When Cannibal Ox dropped their Def Jux classic, The Cold Vein, in 2001, people were instantly looking for more from the group. Despite being an independent classic, there hasn’t been anything close to a full on follow-up outside of a few team-ups Marvel-style since. Vast Aire struck out on his own and put out his first solo effort in 2004. It was solid if not quite as complex as his previous work. Finally Vast Aire has returned to solo efforts after his Mighty Joseph project from earlier this year to drop Deuces Wild and damned if it doesn’t make everyone forget about the Cannibal Ox reunion and instead just hope for some more Vast Aire in whatever form.
One of the most apparent things about Deuces Wild is Vast Aire’s confidence on the mic. The way he spits the chorus over album opener “You Know (You Like It)” and rides the spacey beat by Le Parasite (doing an El-P production imitation) kicks the album off and establishes the what to expect from the rest of the album.
The next two tracks both produced by Melodious Monk are what really help this album maintain its sound. Melodious steps up big on this album and contributes a total of 5 tracks most of which are the standouts on Deuces Wild. “T.V. Land” is a fun song that sounds something like if Quentin Tarantino ghostwrote hip-hop lyrics. “Take Two” turns out to be one of the best tracks on the album, a combination of Vast Aire’s stop and start flow over one of the grimiest beats this year.
Vast appears to have been focusing on his pop culture in the past few years as the Dynamic Duo features Vast comparing himself to super-heroes with himself always being faster, stronger, and better than any hero out there. Eventually Vast reunites with Vordul Mega to briefly reform Cannibal Ox on the Pete Rock produced and aptly descriptive “Mecca and the Ox”. It’s Pete Rock sounding more futuristic than almost anything he’s ever done as part of the song seems to almost feature the sound of a squeaky rusting metal.
Oh No contributes to “Lunch Room Rap” and while the song seems to have a general thesis worked out, it seems like the paper never got finished. Ultimately what could have been a great track turns out to be mediocre and is not among Oh No’s best. Thanos, who appears as an MC on “When Starz Fall”, makes it count with his only production number on “Shu (the God of Aire)”. The song could soundtrack picking up the remains after one of those disasters in a summer blockbuster, only if the bad guys won.
The album finishes with “Graveyard Shift” and “The Man Without Fear”. If the album started to dip and hit a low point just past the middle, these last two bring the energy all the way back up. On “Graveyard Shift”, Genesis contributes a solid verse through one of the deepest voices in hip-hop, complimenting Vast’s quicker lighter flow. Throughout “The Man Without Fear”, Aire constantly sounds vicious on the chorus with lines like: “I’m like Leatherface when I wild’ out, I’ll put ‘em in a hole he won’t climb out” and “Yeah you might die, don’t mess with the spider cause you think you fly, I know you wanna hate cause you need the exposure you got three albums and nobody knows ya.”
Deuces Wild seems to add up to more than its parts. All the producers stepped up their game and Vast Aire contributed some of his best lyrics ever. Vast comes out of this album with some great momentum. After putting out Mighty Joseph with Karniege earlier this year, if he keeps accelerating he just might be unstoppable. – Dane Johnson
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