After overcoming a long battle with drug addiction nearly two years ago, Canadian rap vet Madchild endured some major career setbacks that could’ve made him relapse. Customs officials banned him from entering the U.S. in early 2011, stalling promotional efforts for his scheduled solo project, made him miss out on show money, conduct business dealings, and so forth. But, instead of falling off the wagon, the rapper threw himself into his work and went back to the drawing board.
He’s used the time to record a slew of material, release a trio of EPs, and finally, his long awaited solo debut, Dope Sick, is out in stores. In support of the record, we had the chance to chop it up with Madchild to discuss everything from the numerous album delays, his recording process and improvements as a song writer, to the lifestyle changes he’s made, and hip-hop’s ever changing trends. He even delves into his well-publicized drug abuse problems, and how they effected him, both negative and positive, financially, and artistically.
If you haven’t heard Madchild and his high-pitched flow over an ill beat, make sure to cop Dope Sick to get familiar. And, to get to know him further, continue reading this interview.
You previously announced your solo debut back in 2010, and it was expected in early 2011. However, issues with entering the U.S., stalled the release. What’s it been like, mentally, to sit and wait nearly two years before this Dope Sick project finally dropped?
I’m actually glad I waited. The version of Dope Sick that was just released, to me, is way better than the version that would’ve been released in 2011. I just kept making new songs and replacing them with songs that then became songs for my collection of EPs that I released on iTunes (Banned from America, King of Pain, Little Monster) during that year. I feel that putting out the EPs and putting out videos helped build a buzz, which made the release of Dope Sick much more successful than it would have been if it had been released earlier. Although I have been in Swollen Members for years, I am technically a new solo artist, so the time was needed to build awareness.
Back in April 2011, we talked to you about your bout with drug addiction. In a recent webcast you had with fans, you said that you don’t attend A.A. or N.A. meetings, but rather throw yourself into music to stay sober. The music isn’t normally a healthy environment for a recovering addict. How does it work for you? What other things do you do to stay clean?
I find the writing and recording part of music very therapeutic. It is also healthy for me because it takes up a lot of My time. “Idle hands are the devil’s play thing” is a very true statement in my case. I prefer to be busy. The actual writing procedure, for me, is usually in some way a reflective period for me because I touch on the subject fairly often, mainly because it had and still has such an impact on my life. The addiction and the struggle to get clean is something I will never want to lose focus of, because it is a necessary, constant reminder of what I have to do to stay on the right track. The rewards of living a sober/normal lifestyle is awesome, but I have to make sure I’m always thinking ahead, as far as what situations I’m putting myself in. I have a much smaller group of friends and spend more quality time with my family — the people in my life that matter and that are positive influences. I am not saying anything bad about AA or NA, I think it’s great for people to go and hang with other people going through the same thing. I personally just don’t have a lot of time or much interest in socializing. I love the people that I am blessed to have in my life and I prefer to spend the rest of my time focusing on rebuilding my career.
As far as doing shows, there are times when people offer substances, etc., but to be honest with you, I don’t miss any of that stuff whatsoever. I didn’t enjoy “living in a trap” and I honestly feel sorry for people when I see them whacked out on drugs at my shows. I also don’t drink because I choose not to drink. I don’t have a problem with drinking, I just don’t really enjoy it, so I just quit both when I got clean from drugs.
You’ve said you blew through a lot of money, lost your house, etc., etc. How does that effect you today, after your head became clear and the haze of drugs wore off? Also, how has it effected the music you make?
Losing all of your money and houses and cars and being in debt sucks, of course. But, it’s not something that bothers me really. To be totally honest, there is bit of a sense of freedom to it all. It may sound strange, but I learned a lot about money and how I want to live my life from this whole experience. I am rebuilding my life and beginning to make a good living again, but I definitely want to keeps things more minimal this time. I think I have a respect for money that I didn’t have before. The worth of how hard I have to work for a dollar and the concept of saving. I used to spend money foolishly. Now I wait and really give some thought to something before I buy it. For example, a piece of new furniture, I might wait a few weeks or a month for something now. If I still really want it, then I’ll buy it and know I’m going to really enjoy having it. Overall, I just think I am making better all-around choices. I feel like I can get it all back and then some. I am happy to be alive to get a second chance, I am very thankful for that.
Swollen Members, how did you group members deal with your issues? Did it put a strain on your relationships?
Of course, it was very difficult for them. You have to remember, while I put my own life on hold for four years, I also put their lives on hold, as far as their careers in Swollen Members. They are true brothers for standing by my side the way they did. It is a very difficult thing to go through when someone close to you goes through addiction. It was a first experience for all of Us. I appreciate those guys so much. A lot of people would’ve just split or moved on. I think that really says a lot about the loyalty and character of my brothers in Swollen Members.
Obviously, the Dope Sick title refers to these personal battles you have. How much of the LP goes into these types of things, and how personal does it get?
There was a song called “Shed the Light,” produced by Rob the Viking, and featuring Prevail, that really summed the whole thing up. I was really bummed that we had to pull this track from the album, due to sample clearances. I replace “Shed the Light” with “Wake Up” last minute because Dope Sick needed a song that completely focused on the topic of my past addiction. I feel Dope Sick would’ve been my first masterpiece if that song hadn’t been taken off the record, but I am still very proud of my first album. Overall, the album covers the whole gamaut of my experience. I think there is some light hearted humor about being an addict and a very real, as well as dark feelings that I experienced. Hopefully people are finding it a good balance. I’d prefer if it’s more of a subconscious thing, after all the music is meant to be enjoyed.
How does this album differ from your works with your group Swollen Members? And, from the Little Monster EP you previously released?
I think of Dope Sick is kind of an extension of the Little Monster EP. Like I said before, those songs were all on the concept of Dope Sick at one time. As far as recording with Swollen … well, there’s a lot more writing to do. I had to learn how to make whole songs, versus just a verse or a verse and a hook. It wasn’t that much of a transition. I think the key is making sure the whole song stays interesting the whole way through, making sure each verse is as potent as the next. I pride myself now as a fierce lyricist, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard songs from other solo artists I liked at the time, where the first verse was nuts, but then the second or third verse sounded watered down or just not as much thought and time put into it.
Yourself and Swollen Members have a core fanbase, who supports your music regardless. However, it seems hip-hop has really taken a turn in a different direction. You have trends that are just much different from the generation before. How does an artist, such as yourself, stay relevant to new fans, but not alienate the core fanbase you already have? Is that something you even think about? Or, do you just create and not worry about it?
I know what You’re saying, but I find that pushing myself constantly to being the best emcee that I can be, and it has been working out great for me during this generation. They new generation still seems to really appreciate the extra effort I put into my writing. I think they are getting tired of the bullsh** bubble gum raps. This swag thing can only go so far for most people. The creme will always rise to the top.
I am lucky to have an incredibly loyal fan base that I consider friends and family. Swollen Members is very fortunate to have this amazing fan base. As far as being trendy, I am not interested in doing what I hear on the radio these days, I do not like electronic music and I refuse to rap on it because it’s popular. Besides that, like you say, I don’t put that much thought into it. I find that I make the best music when I am just making it for myself. If other people like it after, that is an awesome bonus.
There is so much music and so many new artists now at everybody’s fingertips. The Internet has created a very over saturated world, so people’s attention spans have shortened. There is so much crap to sort through, but there is still a lot of great music being made. I find I mostly just stick to what I know as a fan. I come from the generation of enjoying an album for months or years. I’ve noticed that the younger generation is very much “on to the next thing.” Fortunately I am pushing myself to be an artist that can keep up with today’s generations demand, while still focusing on quality. I hope so anyways (laughs).
Over the past few years, a few artists have really broken out of Canada to become stars, namely Drake, The Weeknd, etc. Do guys like Drake represent what Canada is all about? How do you feel about the scene in Canada?
I think there are some great emcees that are starting to get recognition — JD ERA, for example, is signed to Raekwon. I think that kind of stuff is happening more and more and I am happy to see it. There is still a lot of room for growth and recognition, but thanks to artists like… especially Drake, the border is a lot more invisible than it once was.
It’s ironic that you have trouble getting into the States, when it’s normally hip-hop artists who have trouble getting in Canada. What’s the deal with the border and customs officials there?
It was basically because of certain groups of people that I was hanging around with before. I am not one to say, “Poor Me.” I made my bed now it’s up to me to change it. Hopefully, in time, my new direction in life will allow me re-entry into the States. I used to live in San Francisco and L.A., so I’m sure eventually I’ll be allowed back in. I think I just met the wrong Customs agent on the wrong day. I am now applying for my waiver application, so I’m hoping for the best.
What do you want fans to take from this album? What’s your goals?
Basically that if I can change my life for the better, anybody can. I believe that with hard work, dedication and commitment, anyone can somewhat make their dreams come true. Besides talent, persistence is key.
hat’s next? I know, you’ve mentioned a Battle Axe Warriors project? Can you tell us more about that, and what it entails?
Next is the new Swollen Members album, Beautiful Death Machine. Then, my next solo album, Super Beast. Then I am doing an album with Slaine from La Coka Nostra. He is an amazing artist and I look forward to creating that album with him.
As far as a Battleaxe Warriors album, that would be a cool project for sure and will happen in time, but it’s on the back burner for now.