It’s entirely coincidental that Vordul Mega would be dropping his new solo album “Megagraphitti” so close to the time Vast Aire dropped “Dueces Wild,” but it’s not a coincidence your dyed-in-the-wool stereotypical backpacker can ignore. After all each man is considered to be an underground rap star on their own, but as the combined forceCannibal Ox their 2001 debut sent waves through indie hip-hop that are still reverberating today. There’s an entirely separate argument to be made at another time and elsewhere that said album’s importance has been overstated and entirely overrated, but this writer acknowledges it’s widely hailed as a classic and was a launching point for each member to go solo. Of the two I’ve found Vast Aire’s post-Ox career more compelling, tending to concur with my compatriot DJ Complejo that Vordul Mega’s voice and choice of beats are at times much more interesting than the verbals he spits.
2008’s “Megagraphitti” is Vordul’s chance to answer those critics while simultaneously making a name for the fledgling Backwoodz Studioz fam. The label’s website claims heritage running all the way back to 2002, but for whatever reason they really haven’t started to make any noise until this year. August 19th is their “D-Day” for recognition, as they plan to simultaneously release “Megagraphitti” and an album by the Invizzibl Men titled “The Unveiling.” It’s safe to say that the success of this venture will depend largely on Vordul Mega, the biggest and most recognized name in their camp, and that his success may determine whether they’re around for ANOTHER six years. As a result both the label and the rapper are going all out on this release. The album is packed with the underground’s favorite hip-hop artists and producers, not the least of which is the aforementioned Vast Aire reuniting the Cann. Ox camp on the Opto produced “AK-47” and Sid Roams laced “In the Mirror.” MF DOOM connections linger just beneath the surface as Megalon from the Monsta Island Czars produces the soulful “Air Battery,” and Wu-Tang is just around the corner on the symphonic “Trigganomics” thanks to Bronze Nazareth. Out of all the names on this album though, it may be the obscure DJ Marmaduke who stands out the most, providing a subtle harmonized boom bap for Mega on the sharp cutting “Hattori Hanzo”:
“We hood cats, came from the dungeons
Spittin hood raps, can’t relax
Tryin to escape the hood’s traps, streets where police’ll snap
Make you flip, wanna spit, loaded clips
You sick, throwin up vomit
In the midst take me away with a spliff
Watchin nighthawks fly in a full eclipse
Don’t talk shit live, do your thing live cause it’s your own perogative”
Marmaduke also comes correct on the floating flutes and clever samples of “Peanut Butta Ups,” leaving me wanting to hear more from the producer named after the silly cartoon dog. There’s plenty of good beats to go around though, from the heavy metal industrial hip-hop rock El-P drops on “Keep Living” featuring Billy Woods to the Lex Boogie laced “Broken Halo” with Invizzibl Men and Hi-Coup, a track reminiscent of Non Phixion for all the right reasons. The aptly titled “Beautiful” is one of Mega’s best tracks, a dedication to the ladies he loves in his family and as entertainers, set to an Armyfatique beat with an uncredited female singer blowing on the hook.
“My jeans remind me of a Jill Scott song
and that makes me feel so good
Makes me wanna travel the hood
Twistin the wood, listenin to R&B songs
Makes me want to cry like Mario
but I hold tears for years of lost ones
All my cousins that lost aunts, know heaven’s the most beautiful place
Or maybe reincarnation and then heaven for such a beautiful face”
Mega’s ability to emotionally connect with his audience and to narrate stories vividly set him apart from a majority of his peers, but at times one gets the impression intended or otherwise that Mega is going through the motions. He doesn’t always seem to be concerned with staying on beat with his raps. Some would say that makes him unconvential, others would say that makes him sloppy, and if I had to choose between the two I would lean more towards the latter. Perhaps it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm for hip-hop after such a long career of paying dues and moving small amounts of units, but if you’re not getting ahead in your rap career after so long that may be the time to cash in your chips and choose another career. Vordul Mega sounds like a man at those crossroads on “Megagraphitti,” working with some of the best talent in the underground today yet leaving you with the impression he knows this is his last chance as a soloist to make it.
The unfortunate coincidence of releasing this album in such close proximity to “Dueces Wild” means comparisons between Vast Aire and Vordul Mega are inevitable, and Aire wins on almost every front – better beats, more compelling lyrics and a flow that feels more animated and energetic. Let me just be blunt about it – if you only had the money to buy one half of the Cannibal Ox solo albums this month, buy Aire’s. If you’ve got the dough for both you can’t go wrong, but Aire’s is the one you’ll listen to again and again, whereas with Mega’s you’ll just pick a few tracks for the mixtape and put it back on the shelf. “Megagraphitti” hints at undelivered potential though, which means if Mega can find the enthusiasm to record one more album he might just deliver on it at long last.