“The intermediate stage between socialism and capitalism is alcoholism.”

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Babe, the Cannibal Blue Ox

As hip-hop became increasingly commercial and calculated in the late '90s, a thriving indie scene began developing in response, one of the more significant artists in that underground scene being Cannibal Ox. The Harlem duo -- Vast Aire and Vordul Megilah -- eschewed the trademark late-'90s "Cash, Money, Hoes"/"Bling, Bling" style in favor of an edgier approach that confronted commercial hip-hop, acting almost as a foil to everything popular at the time in hip-hop -- namely, the mentality valuing materialism over creativity and ultimately craft. Of course, one cannot mention Cannibal Ox without bringing attention to the duo's producer, El P, one of the more inventive beatmakers of his time. The Cold Vein, Cannibal Ox's 2001 LP, broke through to the mainstream on a small level, initially drawing nothing but praise from such noteworthy publications as The Wire and CMJ, in addition to the expected hip-hop press. Countless comparisons to 36 Chambers-era Wu Tang somewhat pigeonholed the group, even though the tag was no doubt flattering and drew the attention of many curious heads.

While it can be said that many underground crews have been floundering in the gray matter of indie hip-hop, Cannibal Ox filled that area in with 2001's The Cold Vein for El P's Def Jux imprint. The music press had been quick to point out that Vast Aire and Vordul Megilah's attack is at times highly derivative of the Wu Tang Clan, and the point is valid. Thankfully, El P (a serious candidate for producer of the year) lays out some of the most lushingly intriguing sounds and beats that feel as herky-jerky as they sound gilded with silk. It's a bit misleading to harp on the Wu factor that The Cold Vein contains since this record's content is immensely original and the Wu references that seem present are in the enlightened gloomy flow and psychedelic backdrops -- not, (with all due respect) in the kitschy hooks and unfocused rhymes that Wu Tang are also known for. Aire and Megilah swirl around in b-boy posturing and obtuse nonsense as their innovation rears its head at every corner with scatter-shot lines like: "And I ain't dealin' with no minimum wage/I'd rather construct rhymes on a minimum page," and "You were a still-born baby, your mother didn't want you but you were still-born." To their immense credit, Cannibal Ox and El P have assembled one of the most listenable hip-hop albums in far too long.

Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein
password: mcboozo

Buy It Here!


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