Cannibal Ox's Vast Aire can be quite the dis-meister. Recall his stinger from "Iron Galaxy," the opening cut on Cannibal Ox's now-legendary debut album: "You were a stillborn baby/Mother didn't want you but you were still born." Intricate, unpredictable and aggressive wordplay made Vast's name in Cannibal Ox, and it's a skill he continues to hone as a solo artist.
Â Â Â Â Â "Of course, battle rapping was a huge part of me coming up," the Harlem native shares by cell phone. "It keeps you sharp. It's like two boxers sparring. That's the original intent of rap. It wasn't supposed to be somebody preaching to you, or trying to force their views on you. It was two dudes on their staircase door, cracking jokes on each other."
Â Â Â Â Â Vast is trying to get his point across above the noise of the hungry, joke-cracking posse on his tour bus. C-Rayz Walz, J-Live and Vordul Megilah (Vast's co-conspirator in Cannibal Ox) are all on board for "The Best Damn Rap Tour," and even though they're trolling around Boulder, Colo., looking for a place to eat, Vast manages to continue his point.
Â Â Â Â Â "But then, as a musician," he says, "you learn that there are more things to say than 'I'm hot' or 'I'm dope' or 'I'm the best' and that's where stories and little themes come out. Because you start to learn that it's better to show you're the best, rather than to say you are the best."
Â Â Â Â Â One such "show and prove"-type cut is "The Workover," from his latest LP, The Best Damn Rap Show, a collaboration with DJ Mighty Mi that, as Vast puts it, "lyrically `gets in` your ass, and lyrically make`s` you think about something." "The Workover" finds the charismatic MC spanning decades in minutes, assuming the voice of a series of anonymous personas: from a jobless jazz-era drummer ("I got up at 5 a.m. just to feed my kids/It's hard to eat when you ain't got no gigs") to a Vietnam draft-dodger ("Hell if I care what Elvis did/I'ma stay home with them Woodstock kids"), jokingly putting his spin on crucial historical moments like the Great Depression ("We was still black so we ain't give two shits") and the women's movement ("Females ripped their bras like Hulk Hogan").
Â Â Â Â Â "I was trying to show that you don't need 36-bar verses to tell a story. Those are three 16-bar verses that get straight to the point," brags the 27-year-old.
Â Â Â Â Â When asked about the new turn in hip-hop toward the glorification of the producer, Vast says it's all good, that producers and DJs have been disrespected for too long and it's about time they got their due.
Â Â Â Â Â "The DJ is the heart of hip-hop that's the n***a who was running the block party and lugging all his goddamn equipment to the park not the MC. The MC was pussy-footin', selling drugs, chasing women or doing something stupid. So we have to pay homage to the real foundation."