April 6, 2018
Eclectic and collected: At home with MC Prevail
Story Nikki Renshaw & Photos Jason Payne/PNG
MC Prevail loves his home. “Yeah, I really do,” he says over the phone. “It’s an amazing space. Come over and see for yourself.”
And so I head over to his apartment in a century-old Kitsilano home, where the Juno Award-winning rapper finds inspiration in his eclectic art collection. He amassed much of it while touring with Swollen Members, the hip-hop band he helped form in 1992. He’ll soon be adding to his gallery as, after an extended hiatus, Swollen Members has just launched a three-month tour that kicked off in Vancouver in March and continues through Europe until late May.
As I make my way up the stairs that lead to his attic suite, I realize he wasn’t exaggerating. The walls are covered in large pieces of art, many by local artists and friends, making it impossible to reach my destination without stopping every few steps to admire the work on display.
At the front door, a smiling Prevail welcomes me into a light-filled apartment with 16-foot-high cathedral ceilings and well-worn 100-year-old fir floors.
Directly behind him is a limited-edition Stan Lee Spiderman print personally dedicated to Prevail. “He never personalizes them, so this is really special,” he explains. Below are three stacks of Adidas sneaker boxes: “I’m a sneaker hound, but I’m brand loyal!”
The space is divided into two large rooms separated by a small art-filled hallway. It is an eclectic mix of old and new. His bedroom, anchored by an old wood-burning stove, showcases retro gold-and-glass shelving filled with modern coloured glass, while his open-plan living room and kitchen feature an exposed brick wall and contemporary wood shelves. Everywhere I turn, there are paintings, sculptures and fascinating bric-a-brac that he has picked up from around the world.
The multi-talented writer, rapper, MC and event host may have many strings to his bow, but he says that painting and drawing are talents that have evaded him. “They are not abilities I possess and I am in awe of those who do,” he says. “Being surrounded by art inspires me. It helps me write and feeds my own creativity.”
Originally from Victoria, Prevail got his rap moniker from former Swollen Members bandmate Moca Only back in 10th grade. He has lived in Vancouver since the 1990s, and in this converted Kitsilano house for over a decade. “I love this neighbourhood and its sense of community,” he says. “It’s a space I like to come home to.”
Having a home base is important to Prevail, who has spent much of the past three decades on tour and is hitting the road again this spring. “I’m excited,” he says. “I love a live audience and I’m also a collector. Wherever I am in the world I visit local antique stores, thrift stores, junk stores, markets, whatever. I love the thrill of the hunt, finding something great hidden from sight.”
His top floor apartment reflects his passion perfectly. It’s a well curated mix of home and art gallery. Paintings sit cheek by jowl with photos, drawings and lithographs, as well as his collection of fierce-looking African masks. (He bought the first one in Zambia, while working on a World AIDS Day documentary with TV host George Stroumboulopoulos.) He rotates the works, putting some pieces away or selling others as his tastes evolve. “I believe in art karma,” he jokes. “When it’s time, I put them back out there for the next art enthusiast to enjoy.”
There is one piece, however, that he will never part with, and that is a painting that Canadian icon Gordon Smith gifted him over 20 years ago. “No, it’s got too much sentimental value,” he says.
Not every collection is out on display for all to see. Tucked away in a discreet corner of his bedroom is a shelf filled with slim orange boxes filled with scarves, pocket squares and other small, iconic items from luxury brand Hermès. “As I said, I’m brand loyal,” he laughs. “My aim is to buy something from every Hermès store in the world.”
As Swollen Members embark on their latest tour, he may just be another step toward fulfilling his goal. “Oh yeah, Hermès is on my itinerary!” he says. “But I can guarantee that won’t be all I’ll be bringing back. There are other collections I need to add to!”
I just hope he invites me over to admire whatever new treasures he uncovers on his travels.