Swollen Members - Balance      
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written by Andrew Lunny    
While most regions of the US have at least one popular hip hop group, the nation of Canada is yet to produce a successful group, especially in the west. With their debut album 'Balance,' MadChild and Prevail of Swollen Members attempt to put Vancouver on the hip-hop map. After releasing a few dope 12"s on the underground recently, the full LP from Swollen Members is a pleasant surprise, and is one of the year's finest albums.

In terms of emceeing, these two are very impressive. Over the booming 'Bless and Destroy,' MadChild encourages you to "Suck on my potential and choke on this persistence." Not to be outdone, Prevail claims that "Candlewax cracks once S & M busts." on the previously released 'S & M on the Rocks'. While MadChild is arguably the better emcee of the two, they fit together well and add a lot of energy to all of the tracks.

Despite the expertise of the two rappers, there are a whole host of underground emcees who guest on 'Balance.' Dilated People's Evidence creates more of a buzz for Dilated's upcoming work with "The rhyme excursions touch mind like brain surgeons / Feel the lyrics tear gas, even on clean versions," starting off his verse on the fantastic posse cut 'Bottle Rocket.' Evidence pops up more on the album though, most notably with partner Iriscience on the top-quality 'Counterparts.' Hiero's Del turns up on the light-hearted sounding 'Left Field,' and Saafir comes up on 'Valentines Day Massacre,' which is one of the least impressive tracks on the record.

While many undergound releases are accused of being under-produced, that criticism could hardly be given to 'Balance.' From the fast 'Front Street' which kicks off the LP down to the sparse piano keys of the closing 'S & M on the Rocks,' each song has its own unique sound without any detracting from the consistency of the album as whole. The Alchemist does a great job on most songs, while guest producers such as the aforementioned Evidence manage to keep the variation between tracks high.

Though an odd European-only release and its underground status will stop 'Balance' from getting the attention that it deserves, Swollen Members have delivered an album that is both creative and well-made. 'Balance' stands out as one of the year's finest albums and is one of the best debut albums that I've ever heard. Though they may not garner as much attention as, say, NWA did when they brought Compton to the forefront; MadChild and Prevail have come Straight Outta Vancouver with a great album.

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