Canibus :: Melatonin Magik :: War Lab Records
as reviewed by Joe Howard

[Melatonin Magik] Around 11:30 PM on June 4th, 2007 Canibus' eighth album "For Whom the Beat Tolls" leaked onto the internet and into the eager ears of the diehard Canibus fans that had for so long been waiting on a release to rival the magnificence of his universally acclaimed fifth album "Rip the Jacker." After feverishly searching for a legitimate torrent I finally acquired a quality version and burned it onto a blank disc. For the first time Canibus had put out a record that maintained his artistic integrity while allowing him to cross into new and unknown areas of replay value. Big, atmospheric beats with bass, hooks and choruses that were more anthemic. It was a good album. Still though, something was missing. Although the album sold well there really wasn't that sense of redemption, or that feeling of victory the Canibus universe had been waiting on for an entire decade. We all knew that even though the album was hot, a mediocre, or confused follow up was probable and chances were the satisfaction would only be a temporary high. Not this time. "Melatonin Magik" not only does justice to Canibus' criminally under-acknowledged skills as a rap artist, it may very well be the most important album of his career.

In signing to DZK's War Lab Entertainment Canibus has aligned himself with the proper management and team of promoters to reinvigorate the man that was considered the latter-day Rakim twelve years ago. Over the years 'Bis has alluded to his disillusionment with the music industry and resentment towards the cruel set of circumstances surrounding his meteoric fall from the spotlight, but this time around, rather than rhyme about it Canibus settles old scores with a defiant display of poise. On the opening track, the Blastah Beatz produced "Melatonin Magik", Canibus tears shit down over a riotous beat that employs one of the most prominent music samples used in LL Cool J's "The Ripper Strikes Back". No more subliminals or under the radar potshots this time around. 'Bis is more interested in not only making a direct reference to the diss-track that may very well have shot him out of the sky in 1998, but proving to us, and to himself that even if he was considered the inferior artist then, he is the far superior artist now. This is the sound of a man that woke up one day and realized he wasn't about to go out without one decisive big bang. On the following track "Kriminal Kindness," also produced by Blastah Beatz, Canibus makes a direct reference to the criticisms that have plagued his career and undoubtedly poured fuel on this long overdue fire:

"Yo, I've been dealing with hate since 1998
I punished the industry by dominating mixtapes
None of y'all could stop the onslaught of those bars
Rainfall and fireballs fell from the stars
The speech pattern of God, I ripped off weak rappers' jaws
- Whoever ignored lyrical law
Hip Hop didn't understand it at all
They couldn't manage my thoughts
So I retreated to the land of the lost
Don't talk about beats, talk about bars
Canibus so raw that rejection is your only response
Give a fuck if I sell one unit
'Cause that was never the motivation for me to do this, STUPID"

Canibus sounds inspired, and very pissed off. So much so that he even mustered up the bravado to diss Eminem with a little help from Warlab owner DZK, and affiliate Warbux. Produced wonderfully by Canadian rapper-producer Engineer, "Air Strike (Pop Killer)" is awesome. Not just because of the lyrics, or because it's Canibus going at someone's throat for the first time in a decade, but because Canibus, DZK, and Warbux apparently purchased verses from D12, placed them into the song, and then dissed Eminem completely unbeknownst to D12 until the song's internet release. Garnering over 150,000 views on YouTube and drawing numerous threats from Royce Da 5'9 and members of D12 (yet none from Eminem himself), the song is a prime example of why signing to the War Lab was such a good move on Canibus' part. These guys obviously know what they are doing. Not only that, Warlab owner DZK and associate Warbux are extremely good rappers in their own right. Even though they both shut it down, Canibus steals the show:

"You pushed D12 to the side to sign Voltron 5
If Proof was alive, he'd be dying inside
You ain't no hip-hop Messiah
You a bitch 'cause you dissed Mariah
Ima fry you on behalf of Mariah and Michael
Put you back on them drugs, make you suicidal
I remember the first time we met, I ain't even like you
Walkin' around my video set like you was in High School"

Oh shit. This is a Canibus album right? So "Melatonin Magik" really can't be that consistent, right? Yes it can, and believe me, Can can bus. "Ripperland" produced by The Legendary Charlie G sounds like it was lifted from the "Rip the Jacker" sessions, and that is a very good thing. "Gold and Bronze Magik" featuring Copywrite and Bronze Nazareth is one of the most laid back, golden age era tracks in Canibus' catalogue. "Dead By Design", complete with a mesmerizing beat courtesy of Engineer contains some of the craziest, eye opening lyrics of not only Canibus' career, but that I personally have ever heard, warning listeners of how dangerous the media can be. If I were to go through all the tracks on this album and review them individually it would become redundant because there is not a single weak song out of the entire sixteen. Reuniting with Journalist for a sparring session on "Stomp On Ya Brain" is another highlight that will delight fans of the "2000BC" era Canibus. The guest list for "Melatonin Magik" might contain names you don't recognize, but everyone pulls their weight. Don't believe me? My pick for the best song on this album is the first posse cut on the tracklisting, "Post Traumatic Warlab Stress" featuring DZK, and Warbux tearing shit up on a beat produced by Sicknature that's sick as hell. Not to be outperformed on what may be his crowning achievement, Canibus spits what may arguably the illest verse of his career:

"I'm the black mutant of rap music, half-human
half-Vladimir Putin, after the plasma transfusion
I became Rasputin, the master of translucence
Who lives in a Green House, creating green gas pollution
Smoking hash from hookahs
Before Lucifer sent me back to the future to smash computers
Assassinate classes of students, I spare those who show classic improvement
Produce magic acoustics, supreme music you should dream so lucid
We live in a free country, that phrase is so fuckin' funny
We know freedom is based off your money
Resources to hide behind lawyers, it must be lovely
When nobody can touch ya lunchmeat
We brainwashed, we can't get these White Collar stains off
Bernard R. Madoff belongs in the graveyard
The Stock Market tradeoff doesn't pay off
We get laid off, the country spirals into chaos
I'm no genius, I know enough not to trust FEMA"

When I watched the final episode of Conan O'Brien's tenure on The Tonight Show two weeks ago I was particularily intrigued by his heartfelt monologue about cynicism. The comedian took a step back and allowed the human being inside of the comedian speak truthfully, almost breaking into tears. It was an act of fearless honesty that made me realize just how much Canibus is taken for granted. The man has stood what little ground he has left for years, and has experienced criticism and scrutiny without leniency with each major label release. His emotional wounds at the hands of the music industry are unfathomable, and his pride must be seemingly impossible to reconstruct considering he's in his mid 30's and being outsold by talentless 18 year olds right? Guess again. Canibus has released some panned albums and made some perplexing career decisions.. but none of that matters this time around. On "Melatonin Magik" it is the resolve, and character of Germaine Williams that triumphs. It is the production, the concepts, the theme, and intensity of this album that succeeds where his previous albums have failed. Rip the Jacker may have validated his talent, but I honestly believe "Melatonin Magik" has validated the man. Canibus is a soldier that has persevered for well over a decade, subjecting himself to personal distress and emotional pain just to nourish the minds of a modest, but rabid small fan base. Even if he never reaches Billboard again, or releases a critically acclaimed album again, Canibus will still march on. "Melatonin Magik" is the War Lab's nuclear bomb of such magnitude that Canibus deserves forgiveness for his previous duds and head-scratchers over the years. Canibus fans you've earned, and deserve this album.

Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 9 of 10

Originally posted: February 16, 2010