I’m not completely sure why the mere mention of Swollen Members rubs so many underground rap snobs the wrong way. Sure, there are cuts like “Pornstar” that fall short of even the lowest conceptual standards set by the group’s juvenile name. But listen past the hollow cake and candy (“Bollywood Chick”) and you’ll find scorchers (“Bang Bang,” “Meltdown”) from this decade-strong Vancouver crew that warrant close consideration.
At the core of any Swollen Members project — and Armed to the Teeth, their first in three years, is no exception — is a clean, uncomplicated spread of kaleidoscopic semi-pop bangers from producer Rob the Viking. From there, increasingly competent MCs Prevail and Mad Child (with occasional assistance from extended crew members and such distinguished guests as Talib Kweli) let their nihilism and narcotics run wild.
Whereas “Flyest” sucks as much as any Lil Wayne song, knucklers like “Warrior” and “Dumb” with Slaine and Everlast offer adequate redemption. After all, Swollen Members are the equivalent of Jay-Z in Canada, and if this is what commercial hip-hop sounds like up there, then alt-hop aficionados might want to stop hating and migrate north.