Kiley Hendriks has been given more rap names than he can remember. But of all the ones he has used, Prevail has been the one constant.
It’s a fitting title.
Hendriks, 37, has fought long and hard during his 20 years in the rap game, beginning with his roots — one of the single biggest establishing points for an inspiring rapper. The first hurdle Hendriks had to navigate was being raised in Victoria, the equivalent of the b-boy boondocks back in the day.
He persevered, thanks in large part to his Vancouver group, Swollen Members. With a quartet of wins at the Juno Awards — including a three consecutive trophies between 2001 and 2003 — he and his crew (which also includes Gabriola Island’s Rob the Viking and Vancouver’s Mad Child) helped transform B.C. from hip-hop zero to nationwide hero almost instantly.
Through it all, Hendriks continued to reference Victoria and places like the Eaton’s Centre, where he hung out as a teen alongside fellow Victoria natives Nelly Furtado and Moka Only.
“Even though I have lived in Vancouver for 20 years, when I go back to Victoria it feels like home,” Hendriks said.
Hendriks and Swollen Members were in Cranbook on Tuesday to kick off a 27-date tour of Canada. The trek to promote its new recording, Beautiful Death Machine — which arrived online and in stores Tuesday — includes a date Thursday at Spice Lounge in Nanaimo.
Having been through various crises over the past few years, including the drug addiction and subsequent sobriety of Mad Child, emerging triumphant with Beautiful Death Machine gave Hendriks a supreme sense of vindication.
“With all the trials and tribulations, to be able to still be here and have a voice and be relevant and have people buy the records and come to the shows, it’s an endearing feeling.”
Solo projects have rekindled the group’s professional spirit, Hendriks said. While Rob the Viking opened a studio and Mad Child released a series of recordings under his own name, Hendriks took on more of an entrepreneurial role outside of the group.
In between a series of charitable ventures, he founded the online magazine prevailprevail.com, a “guide to the good life” which keeps him in Santa Monica, California, for six months a year. As a result of spending more time apart, he believes Swollen Members are fresher and stronger than ever.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Regina, Sask., but moved to Victoria when I was three months old.
At which point did you know the city was not for you in the long term?
I migrated to Vancouver with Moka as soon as I graduated from Belmont in 1993. We jumped on the ferry two days later. I said peace to my family and off we went.
What is your favourite thing about Victoria?
I love being able to go back and see my old-school people. Having lunch at Zambris — that’s one of those things I have to do when I’m in Victoria. Another is going to Brasserie L’école for dinner. It’s enriching. It’s great to see people from back in the day doing well and still loving Victoria.
What is your greatest accomplishment as a person?
When George Stroumboulopoulos and I were able to go to Zambia with MuchMusic, to do an HIV/AIDS documentary, that was very impactful. I started looking at the world in a different way. It was the gateway for me to get back to doing community stuff.
And as a professional?
The day we played in front of 10,000 people at the Calgary Snow Jam [in 2002], when our career was starting to take off. Seeing that many people waiting for our performance was something I’ll never be able to forget.
First album you purchased?
AC/DC’s Back in Black. It was on cassette, purchased from Lyle’s Place in Langford.
Pubic Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
First concert you attended?
It was called the Triple Threat Tour, with Bell Biv Devoe, Ralph Tresvant and Keith Sweat. Seattle, 1989. I was 14.
Favourite concert you attended?
Cypress Hill at the Orange County Fairgrounds in California. B-Real playing bongo drums for 20 minutes absolutely changed the whole dynamic of the show. Amazing concert from a great, great live group. And the Public Enemy show at the Commodore, when Chuck D gave a shout-out on stage to Swollen Members. My jaw hit the floor. He’s my rap hero.
If you had one motto, or rule to abide by, what would it be?
Now that I have taken on an entrepreneurial role and learning new stuff, I am figuring out how to delegate tasks properly. I am fond of this quote: A good leader will let you fail, but never let you be a failure.
Victoria rapper Kiley Hendriks and his group, Swollen Members, are touring Canada in support of their new recording, Beautiful Death Machine, which was released Tuesday. The tour stops Thursday at Spice Lounge in Nanaimo, and returns to Vancouver Island for concerts April 19 at the Argyle Showroom in Port Alberni and April 26 at Club 9one9 in Victoria.