Arts and Culture

A Return To Form?

By Isaac Harris

April 21, 2015

Blade of Ronin

Cannibal Ox inhabits a peculiar space within the modern music market. They have not released a major LP in over twelve years, but are still highly regarded and praised frequently within multiple publications.

They came at the turn of the millennia with a new style that was alien but amazing to so many people. Their first producer, El-P, has dropped his job at producing their next album due to the very long waiting period. This one factor is a major point going into this new project because what really cemented this album was the beat by El-P. While they have a hold of a new producer (Bill Cosmiq), the biggest question is will this be the fairytale combination that their last album was, between the lyrical intensity and sharp beat production, or a downfall to mediocrity?

The song “Psalm 82” has a bass-heavy production quality, as well as a repeating audio sample that complements the song rather well, but one quality that pops its head up frequently throughout the album is rather juvenile lyrical quality at certain parts in the album. For example, the lyrics: “You gotta say my name backwards like Mxyzptlk/Hold up, did I mention/I like to fight imps from the fifth dimension”  highlight a frequent problem found in many other tracks on the album: the deteriorating quality of the lyrics and lazy content.

“Blade: The Art of the Ox” is a rather nice track as well. The features (Artifacts and U-God) go really well with the production direction in the song. There are a lot of great audio samples which lift this track up over many of the others on the album. While it is not a stand-out, it is solid and shows the potential of Cannibal Ox as well as showing that they still have something that separates them from other musicians.

The next track, “Harlem Knights,”  follows up in the sense of ambient production with spaced beat loops, as well as echoing production that ties in well with the tone of the track. The track is moody and intriguing, with lyrics that sharpen up the album and hint to a stronger second half. Lyrics like “I am the axis that all man thought he knew” show a rise out of the recurring filler of the many other tracks and hint that while a lot of things have happened, Cannibal Ox can still write great a great song. This track is the highlight of the album.

“Iron Rose” starts with a futuristic production, but with cringeworthy lyrics that break the tone of the album, such as “my girl is tough; she wears iron panties.” While the MF-doom feature might be nice, it still does not at all redeem the album. Essentially, you can put glitter on garbage to make it look better, but at the end of the day it’s still going to smell.

“The Fire Rises,” the next track, comes out swinging. With hard-hitting production quality, it’s hardcore and solid. It has amazing lyrical composition that pairs well with the beats on the track, and while the lyrics still might be silly, it is certainly welcome to stop the dry spell that arose from the previous couple of songs.

Resolution: While this might not be the prophetic sophomore album many people were waiting for it is most certainly a welcome return of the New York rap duo and a lot of people are eager to see what comes next. If their lyrics become less juvenile and stop making fillers, we could see the next album coming.

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