampled from this movie Hell’s Kitchen with Mekhi Phifer and Angelina Jolie. But when we tried to clear the sample, they wanted $12,000 for it. So, we had to pull the song last minute from the record. You know how it is. You have to watch where you spend your dollars. You could make a couple videos with that money. So, we pulled that song. It sucks we had to pull that song from the record. But, we had the track called “Oxylude” right before it as a lead-up to the topic, so I had to quickly pick a song that spoke about that topic. “Wake Up” was a song I recorded while I was high and so I thought it was the best replacement for it. It is an honest, open song. But it was a replacement for “Shed the Light.” We have to look at the legalities but I think that we can probably still premiere the track as a leak for free. I’m not exactly sure how that works but if we can, we’ll definitely make it an exclusive with HipHopDX. You guys have been so supportive. I just want to say, on a personal note, to you and the site, I appreciate the support. I actually give you guys a shout out on the album. You’re the only Hip Hop site that I shouted out on the album.
Madchild On Swollen Members, "Armed To The Teeth," & Worst Point In Addiction
DX: Thank you. What about that song would dead the questions about the title?
Madchild: The whole song was about when I was living in Kelowna. I moved there from Vancouver when things were going real bad. I knew I wanted to get away. I bought a house up there with a pool and everything. The guys came up to work on Armed To The Teeth. Because of the state of mind that I was in while working on that album in 2009, looking back now, that was a record that had nothing to do with who Swollen Members really is. I was in a very dark, strange place and the topic orientation of that album was definitely the opposite of what Swollen Members is about. If you look back at our discography, that would be the one that I’d be like, ugh. It’s not that it wasn’t good songs. It’s not that it didn’t sell records or do well. It just didn’t stand for what we believe in. I’m at fault for that because of my trials and tribulations at the time. We all get confused sometimes. We all go in different directions but the key is to find yourself and that’s where I am at now and where I’ll continue to be, God willing. So that song reflects on when they came up to live with me for a while and how terrible and uncomfortable it was for them. Prevail is talking about his experience and mine was reflecting off his verse. I talked about how much I needed to get my shit together and come back to Vancouver because I knew my whole city was laughing at me. I had become a hero-to-zero. I had become a joke. That was the concept of the song. It’s pretty powerful so I’m hoping people can still check it out.
DX: You talk about drugs preventing you from doing many things on "Wanted." What's one thing that you feel you can do now that you wanted to do most while on drugs?
Madchild: I can make real art again. I get to appreciate things in life I didn’t appreciate before. I feel like coming out of this addiction is like in Carlito’s Way when he comes back from jail and he’s like, “I don’t know these dances.” It’s a new world. I’ve come back to a new world. The dynamic of the industry is different. It’s a completely different game. It’s all faster-paced. The people with the strongest work ethics are the ones who rise to the top, of course the talented ones too, hopefully. Getting to become a part of that, enjoying it and appreciating things about life I didn’t appreciate before. I’m doing four interviews today. That’s pretty fucking cool! This is a very oversaturated world with the Internet now. There’s thousands and thousands of songs out everyday. There is so much music at everyone’s fingertips. So, the fact that people are taking time out to do interviews with me because of the art that I’m making is pretty fucking awesome when you think about it. Hanging out with my family, taking the dogs to the park…making money again! Like I said, two years ago, when I got off the drugs I was flat broke. I’ve worked hard doing what I love to do, got myself a whip, got a nice place where I’m living. I’m comfortable again and I get to do that doing what I love. That’s a blessing. I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing right now if I was in that zombie state of mind that I was in. I was doing 20 Oxycodone 80s a day by the end of the addiction. That’s like 300-something Percocets. I was fucking on one. I was lost, bro.
DX: Was that at your worst point?
Madchild: Yeah. That was the worst point. The last eight months of the addiction I was doing that many. Of course, it took years to build up to that tolerance but it was a serious $500 a day addiction.
Madchild Discusses Battle Axe Records & Battleaxe Warriors
DX: Battle Axe has done a lot with independent Hip Hop outside of just Swollen Members releases. What do you think prevented the label from advancing even more than what it did in the past?
Madchild: Well, I blame that on my drug addiction. It was 2006 when I pulled the plug on the label and I was living the wrong lifestyle. I was hanging around the wrong kinds of crowds, doing the wrong kinds of things, doing drugs every day. I immersed myself in that. In 2006 is when the wave of success came to a bit of a crash. From 2001 to 2006 we were riding a wave of success as a popular group on a mainstream level in Canada and an underground group worldwide. But all things that go up must come down. Five years later, we had worked really hard and I said , “I’m gonna take a year off.” That was 2006 after we got dropped from Virgin [Records]. Management dropped us because I was hanging with people they didn’t approve of. Looking back, I understand why they did that but at time, I was a stubborn motherfucker. I was like, “No one is gonna tell me what to do.” I see things differently now but that’s how I saw things at the time. So, I was like, “Fuck it. I’ma just chill and take time off.” That was a bad thing to do for a guy like me. I’m a workaholic again and I was a workaholic then. A lot of people that have that work ethic as workaholics, if you put them in a situation where there’s nothing to do for too long, they can get into trouble. That’s what happened to me. Idle time is the devil’s play-thing. [Pausing] I’m not really sure. What were we talking about again?
DX: Battle Axe.
Madchild: Oh yeah. So with Battle Axe…I appreciate you bringing that up. We put out a lot of cool 12 inche [singles] back in the day. We put out some cool artists from the West Coast and I think we were part of the underground movement. But in 2006, I guess I kinda had lost interest. That’s where I was going. I basically lost interest. I wasn’t going to the office nearly as much anymore. The whole industry was changing. Free downloads were getting more popular and it was harder and harder to make a dollar. Instead of me being myself, sitting down and pumping the brakes like, “Let’s figure this out…” The way I would look at it now would be like, “This is a challenge. Let’s figure out a way to still turn a profit. Let’s move with the times and get ahead of the times.” That’s what the real me would have done. But because I was already getting mixed up with the Percocet, I was like, “Fuck it. Let’s shut this down.” I was losing interest. But for example, now, in the last few months, I started something called Battleaxe Warriors. It’s a brotherhood. It’s a family. It’s for people that enjoy our music, my music and underground Hip Hop. This is a worldwide family we’re building. Already we’ve sold a thousand memberships in just a few months. That’s my point. To come back and run a record label now the way you did in 2006 is difficult to do. You have to think outside the box and get creative. So, I think eventually the concept of Battleaxe Warriors will become the new Battle Axe Records, if that makes any sense.
DX: Yeah. Like a reincarnation…
Madchild: A reincarnation where it’s one on one with our brothers, our family, the fans. Let’s say Battleaxe Warriors becomes 30,00 members strong. I’d rather have 30,000 strong where we can go to them directly and we can count on them and they can count on us. Those are real fans. They’re gonna come to the shows. They’re gonna support. We’re gonna spend time one on one with them. We can go out with 50-60 warriors and go for dinner and go to a movie and make it a real friendship, a real brotherhood. I’d rather have that, that’s gonna last for the next 10 years, rather than 100,000 fans that are here today, gone tomorrow. I’ll take a real family over some fickle ass fans that like your shit and then they’re on the next shit tomorrow any day.
Madchild On King Of The Dot Battles, Canibus & Life After "Dope Sick"
DX: I also want to talk about your battling. You didn't necessarily have to enter the battling world after all of your success but you did. What made you take that step?
Madchild: I thought it was a cool thing that was going on. I thought with some of the things in Hip Hop that are watered down and manufactured, I thought this was a real incredible thing that was bringing some purity back to our culture. When you look at the culture of Hip Hop, it’s important to preserve the culture as much as it’s important to progress in the culture. I was impressed when I started watching these battle raps. I was impressed how many people were interested in it. I was impressed with how talented some of these emcees were, even though they weren’t recording artists, some of these guys’ wordplay is fierce. There are some fierce lyricists out there. I was like, this is a real dope movement and I hadn’t seen at that time, any artist that had sold a number of records, enter it. When I talked to [King Of The Dot’s] Organik, when we met, he was like, “Basically, Madchild, you’d be the first one that sold 800,000 records in your career to enter a battle like this.” I was like, “I’ll do it on the strength that hopefully it will get other recording artists that have had some success with their career get involved because I think that would help the whole battle Rap movement grow.” I thought it was a positive move for the movement and thought it would be a great way to test myself. I’ve been focusing on self-improvement since I got clean and became normal again. I enjoyed the challenge of putting myself in a new environment and pushing the limits to see what I was capable of. It’s so much different from being on stage holding a mic when you’re in a battle. When you’re on stage, people paid for tickets to come see you. You’re on stage, holding a mic. You have a soundman. It’s such a different dynamic than standing on the ground. There are people around you. You have to yell. Yo, I had butterflies in my stomach for the first time in many years, bro. It was quite a rush. You can tell in the battle [with Dirtbag Dan] that I didn’t even get comfortable with it until the third verse. Now, if I go in again, I feel like I’ll really be able to crush it because I’ve gotten passed that first time doing it. I understand more about what it’s about and what I need to do. I understand more about how it works with the participation of the crowd’s reaction and how you have to pause to let the crowd react. I think I’ll do way better in the next battle.
DX: Was there ever a point where you were offended by anything said in the battle or did you anticipate that it would get that ugly?
Madchild: Oh, I definitely anticipated that it would get that ugly. I knew to go in it knowing that it was meant to be humorous and not taken seriously. I had watched enough battles to know that it was all in good fun. That’s the whole point of it to get someone riled up. I wasn’t gonna take anything personally like that. I think he actually screwed up a couple times because he said a couple things like, “I knew you would talk about the hockey” and I never brought that up. He said a couple things like that. But that was more to my advantage.
DX: Speaking of bringing other artists in, what was your take on watching Canibus enter the battle scene?
Madchild: [Laughing] I felt even better about what I did. I felt bad for the guy, really. I know what he went through. I understood. I guarantee you he felt the way that I felt when he walked into that situation. It’s completely different. But he had all his boys behind him. He got paid a stupid amount of money to do it. He should have been more prepared, bro. That wasn’t a good look. I felt bad for him.
DX: What can fans expect from you after Dope Sick? I know you’ve talked about having another great lap in you. What can fans expect from that?
Madchild: Yeah. I’m recording my new record now. I’m going on tour in two weeks with Tech N9ne. I have 23 shows across the country with him. As soon as I’m allowed back in America, my manager has a whole bunch of stuff set up for me as far as touring so I’ll be busy with that stuff. I’m trying to get as many powerful songs knocked out as possible. Whereas some might kick back, I’m trying to get my arsenal ready so that whatever buzz is created thanks to people like yourselves at HipHopDX, I want to have the arsenal to keep that going. There are some artists that put out so much music that it’s amazing to me. I’m not at that level yet but I do understand the concept in music today that there has to be more quantity. I just want to make sure that quality is still the number one focus.