Album Review | Cannibal Ox – Blade Of The Ronin

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This album was released on March 3rd last year. This was Can Ox’s first album in almost 14 years, so I think people were pretty excited. Well, actually I don’t know if they were. I guess people were a little skeptical since El-P wasn’t involved, and that incredibly underwhelming disappointment of an EP that they dropped in 2013 certainly didn’t help. Honestly I just made that shit up. I don’t know if people were skeptical or not. I am tho. I loved The Cold Vein, so they have a lot to live up to. That Gotham EP just made me really… I don’t know. I don’t even know how to say it. It was like disappointment mixed with fear. It hurts to even say this, but my fear is that perhaps both of them may have fallen off. I’m more worried about Vast Aire than Vordul tho. Keep in mind, this is all coming from someone who’d literally never even heard The Cold Vein until like two or three days ago. I guess that just goes to show how much I loved that album. I’m worried. I don’t know what else to say. I’m just worried that this won’t be good. Especially since two of the songs from that Gotham EP made it onto this album… Alright, lemme just start this shit. Every song is produced by Bill Cosmiq, except where noted.

Track 1: Cipher Unknown

Alright, here we go; it’s starting now. Oh I guess this is just an instrumental intro. I enjoyed it. I’m not gonna rate it since it isn’t a full song. It’s dope tho.

Track 2: Opposite Of Desolate Feat. Double A.B.

This beat is dope. Vordul Mega’s on the first verse. He did his thing. This must be Double A.B. on the hook. It’s dope. Vast Aire’s goin’ in now. I don’t know, man. It’s just not the same. I mean, I know I shouldn’t expect The Cold Vein, Pt. 2, but goddamn. It’s not like El-P was controlling the subject matter. This doesn’t even sound like the same person wrote it. This is what I would expect to hear if Vast Aire was a feature on a Czarface song. It’s not bad. It’s just not what I want from him. I’m not getting metaphors about life in inner cities. I’m getting G.I. Joe references. It’s just so drastically different. I like the song, but it’s hard not to feel disappointed. I guess it’s to be expected tho. There was a 14 year gap between The Cold Vein and this album. Maybe I’m being unreasonable when I expect him to rap about the same shit he was rapping about over a decade ago. Double A.B. is goin’ in on the final verse. He might’ve actually had the best verse. I like the song. It’s incredibly disappointing, but I like it… It’s dope. 4/5

Track 3: Psalm 82

Since I obviously already reviewed this song in my review of the Gotham EP, I won’t be saying too much here. I still like the beat, even if it does get old by the time the song ends. The song is just kinda underwhelming. The hook is boring. Vast Aire’s flow was nothing special. He had a few cool lines in there, but I wasn’t in love with it. Vordul’s verse isn’t bad. I don’t think I’d ever wanna come back to this, but it’s definitely not that bad. It’s just not really that good. It’s alright. 3/5

Track 4: The Power Cosmiq Feat. Kenyattah Black

This beat is dope af. I liked the verse from Kenyattah Black at the beginning. The hook from Vast Aire is cool. His verse wasn’t amazing or anything, but there were some cool lines in there.”I got a Merry-Go-Round shotgun / Like, ‘did you see Saw?” There were also some wack ones tho… That Pikachu line almost completely ruined this song for me… Woah, what the hell? Is that Kenyattah Black on the third verse? Where’s Vordul Mega? This isn’t Vordul is it? Maybe he was on the first verse. It’s kinda hard to tell. He doesn’t exactly have the most recognizable voice. Oh shit. Lemme just go to RapGenius to check… Yeah, Vordul Mega is nowhere to be found. Well, for what it’s worth the final verse was great. This isn’t a Cannibal Ox song tho. This is Vast Aire featuring Kenyattah Black. Honestly I’d rather have a solo Vordul Mega song at this point. Vast Aire’s had his own song on every project so far. I don’t even like Vast Aire’s verses as much as Vordul Mega’s on this album. I don’t feel like Vordul Mega has fallen off as much as Vast Aire. It hurts to say something like that, but I really do feel like Vast Aire has fallen off. No, he hasn’t fallen off as much as someone like fuckin’ Kid Cudi, but there’s a severe drop when you compare his work on The Cold Vein to this album. Hell, I even checked out his remix of Panda that he dropped a few weeks ago. It wasn’t very good. It’s not like he fits particularly well over that beat in the first place, but still. Anyway… I fuck with this song. Lol. I mean, I know I sounded pretty disappointed just now, and I am to be honest, but I still enjoyed this. It’s not what I wanted, but it’s not bad. This is dope to me. I fuck with this one. 4/5

Track 5: Blade: The Art Of Ox Feat. Artifacts & U-God (Prod. Black Milk)

Okay, this should be good. Out of all of the Wu-Tang members, U-God probably would’ve been my last choice for a feature. It’s cool tho. I’m more excited about Artifacts. I’ve never heard any of their music; all I know is that they’re supposed to be really dope. I know more about Tame One than I do about El Da Sensei, but I’ve never heard music from either of them. It’s starting now. I haven’t heard any shit from Black Milk in a long ass time. This beat is dope af tho. The way Can Ox structure’s their music has always reminded me of the Wu-Tang Clan, so for them to actually put together a posse cut like this is pretty cool, even if the production doesn’t really sound like a Wu-Tang beat. Vast Aire’s verse was dope. El Da Sensei’s on the second verse. He has a really dope voice. He killed it. His verse was dope as hell. Mega’s goin’ in now. His verse was short—all of the verses have been pretty short—but his flow was dope as hell, even if he sounded like he was half asleep. I really liked his verse. Vast Aire’s in last place for me so far. Tame One’s verse was dope af. I might have to check out an Artifacts album because these guys sound dope as hell. They both have really distinctive voices that command your attention. U-God’s about to go in. His verse wasn’t bad at all. I take back that shit about Vast Aire being in last place tho… I really fuck with this song. The beat was dope af. Most of the verses were great. I don’t have any problems with this one. It’s dope af. 5/5

Track 6: Pressure Of Survival (Skit)

This was just a weird ass movie sample. I have nothing to say about it.

Track 7: Carnivorous Feat. Bill Cosmiq & Elzhi

FUCK YES. These features are awesome so far. I wasn’t expecting to see an Elzhi feature here. What if he was only on the hook? I would fucking murder someone. Anyway, it’s starting now. Elzhi’s goin’ in right away. Of course his verse was fucking insane. That was the best verse on this whole album so far. “Hope these dudes don’t look at you, and see food / ‘Cause even men with huge muscles clam / Slugs didn’t move at a snail’s pace when he sparked it / Your dog died then was found hog tied behind a flea market.” I think that’s Bill Cosmiq on the hook. It’s not bad. The beat is cool I guess. Mega did his thing on the second verse. Vast Aire’s verse was dope. I fuck with the song. Nothing about it aside from Elzhi’s fantastic verse really stood out that much. I don’t know how much I’d like this without Elzhi to be honest. It’s dope tho. I fuck with this. 4/5

Track 8: Thunder In July Feat. Elohem Star, Space & Swave Sevah

I’ve never heard of any of these featured artists. This Swave Sevah guy’s goin’ in on the first verse. It was cool I guess. He basically just said “If you try to run up on me, you gettin’ shot.” I’m not really feelin’ this sung hook from Space. This is just so different from The Cold Vein… Vast Aire’s verse just didn’t really do anything for me. He just didn’t say anything interesting. “When I speak she gon’ look me right in the eye / And when I’m done Ima slide my hand on her thigh.” It’s like he completely ran out of things to say. Vordul’s verse wasn’t bad. Elohem Star’s verse was dope. It’s over. I don’t really like this one. It’s not terrible, but I don’t think I ever wanna hear this shit again. The beat was nothing special. I wasn’t feelin’ the hook. Vast Aire’s verse was disappointing as fuck. The other three verses weren’t bad, but they weren’t good enough to keep my attention. This is an okay song I guess. 3/5

Track 9: Water

This beat’s dope. This album is making me sad. Every time I hear Vast Aire rap it just makes me super disappointed. This verse from him at the beginning… It’s not good. “We gonna go H.A.M. / That’s ‘Hard as a mother‘ / Hot in the winter time / Cold in the summer.” What the hell is he even talking about? The hook from Vordul is alright I guess. I kinda wish he didn’t lay the metaphor out instead of letting the listener try to figure it out, but I guess it’s not that big of a deal. “Water symbolizing emotion.” His flow is dope af. I just wish he had a little more energy. Uuuhhhh. Nah. I’m not really feelin’ this one. I like the beat. The verse from Vordul is decent. Vast Aire… I haven’t been this disappointed in a long time. I really don’t know what happened to Vast Aire’s bars. I mean, it wasn’t terrible… It’s just not what I wanted. I’m not feelin’ this one. This is wack to me. 2/5

Track 10: The Horizon (Interlude)

This is another instrumental track. I enjoyed it, but I’m gonna delete it as soon as I’m done with this review.

Track 11: Harlem Knights

This beat is cool. Vordul’s verse wasn’t bad. His lack of energy is really starting to get to me tho. Vast Aire… Jesus, man. This verse… I’m not feelin’ it. “These girls is like Frankenstein / They got fake hair, fake nails, and monster behinds.” At least he had that dope George Foreman line. That’s the whole song I guess. I’m uh… I don’t really like this one. I don’t think it’s that bad of a song, but it didn’t do much for me. I’d probably like it if Vordul’s delivery was better. Or if the beat was better. Or if Vast Aire’s verse was better. It’s not a bad song. It just… I don’t think it’s good enough for me to wanna return to it. It’s alright. 3/5

Track 12: Sabertooth Feat. Bill Cosmiq & Irealz

I’m not really feelin’ this beat. Dog, seriously, what happened to Vast Aire? This guy fell off HARD. I’m not feelin’ his basic flow on the first verse, and it’s doing pretty much nothing for me lyrically. The hook from Bill Cosmiq is pretty dope. I’m not really familiar with Irealz, but I enjoyed his verse. Bill Cosmiq actually spit a pretty good verse. Jesus. This is just getting ridiculous. Mega sounds like he’s barely conscious on this last verse. So far the majority of this album’s highlights are coming from the features. This is another song that I don’t think I’d ever return to. It’s not wack, but it’s just barely above average for me. It’s decent. 3/5

Track 13: Iron Rose Feat. MF DOOM

This beat isn’t bad. I don’t know how I feel about the first verse from Vast Aire. It kinda just sounded like he was just naming a bunch of random objects and pretending they’re made of iron. “My kids are rough; they eat iron candy / My girl’s tough; she wears iron panties / I was born in an iron galaxy.” I don’t see the appeal in this verse. “My favorite rock band is Iron Maiden / I wrote these raps on iron pages.” Is everything being made of iron supposed to be interesting? It’s not. The hook is nothing special. Mega’s verse was alright. DOOM easily had the best verse. Of course he referenced his “iron mask,” but he actually did it in an interesting way. This probably would’ve been my least favorite song on the album so far if it weren’t for DOOM. It’s just a really underwhelming track. I enjoyed the verse from DOOM, but that’s pretty much it. I’m not really feelin’ this one. It’s not that bad, but nah. It’s mediocre. 3/5

Track 14: Solar System (Cosmos)

This is another skit. Well, it’s not really a skit. It sounds like another movie sample or something. I’m not gonna rate it.

Track 15: The Fire Rises

I’m so fuckin’ bored right now. Oh shit. This beat is actually pretty dope. I even like this hook that they sampled. This Vast Aire verse, man… FUCK. “I found her milky-ish way by her pelvic zone.” WHAT? Jesus fuckin’ Christ… Wait… What… THAT WAS IT??? ARE YOU FUCKIN’ SHITTING ME RIGHT NOW? This song is just ONE verse from Vast Aire? Another solo track? Dude, FUCK. No. I’m not feelin’ this shit. I didn’t like the verse. It’s not like every line was as bad as the one I quoted, but none of them really stood out for the right reasons. Vordul probably could’ve saved this from being wack, but nah. I’m not feelin’ this shit. This is wack to me. 2/5

Track 16: Gotham (Ox City)

Why the hell is this album so long? Well, I guess it’s not really that much longer than The Cold Vein. The Cold Vein was actually good tho. This song was two years old by the time this album had come out. You should read my review of Gotham for my initial thoughts on this track. I like the beat. Vordul’s verse was dope, aside from his monotone and boring delivery. I’m not in love with Vast Aire’s verse, but it’s not really bad. I enjoyed the song. It’s definitely not great, but it’s cool. I fuck with this one. This is dope to me. It’s not that dope. It’s pretty dope tho. 4/5

Track 17: Unison (Skit)

I have absolutely nothing to say about this track.

Track 18: Vision Feat. The Quantum

This beat is dope af. The Nas sample that they used for the hook isn’t bad. That must’ve been The Quantum on the first verse. It was pretty good. Vordul still sounds like he’s asleep on the second verse, but it was dope lyrically. Oh shit… Umm… I guess The Quantum’s on the last verse… Who was that on the first verse then? Maybe The Quantum is more than one person. Vast Aire’s nowhere to be found. Whoever that was on the last verse did his thing. I kinda enjoyed this song, but at the same time I don’t know if I’d ever have the desire to listen to this again. The Nas sample got old real quick. The beat was the best thing about this song. It’s not bad, but I’m not really feelin’ it like that. It’s alright. 3/5

Track 19: Salvation

This beat is cool. Mega’s delivery on the first verse was boring as hell, but the lyrics were dope. There’s not really a hook. It’s just an instrumental break between each verse. Vast Aire’s verse wasn’t bad… Oh. It’s over. Okay. Cool. Honestly, I don’t care anymore. This song isn’t doin’ it for me. It’s not wack or anything. It’s just another track with zero replay value for me. 3/5

Final Thoughts:

Well, that was the most depressing thing I’ve heard in a long ass time. It’s really absurd how much better The Cold Vein was. I don’t think this album is bad. It’s just not very good to me. I know the main complaint from most people was that El-P was absent for this album, but that honestly didn’t really bother me at all. I thought the production was pretty solid throughout. The only things I really liked about this album were the production, the title—Blade Of The Ronin is a cool name in my opinion—the album cover, and the features. Literally every feature on this album outshined Can Ox. Well, except for U-God… Vordul Mega’s lyrics were fine, but his delivery just sounded so fuckin’ boring… He sounded like he was about to fall asleep on damn near every track. Vast Aire tho… Fuck man… It really hurts to say this, but he just… I don’t know what happened. I feel like this album completely lacks everything that made The Cold Vein great to me. What happened to the thought provoking & poetic lyricism from Vast Aire? I said this already, but it really feels like he didn’t have anything to say. It’s like he completely lacked the hunger and passion that he had on The Cold Vein. Everything about this album, even down to the way the songs were structured, just felt so drastically different. I mean, I know it had been almost a decade and a half, but goddamn. This may sound kinda weird, but this is how I feel: just because Vast Aire & Vordul Mega are rapping on the same song doesn’t mean it’s a Cannibal Ox track. It doesn’t even feel like they wanted to make a Cannibal Ox album. It’s like they wanted to make a solo Vast Aire album with features from Vordul Mega or vice versa. The Cannibal Ox that I got from The Cold Vein was two dope lyricists rapping their fuckin’ asses off over bleak, desolate sounding production about the horrors of being stuck in the ghetto. This album felt like Vast Aire & Vordul Mega trying to make a standard, conventional Hip Hop album in 2015. So yeah. I’m pretty disappointed. And yeah, I know people are gonna be mad that I’m complaining about this album not being The Cold Vein, Pt. 2, but it’s natural for people to compare work like that, especially since The Cold Vein was their only other project. People were stuck with the same 15 songs for over a decade, so it makes sense that they’d expect more of that. I don’t think this album is bad tho. It’s way too long, and there are a lot of low points, but there are some good songs on here. People who never heard The Cold Vein will probably like it more than people who did. It’s an okay album. Just really disappointing.

Favorite Song: Blade

Least Favorite Song: The Fire Rises




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