Cannibal Ox – Selected Rarities and B-sides

(Cover by John Turner Jr. Track list and download link can be found after the jump.)

Although Cannibal Ox’s critical reception remains generally positive, the duo’s talent is underrated and as a result, their music is misunderstood.  Their only album — 2001’s The Cold Vein— and its official singles are subjected to greater scrutiny than the rest of their discography: a scattered collection of cameos, freestyles, compilations cuts, b-sides, and assorted rarities. This is inevitable and understandable but also unfortunate. Critics focus their praise on producer El-P’s efforts to construct a cohesively dark, dissonant, cohesive vibe for the album, in the process diminishing the contributions of emcees Vast and Vordul.  The duo’s larger body of work, which both anticipates and deviates from the sound and vision of The Cold Vein, is only further obscured as a result.

The reception culture of The Cold Vein spins false binaries out of thin air in an effort to pin The Cold Vein‘s distinct feel to the influence of its immediate predecessor, Company Flow’s Funcrusher Plus. The logic employed suggests that since the mostly El-P-produced Funcrusher Plus is a salvo aimed at an increasingly glossy, shallow, ephemeral mid-90s east coast rap scene, then the The Cold Vein —and by extension the entirety of Cannibal Ox’s discography— is inextricably linked to the the aesthetic and philosophy of the loosely defined “underground.” The flaws of this line of thought are numerous, and yet most reviews of the group’s music position a short list of the album’s perceived positives — e.g., its “griminess,” “social consciousness,” “spaciness,”— against their diametric opposites, which must logically rule the “mainstream.”

But Funcrusher Plus —and the fabled  DIY/Indie/Underground scene that is associated with that album—  is hardly the only influence that is evident in Cannibal Ox’s music. Their sound and style is not the surprisingly tidy result of  a controlled collision between science-fiction and the streets, or the mindsets of “backpackers” and “gat packers” as Peter Shapiro once quipped, either. Their fascination with the streets as a  perverse version of biblical heaven and hell is shared by occasional chart-climbing, decidedly spacey middlegrounders like Mobb Deep; their disdain for inferior emceeing is shared by all of their everyman peers in the “underground. Their style, however, is much messier, much more unruly than any of these influences; their non-Cold Vein output testifies to an ability to adapt their free form cipher styles to a variety of situations without camouflaging their idiosyncrasies.

A perusal of their best non-Cold Vein song reveals incredible diversity in terms of sound, mood, and message. It is true that even apart from El-P’s orbit, Vast and Vordul’s lyrics are often concerned with the integrity of the art form of rap and filled with nerdy references to genre fiction, and that many of their beats sound dusty and dystopian, if you will. But their lyrics are also concerned with breaking free from the bleakness of both their literal surroundings and, perhaps more importantly, the destructive outlooks that these surroundings nurture. The sentiments that Vast and Vordul express on their songs alternate between militant anger, melancholic brooding, and wishful serenity,  and their are moments of levity and eccentricity sprinkled throughout. Their backing music shapeshifts just as severely and frequently; it isn’t all dark cosmic chasms and cacaphony.

Take the time to soak in this compilation, presented to you by the good denizens of  TROY, Steady Bloggin’, and Philaflava. We feel that it reflects the very best of Vast and Vordul’s non-Cold Vein output as a duo and showcases their versatility while sounding surprisingly cohesive. Enjoy. — Thun

Download: Cannibal Ox Selected Rarities and B-Sides


Cosmos (Cannibal Ox & Rob Swift, Cosmos 12″)

Atoms All-Stars (Atoms Family, The Prequel)

Swing Blades (Jean Grae, Hater’s Anthem 12”)

Mecca & The Ox (Vast Aire, Deuces Wild)

Not For Promotional Use (Atoms Family, The Prequel)

Cold Vein -Cold Cryptic Remix  (Cannibal Ox, Return of the Ox: Live @ CMJs)

Classic Freestyle #1

Metal Gear (Cannibal Ox, F-Word EP)

Cannibal JFK (Vordul Mega, Yung World)

Handle That (Vordul Mega, The Revolution of Yung Havoks)

Bloodsport (Mighty Joseph, Empire State)

Life’s Ill (Cannibal Ox, F-Word EP)

Classic Freestyle # 2

Brothaz remix (Mr. Lif & Cannibal Ox, Various Artists, Definitive Swim)

From The Planet of Eat (Cannibal Ox, Return of the Ox: Live @ CMJs)

F-Word (RJD2 Remix) (Def Jux Bucket of B-Sides)

Carry On (C Rayz Walz ft. Karniege, Quan Grimy, Cannibal Ox, Glorian Light, Free Rayz Walz)

In The Mirror (Vordul Mega ft. Vast Aire, Megagraphitti)

AK-47 (Vordul Mega, Megagraphitti)

Angels and Insects (ft. Kasm) – (Angels and Insects compilation)

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