Mic Club Music
little more than half a decade ago, an MC named Canibus burst on the scene in a blaze of glory. Even then it was obvious -- he was the man. His guest appearance on The Firm’s “Desperadoes” and The Lost Boyz’ “Beasts from the East” were mind-blowing affairs. As a follow up, he delivered one of the greatest verses of all time on LL Cool J’s “4, 3, 2, 1”. But something didn’t sit well with Uncle L. In the original cut of the song, Canibus asked to borrow the microphone tattoo on LL’s arm. And, in retaliation, LL aimed his verse on the song at Canibus, beginning one of hip-hop’s greatest battles. Paired up with Wyclef Jean as executive producer on his debut album, Canibus’ diss back to LL, “2nd Round Knockout” was one of the few bright spots on the album. Wyclef just didn’t know how to make pure hip-hop beats, and his specialty, the reggae tinge, didn’t even make an appearance in any form on the album. It failed miserably, falling short of expectations both critically and commercially. His second effort, 2000 B.C., was fantastic, and, although it was all battle songs, the production was infinitely better. Many figured that his third effort would finally be the classic we knew he could produce. And then... C: True Hollywood Stories. Needless to say, it wasn’t the classic that was expected. After this monstrosity, many people would not even notice if Canibus ever returned. Thankfully, he did, and with no pressure, he cranked out his best work yet, MiClub.
Released late in 2002 without much fanfare (as one of Canibus’ greatest fans, I can honestly say I didn’t know it was out until more than a month after it was released), MiClub starts off sounding like a concept album. The intro, cleverly titled “MiClub Intro”, sounds like something straight out of Fight Club. It reveals Canibus’ rules to creating an album full of battle tracks. To be honest, at the beginning, the intro sounds stupid, a silly knockoff of one of my favorite movies. But after a few listens, the intro actually becomes something clever, more homage than theft. After the intro, the album goes straight into “Poet Laureate”, a hook-deficient 3 minute introduction to Canibus’ lyrics, and a track displaying Canibus’ talents in the best way possible. The beat, featuring newcomer DJ Kemo and some soothing but up-tempo horns, backs the battle rhyme aimed at everyone in hip-hop. “Yo, Houston to Earth / Watch the ripper crucify you with verse / My urethra to your uvula, quenches your thirst / Put your flames out with dry desert dirt where leopards lurk...” It’s exactly how Canibus works best and is a complete success.
As usual with Canibus’ battle raps, the lyrics are near flawless. The only problem is the concepts aren’t really that original, save a few songs. Most of the songs are simply a battle track, and while Canibus excels at those, it’d be nice to see him grow a bit as an MC. He does in a few places, though. On “Master Thesis”, he discusses his excellence more like it’s a paper that he is turning in, and he has to convince the reader, rather than just exaggerating and using hyperbole. Also, “Bis vs. Rip the Jacker”, a battle between Canibus and his inner, crazy alter ego Rip the Jacker. Although we’ve seen this done better (Redman’s “Redman Meets Reggie Noble” comes to mind), it is interesting and reaches the depths of ‘Bis’ soul. It must be therapeutic for him to cleanse himself by airing his dirty laundry and addressing it. Oh, there’s also “Allied Meta Forces”, a duet with maybe the best MC of all time, Kool G Rap. Needless to say, they both deliver.
The production, while not quite as good as 2000 B.C.’s, is passable. In addition to “Poet Laureate”, the album’s highlight in terms of production is “Behind Enemy Lines”. Produced by another newcomer, PlusScience, “Behind Enemy Lines” is more down-tempo than “Poet Laureate”, but features a similar piano loop. “Liberal Arts” features Jedi Mind Tricks member Stoupe and his classic dark production, a brooding beat befitting of ‘Bis’ battle rhymes. Finally, “Curriculum 101” is nothing special conceptually, but another newcomer, Kyros, unleashes a strong and thumping backbeat that builds to a crescendo to an exciting climatic conclusion to the song. Overall, Canibus should be thankful for his improved production, as it adds a certain degree of credibility to his battles.
While not a classic, MiClub is closer to the heights attained on 2000 B.C. and help to regain some of the credibility that Canibus lost with the dismal >C: True Hollywood Stories. If Canibus continues this rise, then perhaps he will be truly able to release something that can appeal to all audiences within the next few years.
Reviewed by: Brett Berliner
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01