For the past few years EPMD’s classic declaration “rap is outta control” has been echoing throughout the caverns of my cerebellum like a looped mantra. The continued commercial excess of the genre has undeniably diluted the true grit that sparked a bomb in the Bronx back in the late ’70s.
Like Rock n’ Roll before it, Rap has felt the crush of mainstream acceptance, artists emerging like weeds, choking the charts with gold digging pipe dreams. And while this might seem like a problem that is relegated to the chart topping designs of excess, it’s been infiltrating the knapsack security of the underground, as well. The ongoing glut of self-produced “independent” MCs is about as smothering as the continued dominance of pop and circumstance.
Yet every once in a blue moon along comes an MC and/or a producer who bring it all back to Square One, digging through the crates to craft thumping, turgid beats that snap your neck like a twig and adorning them with verve and spit spackled lyrical insanity. Vast Aire, best known for his stint in Cannibal Ox, is one such MC. That he saw fit to team up with the High And Mighty’s DJ Mighty Mi for what they are rightfully billing as The Best Damn Rap Show is a godsend to lovers of the genre the world over.
Calling out MCs by saying “I’m Fonzie, you’re Erkle” and accusing them of “more faking the face than Joan Rivers,” Vast delivers a mixture of vitriolically clever battle taunts (“Fighter Pilots”) and insightful introspection (“The Workover”) with a vocal dexterity that is both passionately aggressive and wittily deft. But every great MC needs to be backed by an equally clever DJ/producer. To this end, DJ Mighty Mi has laid down a plethora of grooves, beats, loops, and breaks that packs an extra wallop of aural sickness that Mighty Mi.
The album commences with a wonderfully swervy serving of tripped out, extremely warped Blues intonations on the title track. Featuring treated guitar, gurgling undergrooves, and falsetto tenor vocal crooning, it’s the perfect combination of psychedelic enhanced hip-hop to lure the unsuspecting into the melee that will soon follow.
“What Goes Up” sets the mood for the bulk of the album as Mighty Mi lays down a drum heavy beat and Vast talks about fools who will “scatter like roaches when the lightbulb’s lit” and reminds us that he’s “legendary in the belly of rap.” From there the track gets injected with tumbling electro gurgle that rumbles underneath Vast’s vitriol. “Taboo” hits you with treated strings and piano pulses that provide the perfect sense of angst ridden musicality to complement Vast’s rants. By the time the duo stride into “The Workover” we’ve been treated to the strongest opening of any rap album of recent memory. This is the linchpin track on the album, the one that lets Vast exhibit his storytelling abilities, which are just as tight as his battle bravado. The haunting vocal loop and vibraphone tickle make it one of the sweeter beats on the album, as well.
Vast and Mi get party oriented on “Buck 50 Express,” handclaps and swelling guitar bits augmenting the flow. Lest one thinks that the entire album is all about raps, Mi delivers some bugged out ministrumentals in the form of “Friendly Fire,” “Black Sunday,” “Aire Maestro,” and “Off The Board,” which manage to mix up looped blurbs and blurts from Vast with found sound and intricate beat attitude that runs the gamut from ’70s blaxploitation to late night lounge jazz.
While Vast Aire’s turn in Cannibal Ox gave us one of the greatest mind trips of recent rap memory, here he and Mighty Mi have gone straight for the jugular, delivering rock solid beats, Vibram soled rhyme attitude, and an overwhelming sense of what real rap music is supposed to sound like. True, solid, and damn near mind-blowing.
by Spence D