“Mentally disturbing like how people bet on dog fights”

“I’ve got thoughts in my head and they are not right” quips Madchild on “Nature of the Beast.” We know. Whether you appreciate him as a soloist or as a part of Swollen Members, the surly Surrey by way of Vancouver rapper made his bones from demented lyrics and a B-Real-esque nasal flow. There was a time where both were arguably a product of a significant drug abuse problem, but happily Shane Bunting has shifted his focus to musical addiction. What’s surprising to me as a self-confessed fan is that he’s so addicted to rapping that even now in 2024 I’m still finding things I missed, as “Lawn Mower Man” came out over a decade ago. That makes me a bad fan then, but it doesn’t make tracks like the Rob the Viking produced “Prefontaine” bad music.

“Won’t hear me complain, I am free from pain
I am running fucking shit like Prefontaine
Words spreading like they’re viral, now watch them spiral
Right into your brain until they break right through your firewall”

Let me lend you a hand here — Steve Prefontaine was a world renowned track athlete who died in a car accident in 1975 — and before Shane Bunting was born in October. It goes to show Prefontaine’s level of fame that Madchild is using him as both a punchline and a song title, even though he wasn’t alive to see him run. It doesn’t hurt that they made movies about him either. It might seem like an unlikely choice for a rap song, but Madchild has never been a conventional emcee anyway. I mean he called this album “Lawn Mower Man,” and if you know either the story or the movie that’s not a happy ending. Madchild’s life could have easily had a dark conclusion too but he took his pain and twisted it into art.

Madchild calls himself the “Underground King” but his messages are well above the surface. They’re not hidden beneath opaque metaphors and abstract concepts listeners can’t follow. He also doesn’t obscure his voice behind layers of echo filters or pitch shifters. In fact when I say this I mean it in the most complimentary way — Madchild is about as straightforward, to the point, and easy to follow as any “underground” rapper has ever been. There are times it’s refreshing to hear somebody just say what he means without a bunch of pretentious bullshit.

“You’re not a real gangster, you’re not a crack dealer
Why the rest their life they gotta rap like Drake or Mac Miller?
Not me, rap immaculately, I’m spectacular
Dracula/I’m a fucking wacko that’s a track killer”

It may only be amusing to me that Madchild and producer C-Lance followed this up by scratching in samples of 50 Cent, but that just goes to show how context is king and anything commercial can be made underground or vice versa. In fact given the production from Chin Injeti, Rob and Lance throughout this album I’d argue it’s as “commercial” as anything Swollen Members ever did, but it peaked at no higher than No. 150 on the Billboard Top 200 in the United States. He fared far better in his native Canada though, reaching No. 2 on the charts there, and I’d say it’s well deserved. As always with Madchild though “Lawn Mower Man” has a specific target audience. As Keith Elam once said it’s “Mostly Tha Voice” and with Shane Bunting you either love it or you hate it. Since I love it this album is for me but your mileage may vary.

Madchild :: Lawn Mower Man
8.5Overall Score