Madchild Is No Longer ‘Banned From America’
The Canadian emcee is back in the states, and he has teamed up with one of Boston’s biggest artists.
It’s been about six years since Canadian rapper Shane Bunting—better known as Madchild within the underground hip-hop circuit—has set foot in Massachusetts. Maybe even longer.
But he’s back for the first time, and while his perception of Boston is admittedly limited to watching “The Departed” and “The Town” on repeat, he’s looking forward to collaborating with Slaine, one of the city’s most-renowned rappers, and kicking off a new project together called “Supreme Villain.” The duo teams up for a Boston performance this week for the first time since roughly 2006.
“Slaine is one of my favorite emcees, and one of my favorite people. He’s a fucking great guy,” he said. “He’s fierce. There are not a lot of emcees, to be honest with you, that constantly inspire me, and he is one of them.”
While Madchild has an illustrious career under his belt, having scooped up Juno Awards—the Canadian equivalent of the Grammys—as a founding member of Swollen Members, and branching off to regenerate a solo career rife with consecutive chart-topping albums, for years, the emcee couldn’t cross the U.S.-Canadian border, and was banned from the States for his alleged association with members of the Hell’s Angels.
There were also some complications with the official paperwork to pass between countries—that, and he battled an aggressive opiate addiction for years.
“Everything is sorted out with border patrol and what not. Is it 100 percent foolproof? No, it’s not 100 percent yet, we are still waiting on one thing, but I was just in [Los Angeles] and that went smoothly, so I don’t know why it won’t be the same for Boston,” said Madchild. “I’m waiting for one document to solidify everything.”
The confusion began around 2006 when Madchild, known for his role in creating the Battle Axe Warrior movement and accompanying record label, was clustered in with gang activity related to the infamously ruthless biker clan.
“They kept asking me if I was a gang member, which I continually said I wasn’t, which I’m not. It was obvious I had an associate within the club, and other certain groups of people,” he said.
“It was probably the main underlying reason I wasn’t allowed across, but there was also a complication with my name on my driver’s license, and a couple of charges from when I was a kid, 15 years ago. I don’t want to make it sound like [the Hell’s Angels] was the only reason,” he said. “And that’s no disrespect to the club, or anyone I used to know, but I got on a different path in life now.”
The border wasn’t the only thing keeping Madchild from moving his career forward, expanding into the United States to perform shows for a growing audience. The 38-year-old emcee was simultaneously trying to grapple with an addiction to Oxycontin and other opiates, which was slowly bringing him down and destroying what he had spent decades to build.
But with the help of family, fans, and close friends, in the three years since he was “banned from America,” a term he turned into the name of an album in 2011, Madchild has significantly “cleaned up his act,” making recovery a priority.
“I’m on a more positive, productive path in life, and I’m fortunate that I am being given a second chance,” he said. “It feels like a real good and exciting time. I’m no saint. I’ve been around the blocks, and I have seen it all and done it all. But at this point in my life, I know what’s important to me. Now I don’t have to sit around and worry about that kind of stuff. It’s an actual good balance.”
Madchild admits his recovery is an important aspect to his recent resurgence as one of the most respected underground performers, but it’s not a sticking point he wants to harp on during his performances. “I love how people say my story has helped them change their life for the better. I love that. But I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want my shows to turn into AA meetings,” he said, adding that he drinks socially at shows. “I don’t want to be known as the ‘sober rapper.’”
With border problems—for the most part—in his rearview mirror and his addiction under his thumb, Madchild is now concentrating on the relaunch of Battle Axe Records—a name synonymous with a cult-like following of hip-hop fans—and dropping “Supreme Villain” with Slaine.
“When I spoke with him [in 2011], I knew he was a dude who was on a mission, someone who was in the middle of changing his life and someone who is going through the same thing as myself,” Slaine told HipHopDX, when they announced the collaboration. “We had a heart-to-heart and we became friends instantly.”
Already, the pair have released several tracks together, and are spending more time in the studio getting ready for a 2014 release.
Their concert at the South Shore Music Hall Thursday, November 14, will be a supplement to the new project, too. They won’t be playing new songs at the show, but Madchild assures fans that they won’t have to wait a year to hear unreleased tunes.
“Slaine and I will make sure that there is a good, solid amount of songs leaked and things for people to sort of bite into and get a good taste of, prior to the album coming up,” he said. “I really think the dynamics between Slaine and I are going to be something that hip hop is going to be excited to have.”
The rap partnership is alive and well, but unfortunately for Madchild, during his first trip to Boston, he’ll be giving himself the grand tour as Slaine, who has starred in “The Town” and “Gone, Baby, Gone,” shoots another movie.
“I’m definitely going to spend a couple days exploring, though,” he said. “But I better be careful walking through Southie, huh?”
If You Go:
Who: Slaine, Madchild, and Rite Hook
Where: South Shore Music Hall
When: November, 14, 8 p.m.