Canibus :: The Vitruvian Man ::
as reviewed by James Corne

Canibus has been a hero to the hip-hop community ever since he was dejected from it. Unfortunately, his masochistic tendencies always seem to deter him from success. Back in his 98'debut, with what should have fortified his spot at the top, Canibus capsized under the pressure of the pre-"Can-I-Bus?" buzz. Despite his bitter stance that Wyclif spoiled it, anyone who hears the album knows Canibus flat-out fumbled his chance at fame. The following years showed an up and down battle for the rapper, both vocationally and personally, as he oscillated back and forth from his battle rapping roots in the underground to his ill-fated industry aspirations. One minute he would be dropping completely sell-out albums like "C True Hollywood Stories," and the next ripping some of the most aggressively intelligent lyrics you will have ever heard on "Mic Club: The Curiculum," or his self-pseudonymed album "Rip the Jacker." While this has kept his fans frustrated, it is surely pure suffering for the artist. Canibus seems to have never truly resolved the inner-torment of getting an eyelash shy of being forever famous and faltering short.

This dichotomy of character is encapsulated in the song "Biz vs. Rip" off of "Mic Club: The Curriculum," where Canibus argues himself, from two split personalities, over his divided will. In one corner is Biz, calmly defending the concessions he has pushed Canibus to make: in the other is Rip The Jacker, the hardcore lyricist inside so full of rancor that he only desires to rip things apart, including himself. Even if you care nothing for the premise, it is one of the sickest rap songs you'll ever hear. Canibus, the greatest battle rapper of all time, battles HIMSELF for six minutes straight. The sad conclusion to Canibus's inner conflict is that even if one side wins the other still looses, meaning the man can never truly win.

"The Vitruvian Man" marks a presumed Canibus comeback. He is aiming for the top, attacking the mixtape scene via Kay Slay, sounding solid thanks to producer Nottz, networking for success, and with the right focus Canibus can finally procure his destiny as one of the great lyrist of his age. But before unleashing his new material, Canibus warms up those raspy vocal cords to a few cover songs such as "Lean Back," "Breathe," "Real Hip-Hop," and "Savior" in a true mixtape fashion. With rumors running ramped of Canibus going to Iraq, it is good to hear that voice again.

"I'm so updated niggas get frustrated
I'm the best that you ever heard
Nigga fuck your favorite
Fuck a public statement
I'm gonna say it right here
I'm the nicest anywhere"

There is an immediate difference in Canibus's flow though. The veteran's voice and presentation sound just as scathing, but his lyrics lack the vicious precision that earned him the name Rip the Jacker. Hopefully it is only mic rust... "Back With Heat" is the first of ten new tracks. Nottz covers "The Vitruvian Man," and seems to be handling the entirety of Canibus's work for the meantime. Canibus is almost infamous for having shitty beats (with the exception of Stoupe), so it's encouraging to see him working with such a prominent, up-and-coming producer. Things heat up with "It's No Other Than," as Nottz pumps in some bass and a background chorus. The next track, "The Type That," is much more playful, sampling a James Brown blurb for soul and a tap dancing piano for pep. The tone grows much darker as bagpipes whine sullenly over a deep, synthesized bass in "What You Lookin' For," providing just the mood for Canibus to slide into his naturally decadent demeanor.

"I got this beat from Riggs
Yeah I got it from Riggs
Cuz in a minute, I'm gonna be on top of the biz
Try and act like you don't know who it is
I rhyme the globe there is kids who
Play the Canibus quotable quiz
It's like if you ain't a mogul
They don't know who you is
But I'm an oldy in the biz with the vocals and libs
Said so much crazy shit on my last album
They shut down Interpol for two hours
Now that's true power"

Songs and styles continue to sporadically shift direction. "Let Me Love You" has Canibus crooning like a dirty, perverted uncle begging for a piece of ass, while paired next to it is "Tyrique," a poignant story about a boy who is killed trying to protect his older brother. Canibus displays a variety of new flows, but none are as shocking as the shameful sucking-up he does in "Industry Lifestyle," where even his well know enemy Eminem gets a shout out. (I know, say it ain't so.) Two years ago Rip the Jacker was tearing into the politics of the industry with a flow that could stifle anyone in the buisness. Now, Canibus once again seems to have turned a complete 180 back into his congenial, alter ego, Biz.

Maybe he is masochistic. Maybe he has developed a certain, debauched taste for suffering. Because every time he panders to the industry by taming his abilities as an MC he will lose. "The Vitruvian Man" is not bad at all, but somewhat disappointing considering how nice Canibus fans know his flow to be. Once again Bis—or more appropriately Biz—seems to be dumbing down his lyrics and taming his temper all for some still lingering lust for fame. As a long time Canibus fan, I sincerely hope he is not reliving his past mistakes. To truly take hold of his destiny as one of the best, he must rap like one of the best. Simple as that. "The Vitruvian Man" provides solid production and Canibus's voice alone will get your adrenaline pumping faster than a pacemaker next to a microwave. Whether Canibus will be able to reconcile his split intentions, not to mention personalities, remains for a major release to reveal.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: January 25, 2005