I know I’m one of only a few diehards remaining still volunteering to cover new Canibus projects, but the infamous rhyme machine continues to possess more interesting thoughts within one verse than many emcees assemble across the length of an album. That doesn’t necessarily equate to great rap music, something demonstrated by the last two records we reviewed: the criminally short “C” with Pete Rock and the messy monster that was “Kaiju”. Churning out material on more than an annual basis, we are now presented with the ludicrously titled “Self Licking Ice Cream Cone”, referencing a piece of political jargon term describing something that sustains itself despite serving no justifiable purpose. Think reality TV or increased military defense budgets. There are many emcees whose careers could be defined as self-licking ice cream cones, given they continue to rap without adding anything of value to their catalog (or the culture). One must keep rapping, because one is a rapper.

The hunger of emcees with 25 years in the industry will often be fuelled by a passion for the art of emceeing, and Canibus is an artist that will continue to be studied by lyricists and aficionados in decades to come. His albums vary in quality from otherworldly demonstrations of spitting bars over epic soundscapes, to confusing word salads atop beats you’d advertise paracetamol with. Frequent collaborator Johnny Slash is on board for “S.L.I.C.C.” and he’s captured Canibus brilliantly, in that the quality is up one minute, down the next. The introduction, much like Kurupt & C-Mob’s recent LP, boasts a beat that generates enough intensity you can’t help but salivate at what’s to come.

“I did things beyond your flow, eons ago”

A thumping instrumental with Canibus lines scratched over it is hard not to enjoy – it’s one of hip-hop’s great joys. Yet, the rest of the album never quite lives up to this promise of a GOAT contender finally delivering a record worth shouting about. The primary issue is the solo songs sound different from the collaborative ones; it’s like listening to two different Canibuses. Kurupt, Killah Priest, and Ras Kass reunite on the vaguely titled “Part 2”, which sees Ras Kass steal the show with an explanation behind his chosen rap moniker, and you’ve got a predictably elite list of emcees onboard elsewhere. Crooked I, Kool G Rap, Ab-Soul, and Hus Kingpin all do their best with production that rarely rises above the ordinary, something most HRSMN (and Canibus) albums ultimately suffer from. With a voice “commanding you to bow down to it” that’s already divisive to some for how cutting it is over beats, it varies in execution too. It grates your ears on “He, Who Cut Down the Hemp Tree” and sounds bored on “Slack Jawed Fascists”. The problem with recent Canibus records is there’s no quality control or direction. It’s bars and beats, veering wildly from paranoid inner thoughts to age-old boasts of superiority. The impressive vocabulary remains intact, as does the unique ability to still sound like a cyborg designed to rap indefinitely. The collaborations still have their merits, namely the Ab-Soul track “4 Characters” which is proper Canibus, despite sonically sounding like a track from a different project. He channels the ferocity we know, and ultimately admire him for, then returns back to conversational mode on the absurd “Press – PussyPanic Button”.  

Not known for his hooks, Bis makes a “temporary feel-good song” with “Weedabuk”, before descending into an outlandish, incomprehensible second verse (again, delivered in a different tone):

“The Age of Pisces, modern mutated aquatic life with no fins
Find it hard to swim through the seas much less breathe
It is known that they’ve been known to freeze
Because of their spliced genes
They wiggle and dance to the beat playing Nintendo Wii
I skipped Bilderberg in order to go to Davos this time
I really happen to like their caviar avocado lime
A hero with a thousand faces, and ten thousand salutations
After a few thousand evaluations
I see reparations pending right next to black billionaires spending and trending
Both are projecting but only one is pretending
Humans with distinct skeletal structures, no qualifiers
All-nighters racing in the Hillbilly grand prix with bald tires
In my boots and my stetsons, snub-nose strapped in my fanny pack
They ask ‘Am I black?’ Of course not, I’m pigment handicapped”

You have to admire the creative writing, but the production doesn’t help maintain the listener’s interest. Both this and “Loyalty” possess an irritating ‘fly buzzing’ feel, miles off the strong beats “Lyrical Law”, “Melatonin Magick” and “C of Tranquility” had, let alone the underground classic that is “Rip the Jacker”. I can’t dismiss all future Canibus records after another disappointing experience, but it’s increasingly difficult to fly the flag for his music. Recent interviews with Math Hoffa demonstrate an intelligent and likable man that has had an eventful time in the music industry, but it’s now been a good decade since a Canibus album suitably demonstrated his undeniable abilities. He’s in danger of becoming the so-called self-licking ice cream cone.

Canibus & Johnny Slash :: Self Licking Ice Cream Cone
5.5Overall Score