It's been a tough road for Madchild, one part of Vancouver hip-hop group Swollen Members.
After hitting mainstream success as one of Canada's biggest hip-hop groups in the early 2000s, Madchild later developed an oxycodone (popularly known as Oxycontin) addiction that took up three years of his life.
Deciding to get clean or die trying, Madchild is now 14-months sober (or "normal," as he calls it) and is following up a busy year of releases with a tour in support of his solo work — his M.A.D.E. (Misguided Angel Destroys Everything) mix tape and King of Pain EP.
"It's been awesome," said Madchild of the tour so far. "I'm enjoying things the way they are right now. I like being underground and doing a lot of shows and the social networking and connecting with the fans through the internet and live at shows."
When asked about the state of the scene now compared to when Swollen Members was at the height of their popularity in the early 2000s, Madchild said while it was nice then, right now his focus is all about the underground vibe and getting back to his roots.
"I think we're sort of starting over again and it's very much at an underground level," he said. "If the next step comes and we start getting more videos and radio play that's cool, I'm prepared for it, but I'm not concerned about it."
It's more about pleasing the fans and getting to as many cities as possible on tour, Madchild said. He's also working to get more in tune with the underground hip-hop scene by participating in rap battles.
"I did my first one with (U.S. rapper) Dirtbag Dan in Toronto (this summer)," recalled Madchild. "It was an amazing experience. It was so much different from being on stage because you're on the ground and there's all these people around you and you know you're being filmed and lots of people are going to be watching it later."
On top of that, rap battles require participants to think on their feet as contenders go back and forth with spitting rhymes and verses at and about one another — something Madchild wasn't used to, despite having been in the hip-hop scene for so long.
"It was intense — probably the first time I felt butterflies in six or seven years," he said. "I was on tour doing 21 shows that month, so I had to write my battle verses, my battle raps in between shows at like 3 or 4 a.m. I really wanted to challenge myself and that's exactly what I did."
Madchild emerged victorious from his debut battle, winning the favour of both the crowd and the judges and handing his opponent his first rap battle loss.
But back to his touring and solo work, Madchild said his current tour is one of the most extensive he's done, leaving no stone unturned as he visits small and big towns with equal measures of eagerness and excitement.
"Everybody deserves a show, right? That's the way I look at it," he said.
And with a new perspective on life following his battles with addiction, Madchild is also hoping to spread an anti-drug message to children. He's set to share his experience with youth in Pemberton on Saturday (Oct. 8) prior to his upcoming show there.
"I wouldn't feel right about getting a second chance at life and not trying to be a positive influence and at least share knowledge with kids," he said. "Once you come out of the other side of almost losing your life and your money and assets, once you come out the other end of being a drug addict, you can't help but go back to the entrance and try to plug it up."
And speaking to him today, you can tell he's a changed man from who he was 10 years go. When he speaks about his addiction, there's a sincerity in his voice that seems a far cry from the carefree Madchild portrayed so often on MuchMusic.
"Now I look at the people that are on (oxycodone) and it's really easy to say 'no' because they look like idiots," he said. "Once you're normal and comfortable in your own skin again — there's nothing better, to be honest. We all get fooled into thinking we need substances or alcohol to make us feel better, but at the end of the day life is so much better without all of that crap."
Madchild will be speaking to youth at Pemberton Secondary on Saturday (Oct. 8) from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The talk is open to anyone 14 years and older.
Then at about 9 p.m. Madchild will perform at the Pemberton Hotel. Tickets for the show are $20 and are on sale at the Pemberton Hotel, Bike Co. in Pemberton and the Billabong store in Whistler.
Follow him on Twitter @madchild57.