Tuesday, August 1, 2000
Two years ago, the Jamaican-born Canibus seemed a shoe-in for rap stardom. In brief rap cameos, he made a mark with rapid-fire patter of often-dizzying complexity. He also showed a brazen quality usually welcomed in the rap world by taking on one of its biggest stars, L.L. Cool J, in the hit "Second Round K.O."
Despite a big push by Wyclef Jean, who introduced him on a "Smoking Groove" tour atop a real lion, the debut album fell far short commercially.
He then had a public falling out with Wyclef, who will doubtless bury the second Canibus album with his own follow-up next week.
All this has made Canibus hungrier than ever (no sitting back and complaining about stardom for his sophomore album). And it's made him almost unbearably angry.
You can scarcely hear the rhymes on "2000 B.C. (Before Canibus)" for the red-hot steam coming out of his ears. The venom he spews is relentless. And when he talks of taking someone out, he describes it in gruesome clinical detail. He wants his victims to "Die Slow," he says in one track, and when they do expire, he wants them reincarnated so he can kill them again.
This can be darkly entertaining, in a Quentin-Tarantino, midnight-horror movie way. But even with the rhymes of such deft complexity, it gets old after a while.
Canibus returns hip-hop to the days when rap meant verbal battling. And there's no doubt he can annihilate just about any rapper out there on verbal dexterity alone. Canibus seems to break every situation down to molecular physiology (even as he continues his paranoid conspiracy theories here and there).
But there's more to rap than wordy rhymes. With a gruff voice and passable beats, he'd be better off learning to integrate his voice to his beats to create more appealing tracks.
Still, with his skills, Canibus doesn't deserve the cold shoulder he's getting from the rap world, where few could survive a freestyle battle with him.