Talib Kweli, a rapper often mentioned on this blog as well as in conversations about elite emcees, has a podcast named The People’s Party. Its format is a simple yet effective one : invite a guest that people who would tune in to a podcast hosted by Kweli could be interested in, then have the best imaginable conversation with said guest. Let me tell you, it works extremely well. You should definitely check it out on youtube.
So, a few months ago the guest on the show was none other than producer/rapper extraordinaire El-P. Although he’s been on a tear for the past few years as one half of gargantuan hip hop duo Run The Jewels, El-P has been around for decades. He’s produced countless underground gems, and has earned himself a fiercely loyal following. Today, I would like to bring your attention to an album which i feel is not talked about enough, which i feel doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves.
The album is The Cold Vein.
The group is Cannibal Ox.
The producer is El-P.
Ladies and gentlemen, here are 5 reasons why Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein should be included in your rotation ASAP.
Reason #1 : You enjoy science-fiction movies. I once saw an interview during which a young El-P mentioned that Blade Runner was his favourite movie. It makes sense. The instrumentals on The Cold Vein definitely could’ve scored Ridley Scott’s masterpiece or any other movie set in the far future. Its sound was eerie, dark and otherworldly. Interestingly enough, the album’s cover art was a clear indication of what was about to happen once the music started.
Reason #2 : Vast Aire. One of the two emcees of the group. If we’re talking pure rapping skills, he wasn’t on his partner Vordul Mega’s level. However, he was waaaaaaaay more interesting. Vast’s approach to writing was absolutely unique. When he rapped I saw super heroes fighting super villains, I saw spaceships landing on hostile worlds, I saw planets being destroyed by exploding suns. Vast Aire’s raps were a portal to another dimension. Again, science-fiction.
Notable lyrics from Scream Phoenix:
« …We’re in the ninth innig, and I’m God body trying to win / Flying against the wind
But now my shell is weightless and fireproof / But the truth is I’m proof of living fire… ».
Reason #3 : Even by today’s standards, it probably sounds different than any rap album you’ve ever heard. I think all of us at some point have read the track listing on the back of a CD in order to get an idea of what the album’s vibe might be. An album’s title and the title of its tracks are a glimpse into the artist’s intentions. Let’s take a look at a few of these titles. Iron Galaxy. Atom. Battle for Asgard. The F-Word. Stress Rap. Scream Phoenix. Are you feeling inspired yet?
Reason #4 : Vordul Mega. The group’s other emcee.His voice, his thoughts, his wordplay. They all came together to form this monster rapper. It actually seemed that he was specifically designed for THAT specific project. He and Vast Aire complemented each other perfectly.
Notable lyrics from Scream Phoenix :
« …We’re like merchants, Street peasants with these lessons / Live, build, and pass away, and keep stressin’
Thinking how we gonna master days / With passion, that’s why we rap this way… ».
Reason #5 : It was the first full length album to be released on El-P’s label, Definitive Jux. To those of us that care about underground, lesser known hip hop, it is a very important piece of history.