Bad Dreams
Record label: Battle Axe
Format: 2xLP/CD
Year of Release: 2002

BattleAxe is one of the success stories of the independent hip-hop movement. This Canada-based collection of artists representing all up and down the West Coast have made international waves. Mad Child is the mastermind behind it all. Together with his partner in rhyme Prevail, they make up the duo Swollen Members. Known mostly for chilling accounts of bloodied warfare and Dungeons & Dragons fantasy wordplay, the Pacific Northwest crew steps into a different world with Bad Dreams.

From the first track on, Swollen Members set out to get one point across: they ain't playin'. This is an album reminiscent of an old school battle record. These guys aren't Kool G. Rap or Rakim, but they certainly hold their own. Mad Child's rough punch lines and Prev's complex wordplay complement each other well as they belt out dark and rough rhymes. Calling in some of the best in the game right now as far as production (Alchemist, Evidence), Swollen Members ensured a tight album. Another standout producer on this project is the one and only Rob the Viking. Dark and brooding, Bad Dreams reflects its name. The rawness of "Camouflage," Evidence's mental sample as Prev and Mad Child breakdown a war scenario, is ill. "Full Contact" featuring Chali 2na (Jurassic 5) is definitely a dope leading track. The remix on the single for "Take it Back" is better than the album version, but nonetheless it's cool.

"Fuel Injected" with Moka Only (doing a bad hook) and "Ventilate" are about the only blatant "skip" tracks on this album. Personally, "Ventilate" is a bad concept with Prevail and Mad Child bitching at each other. "Fuel Injected" just isn't good sonically. There are many similar styles on this album (which for some will get boring), but every song is raw hip-hop. Guest spots by Buck Fifty, Iriscience, Planet Asia, and Sun Doobie all are great compliments to the already raw lyricism of the main group. "Bad Dreams," "Full Contact," and "RPM" are the standout tracks. Do not get this album if you're looking to break the seventh seal or are looking for hidden meaning, but if you are looking to hear hard delivery and some good wordplay over some thumpin' dark beats, pick this up.

{mikal lee (hired gun)}

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