Madchild is a complex individual. The Vancouver, British Columbia native has ties to a number of emcees including Slaine, Planet Asia, Defari, Moka Only, Shabazz The Disciple and Evidence. His own brand of Hip Hop, which he’s described as abstract expressionism has drawn a devoted amount of fans and an international community of Battleaxe Warriors. After some personal turmoil nearly derailed his career, no one could blame him if he chose to stick to the formula that’s proven to be financially viable by releasing projects filled with the same material, touring, and then repeating the cycle.
“I didn’t move to L.A. to stand in the same spot,” Madchild said, while visiting HipHopDX’s offices. “I moved here so I can move onward and upward up the hill…move up the mountain.”
It turns out there’s more to the man covered in tattoos who raps about Conan the Barbarian and Maserati luxury cars with equal aplomb than meets the eye. That aforementioned mountain he’s trying to move up may be his own expectations or some metaphorical temptation to be complacent and reap the benefits of repeated visits to SoundScan’s Top 200 Sales Chart.
Madchild—and by association Swollen Members—don’t make the type of Hip Hop that appears on Top 40, terrestrial radio. They’re also not an easy fit into the “gangsta” or boom-bap subgenres, despite Madchild’s affinity for some artists who self identify as such. All of which leaves his new Switched On EP in a weird place. It’s a muddled paradigm, and the more you talk with Madchild, the more it seems as if that’s exactly how he prefers things.
Why Madchild Says Society’s Failed At Properly Using The Web
HipHopDX: I thought it was interesting you started off the album rhyming, “They love me when I’m crazy / Love to feel my pain / So they sit alone and know they’re not the only ones insane.” Why start off on that note?
Madchild: One of the good things about the Internet is, although you shouldn’t get caught up on people’s comments because you never know who’s [posting] the comment. But I have sort of figured out over time, from doing shows, that a lot of my fans have normal, human being problems—whether that’s dealing with depression, anger problems, jealousy problems or [being] born with a chemical imbalance. I have a chemical imbalance. I don’t always act the way that I would like the perfect version of me to be, and then I have to go reflect and think, “Why did I maybe get overexcited in that situation?” I mean, we’re all human beings. We’re all striving to improve, but I think I have a bond with my fans and my following, and it’s a strong bond because I’m not afraid to let them know, “Hey, we’re all a little crazy. There’s nothing wrong with being a little crazy. There’s probably more of us than ‘normal’ people, so you’re not alone.” So, basically, that’s what that line is about.
DX: No doubt. You also have what you refer to as “Kids on computers / Little cocky fucks with smart mouths.” So, it’s the give and take of the Internet.
Madchild: It is. You know, you could read something and be like, “Ohhh” [because] they might have said that one thing that you’re self-conscious about. But then you’ll [find out] it’s a 12-year-old kid eating a hot dog in Alaska. Or someone might say something about you, and then you’ll click on their page and be like, “Really?” Human beings, lately, in general, as far as sort of being tested with this whole Internet thing of how we’re going to act and how we’re all going to be, have been very disappointing. To me, it’s almost like a test. It’s like, “Here’s this new platform. Everybody has a voice. Everybody can communicate. Everybody can say what they think about something,” and it’s like we failed. It’s like the majority of people are saying, “Great, I’m going to fuckin’ put out negative energy and make people feel bad and say hurtful things.”
If the man upstairs is watching, I guarantee that, in general, he’s disappointed. And I think that people laugh about it and don’t think it’s a big deal, but it is a big deal; it’s important. I think people that are in situations like myself—people that have a voice and have influence and have people that look up to them—need to speak up about it, and be like, “That’s not cool. We need to be putting positive energy out there.” If you don’t like something, cool, criticism’s fine. But, calling someone a cocksucker, or a motherfucking fag or whatever? That shit is not dope. And someone like myself can handle it, but kids commit suicide over that shit on Facebook. You’ve heard stories of stuff like that so, come on people. We can do better!
DX: I know you said that overall, it’s been a disappointment, as far as you personally…
Madchild: No, not me personally! Let me clarify. I’m talking about in general. Looking around the Internet and going around other artist’s YouTube pages, and seeing what people say about them. In general, just people talking back and forth in comments, on blogs, arguing with each other, and being so quick to call each other terrible things. I’m saying in general. I can take it. And, to be honest with you, I get a lot more positive comments, and feel like I’m one of the lucky ones. But, in general, I feel like it’s the Wild West out there.
DX: The Internet has also allowed you to get your music out to more people, collectively bringing the Battleaxe Warriors together.
Madchild: Yeah, and to clarify, the Internet is amazing. [I have] platforms like this. I’m so fortunate to be able to do Interviews and put music out, and it can get to everybody right away, and it’s because of the Internet [that] we have been able to build Battleaxe Warriors. There’s a million great things about it; I was just speaking on one particular thing. Did I cut my foot off by going there? Is that a bad thing? Is that like the one thing we don’t talk about?
Madchild Challenges Perceptions Of Underground vs. Mainstream Rap
DX: No, you can talk about whatever you like here. But let’s talk about your new album. You previously mentioned a trilogy of albums—Dopesick, Lawnmower Man, and then Superbeast. Has Superbeast morphed into Switched On?
Madchild: That is still the plan. Superbeast is going to be my next masterpiece. I’ve been touring so much and working so much that I really want to take my time. To make a masterpiece, you can’t just be going on the road, making a song here, going on the road for a month, and making a song there. I want to lock myself away in my crib for four or five months. So, I’m gonna finish up these tours and then I’m gonna really buckle down and focus, make music, shoot videos, work on self-improvement and just take time off from touring in the new year. So, once the album’s done, I’ll hit the road for two years or a year-and-half or whatever. I’m gonna keep putting out EPs in the meantime, and that doesn’t mean I’m not putting my best foot forward—because I absolutely am. I just want to give myself a little bit of time to make this album. But anyways, I have sort of a plan. I’m going to put out a number of EP’s before the next album.
DX: What went into the song “Hellbound?” There’s a crazy dynamic on that chorus where you say, “The devil’s got Bugattis for sale / Benz truck, Porsche, Maseratis as well.”
Madchild: My DJ, DJ Dow Jones from Shadyville DJs, was in town, and he’s a club deejay. I don’t really fuck with clubs, because I don’t really go out that much. I’m more of a reclusive kind of guy. I’ll go out for dinner and shit like that, but I’m not like, “Yeah, it’s Friday night! I’m going out to the clubs.” But, when he was in town, I was going to these clubs with him, having fun, and it was dope. That’s his world. So, I was kind of like taking in a lot of that music at the time, and I was like, “Maybe I can do something without throwing a curveball to my fans that’s a little more aggressive, that’s a little more in that vein, without contradicting who I am or what I believe in.” It just sorta poured out of me.
DX: That’s fascinating, because there’s definitely a perception of you when it comes to mainstream Rap.
Madchild: I listen to mainstream Rap more than I listen to underground Hip Hop, to be honest with you. It’s not because there’s not a lot of great music out there, it’s just more easily accessible. It just seems to fall on my playlist more often. As I’ve said a million times, I love Drake and I love a lot of the music that’s out now but, I’m having a bit of a problem because some of that shit is just a little too grade two for me…a little too bubble gummy.
DX: Why do you think there is such a divide? Why do you think people want to view you in this one polarized section and these artists in another? It’s really a coexistence.
Madchild: They had multimillion dollar machines behind them, and I have a chihuahua. It’s funny because I was talking about this yesterday. Drake won the Rap lottery. He’s incredible, his music is amazing, and I listen to him probably more than most other artists. But I might not have even known about him if Lil Wayne hadn’t put him under his wing. Eminem, right now, if Dr. Dre hadn’t put him under his wing, could very well be on tour with Vinnie Paz right now—and I love Vinnie Paz. I love La Coka Nostra, Ill Bill and Dilated Peoples. I do love underground Hip Hop, especially the lyrical supremacists of that genre. I don’t really know what the question was.
DX: You answered it.
Madchild: What separates me?
DX: Nah, nah. I was just saying why do you think people have that perception of you guys being oil and water, so to speak?
Madchild: I don’t, though. A lot of people put me in those categories and say, “When are you gonna get your time?” A lot of my fans compare me to some of the mainstream greats so, who knows?
DX: The terms “underground” and “lyrical” have a perception with them, but what does it mean to be “lyrical” in 2014? You mentioned the “goo-goo, gah-gah” raps out there. How much value are people placing on intricate wordplay?
Madchild: I’m not really sure. I think that I’m in a fortunate situation where I have an incredibly loyal fanbase. It seems to me like they care that I put a lot of thought into my wordplay. You know, I’ve made four songs in the last eight days. I was literally sitting at my studio computer until three in the morning. I drive myself fucking crazy when I really want to make a song that I feel good about lyrically. I literally take myself to another place. Sometimes, it’s pushing myself close to the edge. That’s just what I have to do to make the art that I want to make, when it’s in top form. I think that there are absolutely people that care, or I wouldn’t [make any type of a living off of Rap].
In general, people probably don’t care as much as they did in other times of Hip Hop, and that’s cool; music has to feel good. It’s also music; it’s not a fucking science or math project, either. I just happen to feel better about my music when I come up with word combinations that you may not have heard before or stretched a word a little bit differently and it pops out to the listener. That’s just something important to me. Lately, I’ve also realized I do that too much. I’m beasting out too much. I could keep going in that lane, and that’s great, but I would definitely like to…
I didn’t move to L.A. to stand in the same spot. I moved here so I can move onward and upward up the hill…move up the mountain. I’ve been studying my own music, and feel that I need to be doing more conceptual songs, more speaking where the listener can connect with what I’m thinking or what I’m saying, where there’s a connection. It’s not all about abstract expressionism all the time, not all the time with three lines about this, four lines about this, beast out, and trip you out on wordplay. I think I need to make more songs that people can connect with. Hopefully, that’s a missing piece of the puzzle. The only reason I don’t do it that often is because I find it extremely easy. Just because I find it easy doesn’t mean it’s not still what people want to hear.
Madchild Called His Battle With Dirtbag Dan A Second Chance At Life
DX: How difficult of a balance is that? You have things that you specifically want [and] fans want things, but I’d imagine, as an artist, you want to push yourself too?
Madchild: Exactly. I was just talking with my friend about this two nights ago. I was just talking with Evidence about this, actually. I think that there’s a middle ground where I’m going to do what I do and push things lyrically. But I’ll also make a song cohesive where the listener is following it, and they’re actually feeling it, and can relate to the subject matter. It identifies with them.
DX: According to Instagram, you’re at least considering the possibility of battling Dizaster.
Madchild: Yeah, I always like to put myself up to a challenge, and things need to move faster. I need to push myself harder. I can’t get too comfortable. Right now, I could easily just keep circling the bases. I do very well for what I do. I’m happy in my life. Thank you to my fans. I’m financially happy. Things are good again after the shit that I went through. Things are great! I could just keep circling the bases, but I want to shake it up. There’s nothing wrong with shaking it up, and there’s nothing wrong with pushing myself, breaking that wall down and seeing where that goes. Dizaster? That guy is incredible. I would have to definitely have enough time time where I’m not touring and really studying and really practice.
I think I got it in me. I really do. I’m not a battle rapper, but I guarantee that I’ll do way better than my first battle. I look at that battle, and it makes me sad. First of all, I’ve only watched it a couple of times. But, [at that time] I was just getting healthy. I look at that and am like, “I’m way stronger than that now. I’m healthy. I’m me again. I will definitely crush that performance.” Whether that’s good enough to go against Dizaster, I don’t know. I’m not saying, “Yeah, it’s happening January 2015” or whatever. But yeah, it’s a possibility.
DX: How much do you think that that first battle did, in terms of changing the perception or elevating the platform? It was really just you, Royce Da 5’9 and a couple other people who were signed and, yet, still battling.
Madchild: Yeah, I mean I just put it on the line. I don’t know if I’m the first person or one of the first people to do it because I don’t have huge American success yet. In Canada, they know that I was the first person. Some people in America, Europe, and Australia know I was the first person or one of the first people. But I think a lot of people don’t even know about that battle, compared to, say, the Joe Budden one or something like that. For me, I was in a grave. I was dead. Life was over for me. It was a pretty important thing now that I reflect and look back at it. I could have either totally embarrassed myself, and there would have been no chance of me having a career again. This is my second chance at life. I feel brand new again. Everything is happening again in my life for a second time, and that’s a pretty amazing feeling. So, because I did good enough in one, I think that kicked the door open for me and a career started. But, if I were to have fucked up and looked extremely embarrassing, I don’t know where I’d be right now, when I really look back and think about it.
DX: When you say “shake it up,” you’re not just talking about shits and giggles. This is a personal, personal thing, as far as pushing yourself.
Madchild: Absolutely, there’s no giggle about it. It would be extremely serious for me. I mean, for fun too, but I know that the outcome could be very bad for me if I trip and fall on my shoelace. I can’t go in there with a book of rhymes. That just can’t happen for me. Like, what’s Canibus doing right now? That’s a good question. Is he touring? Does anyone want to see him after that? Maybe, people want to see him for a little while right now because that was such a crazily embarrassing thing. He’s a legend. He’s probably been able to tour and make a good living from what he does and who he is. I’m curious at how much people care after that battle. Same with Joe Budden. Did his stock go down from that?
DX: I don’t know, but his pay went up.
Madchild: His pay went up for that battle, but was it worth it? Where’s his stock now? That was a tough thing to watch. No disrespect to Canibus or Joe Budden, because I don’t know those guys. The point I’m getting at is, it’s going to start getting popular now. Recording artists and people like myself that have careers putting out music are going to start battling more and more. It’s gonna become trendy. But, they’re going to be putting shit on the line more than they realize. They’re going to be looking at this big dollar check. I didn’t do it for no big money. I did it for $750, not $50,000. I did it for the art. I did it for the fucking culture. I did it for myself. But, people are going to do it for big paychecks. They better think about what’s going to happen if they look like fucking idiots. A lot of these battle rappers are going to tear their faces off. These guys are no joke. This new school? These battle rappers are no joke. They eat, breathe, and live this shit. They don’t become millionaires for it. They do it because they love it. It’s a different animal, so think twice.
DX: Indeed. So let’s get back to this new EP. For people out there, just kind of briefly tell them the progression on this EP and what to expect.
Madchild: It’s definitely like beasting out and focusing on where words go and where they don’t. I wanted to make sure it’s not just pop-pop-pop machine gun. I wanted to really focus on where words. Sometimes, you gotta let shit breathe to make it pop more, if that makes sense. As far as the structure, I’m very proud of where everything lands. I think it’s a good balance of that. There are some songs that will pop out in a different way but, overall, I think it all fits together nicely. It’s definitely me at my best, but I keep getting better. The next one is going to be even better. Why do I keep getting better? Why do other rappers who have been around for a long time end up disappointing you? Why are they razor sharp for their first two albums, and then you’re like, “Is this the same person?” Why is that? Do you know?
DX: They’re not pushing themselves?
Madchild: It’s because they get caught up in money, start having families and mortgages, having five cars and a mistress, and all of their buddies that they go to the clubs with. They have all these multiple problems that come from having all these people around them, because they’ve gotten big, and people want to hang out with them. I hang out by myself. I don’t allow all these distractions to come into my life. That’s why I’m razor sharp, and I keep getting better like a 19-year-old rapper would when he sits at home and writes all the time. I literally put myself back in that situation. That’s my secret.