Whether people will admit it or not, the hip-hop industry – from underground to commercial – is somewhat like a rich, exclusive tennis club, made up of a small, elite group of people. Within this club there are several competitors (i.e. Nas & Jay-Z), and even people that seemingly would hardly cross each other’s paths, but through its membership these players may find it possible to do so at some point, possibly through some mutual acquaintance (i.e. Dr. Dre, Rakim, & DJ Premier). Its members are granted full access to enjoying a match against each other, or even playing on a team. Gaining membership to this club is usually determined by how much the fans on the outside are buzzing about the artist, although in some cases all it takes is a little money or prestige in another area to butt your way into a club you otherwise have no business being in (Shaquille O’Neal, Benzino).
However, membership to this club is a revolving door. Exiled from this club almost five years ago was Canibus, who now is looked down upon by NY-scenesters and magazine writers. During his first years upon the scene, he blazed up virtually every guest appearance possible, arguably stealing the spotlight from a long list of high-end collaborators ranging from Common , Nas, Redman, Method Man, Pharaohe Monch, Ras Kass, and of course, LL Cool J. Unfortunately, just as Can-I was earning his industry dinner jacket, his victorious battle with LL Cool J was ruined by a strange debut project, and soon after he was exiled from the club, with many pretending like he lost his bout with Cool J (maybe they felt bad for Uncle L?). Those same powers that be that supported him suddenly had turned their backs on him, moving him further outside the in-crowd with each consecutive release. But you can’t keep a good emcee down, and while he may be outside the industry looking in, Canibus has created his own Mic Club, an even more exclusive organization with its membership only spanning himself, plus alter egos Rip The Jacker and Germaine Williams.
Mic Club is probably Canibus’ second most focused release, next to his wonderful battle rap happy 2000 B.C.. While last year’s C: True Hollywood Stories was even more poorly received than his debut album (if that were possible), Mic Club keeps Canibus from falling off completely, with better beats and more enjoyable 100+ bar rhymes that beg for him to take a breath (“Behind Enemy Lines”, “Allied Meta-Forces”). As a true mic gladiator, he chooses big, apocalyptic, coliseum battle beats to rock over, some more successful than others, such as “Drama”, which takes a common theme and builds upon itself with lyrics and production like a sound mind and body. He shines his brightest on “Rip Vs. Bis”, where he battles himself, and defines the differences between each of his alter egos. However, Canibus does stray off course at times, with fantasy-laden tracks like “Master Thesis”, which can lose the listener, or during other moments with stranger production such as “Liberal Arts”, which seems more fitting for an Enrique Iglesias Spanish rendezvous than a lesson in mic-ripping (let it be known however, that lyrically this track whets the appetite for his upcoming collaborative project with Jedi Mind Tricks). Somehow, while still hungry to battle and rip everything he spits on, the excitement in hearing each of his verses has waned since his debut, that’s attributed to a lack of confidence in himself, and the lack of support from those in the industry club, not to mention the chip on his shoulder that may affect his performance. Nevertheless, while claims have been made that he has fallen off, Mic Club disputes this, proving Canibus to still be one of the hungriest and nastiest emcees out there, training hard to make a Rocky-like comeback.
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