Remember when I said that 50 Cent was the most polarizing figure in hip-hop? Well, for some odd reason, Canibus is right there with him. I mean, there is absolutely no in between with 'Bis. You either absolutely love him with every fiber of your being, or you despise him beyond belief. That may also depend on whether or not you like Eminem (for obvious reasons), but there are some exceptions.
Anyway, let's flash back to 1997, the year The Notorious B.I.G. was murdered. New York was searching aimlessly for a rapper to replace Biggie as one of the city's jewels. Of course, Nas, Jay-Z, and Mobb Deep were huge at this time, but B.I.G.'s death certainly left a void. Who would fill it? DMX? Nah; he dropped three very good albums far too close to one another, and then he just dropped off the map altogether. The L.O.X.? Nope. They simply didn't have enough material. Same went for the Wu members (in terms of solo projects).
Enter Canibus, a young, fiery, and otherworldly intelligent rapper hailing from Jamaica. In 1997, he made several feature appearances that lit the hip-hop world on fire, including a verse on The Firm's "Desperados," and one on the song that truly jump-started his career, LL Cool J's "4,3,2,1." I think pretty much all of us know the story of Bis' beef with LL, but if not, I'll either enlighten you or refresh your memory.
When Canibus recorded his verse for LL's track, he rapped a line that said, "Yo LL, is that a mic on your arm? Let me borrow that!" (Just to clarify, LL has a tattoo of a microphone on his arm.) For some reason, LL took this as some sort of diss and reciprocated in kind on his verse, which became a diss aimed at Canibus. However, LL told 'Bis that if he would change his verse as to not include the line about his tattoo, he would remove his combative remarks toward him. Well, Canibus agreed, which was when LL Cool J pulled the ultimate bitch move by not holding up his end of the bargain and leaving his assault on the young MC on the track.
Infuriated by LL's cowardly behavior, Canibus recorded the famous "Second Round K.O.," a scathing diss record that stripped LL of his manhood (metaphorically, of course) and effectively destroyed his reputation (don't believe me? Take a look at how severely LL's record sales plummeted after the diss was released in '98). There are actually some people who maintain that LL Cool J won that beef, but said people are, um, idiots.
Despite all of the attention Canibus was getting, he hadn't even released an album yet. Then, Can-I-Bus was announced, and the hype for 'Bis' debut was off-the-charts. Knowing how sick of a lyricist the kid was, no one could wait to hear the Jamaican rip an album full of raw, grimy beats with the illest punchlines and widest vocabulary known to man.
Unfortunately for 'Bis, Can-I-Bus was not received well at all. Critics dubbed the production on the project as being very bland and too "soft" for Canibus' in-your-face style. However, there are also those (like myself) who felt that the album's production was fantastic and that Canibus' lyrical dexterity was enough to make Can-I-Bus a more than listenable affair, anyway.
Now that I've given you a fairly substantial amount of background information (and no; I didn't forget his beef with Em, as that came much later), let's dig into the review.
The album starts off with a banger co-produced by Jerry Wonder and Danny & Cyrus, and Canibus rips it right from the get-go: "I'll make your bitch crew shit stools, I'll put a pistol, in your mouth and pull, then I'll feed you to the pitbulls." I think it's blatantly obvious that 'Bis wrote the verse for featured female rapper Free (who gets the second verse), as it sounds like something only Canibus himself could come up with (why not just rap it yourself then, 'Bis?). Anyway, Can-I-Bus is off to an impressive start.
2. Get Retarded
This beat has a county twang to it, as it consists of a guitar strum backed by some thumping kicks and snares, and I love it. The hook on this track certainly serves well in this day and age: "Nine out of ten of these rap artists is garbage, you spineless, rhymeless, niggas is heartless." I also love the little jab he throws at LL Cool J: "When I bomb shit, I get retarded, probably more than you bargained, I'm talkin' about rippin' mic off your arm shit." Sick, sick track all-around. Salaam Remi produced it, by the way.
This is my favorite track off of Can-I-Bus. The Jerry Wonder and LG co-produced beat is more relaxing than one could ever imagine, and Canibus drops loads of memorable lines, including: "If you a nigga with a watch, this iced style with enough rocks to make the hottest room temperature drop, how long will it take for you to get robbed? (say what?), how long will it be before you get robbed? (what?)," and, "Now if your song played on the radio for the first time, four days ago, now that shit is rotational, who got paid off to play it? (I ain’t scared to say it), said who the fuck got paid off to play it? (I ain’t scared to say shit)." One of the best cuts 'Bis has ever done.
4. Second Round K.O.
Which brings us to the LL diss, and Canibus' assault just does not seem to end. I mean, the track even features Mike Tyson (he isn't rapping, though), so obviously, 'Bis pulled out all the stops. He gets right to it with his first lines: "Yo I'ma let the world know the truth, you don't want me to shine, you studied my rhyme, then you laced your vocals after mine, that's a bitch move, something that a homo rapper would do, so when you say that you platinum, you only droppin' clues." 'Bis then kills LL, resuscitates him, and then kills him again here: "Now watch me rip the tat from your arm, kick you in the groin, stick you for your Vanguard award, in front of your mom your first, second and third born, make your wife get on the horn call Minister Farrakhan." Oh my Lord. The banging, hard-hitting beat from Wyclef makes Canibus' attack seem all the more furious.
5. What's Going On
Canibus goes from beefing to peacemaking on this cut (not with LL, though), as he questions why people walk around and get into gunfights, rapping: "I swear, y'all niggas need to chill with that, bringing your handguns to every God damn club I perform at." The beat, co-produced by Jerry Wonder and LG, is very chill and down to earth similar to that of "Niggonometry." Very good record.
6. I Honor U
'Bis dedicates this track to his mother. While the Jerry Wonder and Wyclef beat isn't exactly nails and the sample on the hook does not go with the production at all, Canibus' lyrics and message supersede those blemishes. Still, him rapping about the sperm cell that fertilized his mother's egg on the second verse was slightly disturbing. Mature, but disturbing.
Can-I-Bus presents us with another relaxing beat here, this time co-produced by Jerry Wonder and Joe Servilus. 'Bis spits the ultimate truth about some "friends" on this track: "I know most the niggas I exchange pounds with or lounge with, wouldn't be around if my career was spiraling downward." As you might be able to guess from the song's title, Canibus discusses all of the hype he has built up for himself.
8. How We Roll
Even the naysayers about the beats on this album have to love this one. "How We Roll," produced by Clark Kent, knocks, and it houses what may very well be Canibus' strongest lyrical performance on the album, and that's saying a lot: "I'm the type of MC, that rocks for the glory, I don't give a fuck if you ignore me or camcord me, freestyle or written, spittin' with infinite ammunition, for anybody tryin' to go the distance, I promise ya no less than a hundred-thousand kilometers, my bomb threats'll have you evacuating your continent, I'm barbaric with the alphanumeric, hittin' you with lyrics that separate your body from your spirit." Later, 'Bis spits: "What I say should be displayed at the Smithsonian, your rhymes are phonier than cubic zirconias." Just stop, 'Bis. Stop. Actually, no; don't.
9. Channel Zero
Well, this one is a little strange, as Canibus spends "Channel Zero" rapping about aliens. Don't get me wrong; he absolutely kills this lyrically, but you can't help but chuckle a little bit when listening to this.
10. Let's Ride
A Kid Called Roots (no; that's really his name) and Wyclef lay out a beat that certainly lives up to the track's name; this definitely is something you can ride to. 'Bis, to the surprise of no one, raps some sick lines: "Whenever I'm rappin' or rhymin', with irrefutably remarkable timin', I'm like, Charlie Chaplin pantomimin'." The hook on this track is different after every verse, and each one is pretty enjoyable, as an artist named Pro adds a nice reggae element to the track, and Wyclef and Pras (of the Fugees) drop some adlibs each time. I didn't really like this cut at first, but it has grown on me.
11. Buckingham Palace
Banger. Banger. Banger. Throw this on in your ride, and you'll see what I mean, as the drums on this thump, and the Indian-flavored background just makes it all the more better. Canibus is vicious on this record, spitting: "What's the difference? Y'all niggas still ain't in lyrical fitness, too busy mixin' your business with your bitches, while I be in the lab composing forbidden scriptures, so wicked I got, Satan ejaculating on his fingers." Damn. This is one of Can-I-Bus' most popular songs, and with good reason. "Buckingham Palace" was co-produced by Jerry Wonder and Wyclef.
12. Rip Rock
Okay Canibus; what the hell is this? You give us an entire album of sick tracks, and you decide to end it with this? Basically, this is a rap/rock mashup, and it is absolutely horrendous. There is a very good chance the beat will give you a seizure. I seriously want to know what in the living hell 'Bis, Jerry Wonder, and Wyclef were thinking when they got into the studio and recorded this garbage. Terrible, terrible way to end the album. Fortunately, the rest of Can-I-Bus was good enough where I can almost forget this.
Say what you want, but Can-I-Bus is a classic. That's right; I said it's a classic. You are not going to find many albums with lyrics this deep or punchlines this eviscerating. The way I see it, only two artists can even compare to Canibus lyrically, and they are Pharoahe Monch (who I believe is the all-around best lyricist of all-time) and Chino XL; that's it. You can make a case for someone like Killah Priest or Ras Kass, but even that's pushing it, as 'Bis is simply on another level entirely.
For those who complain about the production on this album? Well, I'm not really sure what they're hearing, because I think the beats on Can-I-Bus are terrific. Are they all suitable for Canibus' aggressive persona? Maybe not, but 'Bis displays the ability to kill any beat, even "Rip Rock" (as bad as that song was, Canibus managed to hold his own). I am the type that can really appreciate laid-back production, so a lot of the cuts on this project ("Niggonometry, "What's Going On," "Hype-Nitis," etc.) really put me in a zone.
I really do not understand why Canibus has so many detractors. I mean, you'd really have to be some kind of moron to deny that this dude has ridiculous talent, arguably more than any rapper that has ever graced the face of the earth. Maybe it's because a lot of people aren't actually intelligent enough to comprehend what he is saying, because, for some people, a single bar by 'Bis will have them fumbling for a dictionary in a matter of seconds. Oh, and a warning to all rappers out there (looking at you in particular, Royce Da 5'9"): do not diss Canibus. It is essentially a death wish for your reputation (see: LL Cool J, and even Eminem to an extent).
When I tell people that Canibus is the best to ever do it, they look at me like I'm growing a second head. Well, maybe you should actually listen to some of his stuff before you are so quick to judge, because, to put it plainly, Canibus is ill.
End of discussion.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
2. Second Round K.O.
3. Buckingham Palace
4. Get Retarded
5. How We Roll