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Review: Cannibal Ox – Blade of the Ronin [+ album stream]

In Hip Hop by Nick Russell

Review: Cannibal Ox – Blade of the Ronin [+ album stream]

Stop what you’re doing and scream phoenix; the Ox is back. This time it’s for realsies, with 19 brand new tracks of deft word- and knife play, aptly called Blade Of The Ronin.

If the title of the first track Cipher Unknown is any indication, they’re basically re-entering on a saved game, ready to deliver what fans of the cold vein have been thirsting for since 2001. Megallah’s first on the mic as the second track starts and we enter the album proper, and it’s still that same unassuming, off-kilter flow 14 years later.

He gets overlooked, but Vordul’s a talented abstract painter in his peculiar lexicon. Vast, too, to his credit, has hardly changed; clowning and cutting with a trademark supreme-mathematical bent. But, sadly, he’s gotten lazy. Where his appeal used to be effortlessness, even in great pain, he now seems like he’s just not trying. It’s disappointing, even on early standouts like Black Milk produced ‘Blade’…, and, actually, Vast Aire is the source of all major let downs on the album. His lyrics, although still often brilliant, are missing the substance and squalid frankness he used to bring, and it’s embarrassing to hear such a great MC struggling while DOOM does the damn thing all over the excellent Iron Rose beat.

Newcomer behind the boards, Bill Cosmiq is pretty on point for his part, especially when flipping Chinx lyrics into a fantastically trippy hook. He’s got a pretty big El-P shaped hole to fill and does a decent and distinctive job, seemingly getting the Wu-affiliates-from-Jupiter vibe pretty well, and making a good addition to the crew.

Mostly, though, it’s just not an exceptional or particularly coherent album, instead landing somewhere around frustrating/entertaining enough. It could have been something great, but ultimately feels… soulless, which, for Cannibal Ox, is unexpected. 7 iron galaxies out of 10.

Words: Vox Pox PillPoppadopoulos

Purchase “Blade of the Ronin” on iTunes: bit.ly/1Cez3MB