Volume 2 Issue 3 (2001)
Everything in this world is made up of atoms and Cannibal Ox is no exception. The Harlem bred duo of Vast Aire and Vordul Megillah are two founding members of the NY crew, Atoms Family, as well as representatives of El-P’s new imprint, Def Jux. According to both MCs the project simply came about. “El would listen to some of our demo tracks that he brought with him on tour”, states Vordul. “He knew us personally and proposed that we form a group”. The only thing left was a name. Cannibal Ox was a name that stuck during a phone conversation in which the two friends were throwing random words together. Vast felt that they could play off of so many different meanings that it just worked. “The Cannibal represents the aggression, anger, and battling (mentality), while the Ox is a slang term for blade and a symbol for cipher unknown”.
During the year and a half that it took to record “The Cold Vein” both men decided it would be best to move in with EL-P to finish the album. “(During sessions) I would speak to El on a personal level about certain things me and Vast went through uptown. He took it to heart and said why don’t you camp out here and do this serious”. Even though the artists lived together Vast states that recording was not the norm. “It was off and on, sometimes you do shit all week and sometimes you don’t do anything for a month. Recording is the biggest process, but I can still write without machinery”.
Either way it was time well spent as “The Cold Vein” contains 15 tracks filled with vivid depictions of street life. Vast and Vordul put together stories of New York’s underbelly, dealing with life in the projects without falling into the trap of glorifying or degrading it. According to Vast, Cannibal Ox is simply looking for understanding. “I want the listener, in the end, to just get a grasp of what we were trying to get across. We just wanted to be totally honest. That meant dealing with certain things you have to build about like the disrespect of women, poverty, and lack of loyalty. I’m not gonna sit here and say shit is real, sell coke”. Vordul concurs, “It isn’t about the glorification but the observation, awareness, and consciousness of what’s going on. I want people to see we are intelligent young males and I hope people can see where we come from and respect where our minds are”.
With EL-P behind the boards for the entire album, the group has drawn some comparisons to underground pioneers, Company Flow. Will Cannibal Ox have the same effect on hiphop? Vordul thinks the album will reinforce the good things about hiphop, while Vast believes it will share some of “Funcrusher Plus'” impact. “I think its going to make people realize the limits they place on their beats and lyrics. I think its going to wake people up to that because we went no holds barred”. Cannibal Ox was looking to stretch hiphop’s imagination and boundaries and were able to provide a variety of styles. “We know what we can do and we don’t have any limitations”, boasts Vast. “I wasn’t afraid of anything getting repetitive because we’re all on point”. Vordul agrees, “I think it was perfect with EL lacing the production, his shit is very diverse and various things are going on in his beats. Whether it’s slow or fast it still has that touch of El, and that gave the whole album one (complete) sound”.
The combination of innovative beats and thought provoking lyrics has some people talking about the album in terms of classic status, but both Vordul and Vast feel its too soon for that. “It’s way too early to be on some classic shit” Vast humbly points out. “It has to fight other albums for a couple years (before it can be considered classic)”. So what does a classic album contain? According to Vast a classic album is a mesh of flawless production and incredible lyrics that leave you with an enlightened feeling. Vordul goes further to speak on the importance of longevity, “Its that music you can listen to time and time again, I definitely hope people can do that with The Cold Vein, but I can’t speak on what I think the response will be”. Though they may not know if the album will be spoken in the same breath as “The Low End Theory” or “Illmatic”, Vast knows one thing for sure, “When it ends you should feel like you entered a realm, and then you will be in our world”. Welcome to the Cold Vein.
With the album officially out Vast Aire is currently working on his solo album and Def Jux is looking to finally release the infamous “Metal Gear” single (the first track recorded between Cannibal Ox and El-P).