THE COLD VEIN: CANNIBAL OX Saturday 31 March, 2012
“I throw a sentence in the air and say “Word up”"…The album so good that they never made another.
2001. The year that Dre finally plumped for pop stardom and lucrative corporate sponsorship deals. At that point in time hip-hop was midway through the same transformation. The golden age was well and truly over. My disillusionment with hip-hop was nearly complete, nearly cemented as a default position. Then Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein arrived and my faith was restored. The love affair with beats and bars was set to continue.
It’s strange to think that this album is eleven years old now. It still stands proud, king of it’s own field. This album is science-fiction rap. If all your favourite dystopian future science-fiction films decided to form a mega-crew and record an album this is what would happen. This is largely due to El-P’s outstanding beat-mongering. It’s unlikely that you’ll have heard much that sounds like this. It’s an acquired taste but it’s a taste that’s definitely worth making the effort to acquire.
Cannibal Ox is/was two emcees: Vast Aire and Vordul Mega. They are stellar in their own right but when they sit their raps over the top of El-P’s production the sum becomes so much greater than the parts. The intelligent wordplay on display gives welcome relief from the dumb raps that saturate the market. What comes through loud and clear is that these two guys have a real love of the language. This love allows intelligence to exude from each and every syllable. It’s so clever that it tickles. I often find myself smiling and even chuckling when I finally get the joke.
Musically this album is fidgety, itchy, glitchy and smothered in space age synths. It sounds like nothing else except El-P but even his other work doesn’t really sound like this (fantastic though it is). The apparent untidiness is far more regulated on this album but the reverb and delay-heavy galactic synths are given more ‘space’ to bloom here.
Once you fall in love with the album you’ll find yourself hankering after more but only a little because this album is a stone cold classic. It’s the hip-hop gift that keeps on giving.
P.S. If you really are hankering after more then check out the excellent Cassettes Won’t Listen’s Cannibal Ox/Animal Collective mash up – Animal Ox. It’s splendid.