Emerging from NY City’s iron galaxy is Cannibal Ox, a duo comprised of Vast Aire and Vordul , who also double as members of the east coast abstract collective, The Atoms Family. Backed up by producer El-P, who helped set off the entire independent hip-hop movement in 1996, as a member of the now defunct Company Flow, Can-Ox has a lot riding on their debut release, The Cold Vein .
Like many of hip-hop s greatest teams (Public Enemy, Outkast , Nice & Smooth ), Vast Aire and Vordul are yin & yang opposites. Vast is a slow speaking poet who cleverly abstracts common cliches into his own renditions (“like the assination of two birds with one stone” or “that anorexic space between love and hate”), while Vordul is the quintessential New Yorker, painting vivid pictures of the rotten apple, without resorting to the tired thug themes of today. Still grounded somewhere in the five boroughs, while the two dabble in experimental styles not common to the city, the urban essence of hip-hop is still present, simply through their attitudes and expressionism. While neither are mind blowing emcees, both are clever and have enough style in delivery to keep the listener s attention throughout.
Produced entirely by El-P, the production is where the meat of this album lies. El continues to improve, as he creates incredible musical mosaics in each of the album’s tracks. Multi-layered sample collages seem incoherent at first, but after the album s third listen, and the sounds grow to be more familiar, it becomes evident what a musical genius El-Producto really is. His production is epic in nature, as proven on tracks like “Iron Galaxy” and “Pigeon” evolving beats that are so deep, that they seem like God’s soundtrack to the creation of the universe. Meanwhile, tracks like “Atom”, “Rasberry Fields” and “Real Earth” show off his incredible knack for drum programming one that is so unique, that only he could get away with such an off-kilter style of beat-making. “F-Word” is perhaps the most down-to-earth track, as Vast explores the dark and evil corners of the friend-zone, and it s a good place to start for those not quite ready for the complexity of the Can-Ox animal.
All strokes aside, there of course will be those who can’t grasp the musical intelligence of El-P’s heavy beats, whether it s the thugged-out cats, or the old skool purists. While most likely neither will bend their ears to his abstraction, if the either of the audiences accepted El’s style, it would be only a matter of time before Noreaga, Ghostface Killah, Kool Keith, or Chuck D started tapping him for beats at which point, or course, both parties would have to recognize.
While El-P has claimed that this is the best production he’s ever done, that can only been seen a few years down the line, in retrospect. What he has created is a musical masterpiece and while it s not for everyone like Ultramagnetic in it’s heyday, it may take some years for folks to finally grasp it. Meanwhile, those who’ve been riding El-P’s burners from end-to-end can look forward to his forthcoming solo album, Fantastic Damage .
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