Do Remember: Cannibal Ox’s Painkillers (Video)
This month, after 14 years, a reunited Cannibal Ox announced a sophomore album, Blade Of The Ronin. The announcement after years of refuting the prospects of a follow-up to 2001’s The Cold Vein debut. As time evolved, Vast Aire and Vordul Mega pursued solo careers, still making songs on each other’s albums. Meanwhile, producer El-P, who had launched the group on one of Company Flow’s final singles, had also dived into his own solo pursuits, plus work with Mr. Lif, Cage, and extensive work with Killer Mike, leading into Run The Jewels. Now, Vast and Vordul return together, with a message and the proper timing.
Now backed by iHipHop Distribution, Can Ox revealed “Iron Rose,” joined by an artist who was very present around their artistic birth: MF DOOM.
The song carried a throwback quality, though not overhanded. Instead, all three MCs found the pocket favored by fans, and the product of a bygone era of New York City and Hip-Hop alike.
One thing that Vast and Vordul have to their advantage is the imagination of listeners. A big part of that is two NYC MCs who favor imagery, intricate detail, and similes and metaphors that are much more advanced than many of their peers. The other truth is, Cannibal Ox was always a group that was relegated to the music—a novel thought in the 2000s.
There are very few press photos of Vast Aire and Vordul Mega together, let alone videos, interviews, and the like. While Revenge Of The Robots, the early 2000s Definitive Jux Recordings double-disc DVD showed Vast Aire at work, with some montage makeshift visuals to Cold Vein tracks, there appears to be only “Painkillers” in the duo’s discography.
The El-Producto-produced track 13 of the LP is an ode to over-the-counter cheap self-medication, partly due to a stressful world around. Added to YouTube by Def Jux’s account in 2007, more than five years after Can Ox went on hiatus, leaving the label, the 2000-2001 video shows the duo, kickin’ it in decrepit NYC, smoky apartments and crowded hallways, with bygone shirt labels on. In its own weird way, this vibe is what made Can Ox great—birthed in a textured reality, with an otherworldly approach to writing and sound. The video, with less than 40,000 views, goes on the radar—but completely deserves to be remembered.
Think the magic can still be captured in 2015?
#BonusBeat: Check out Can Ox, El-P, Mr. Lif, J-Treds, Jean Grae, Yak Ballz, and Mr. Len on radio kick this early 2000s 55-minute freestyle: