DITC: 2nd Round KO

March 17th, 2007

This track was scandalous when it was released. Upstart Canibus, who didn’t even have an album released, seemingly came out of no where and slammed veteran Rap Star, LL Cool J. Since history is ultimately written by the victor, Canibus’ footnote in the annals of Hip-hop ends with him getting crushed by the sleeping giant he awoke.
LL came back hard, proving though “99% of his fans wear high heels,” he was still “Bad.” He reassured the hiphoperati that, despite having a sitcom and perpetually showing off his pecks, he was capable of putting out a song that was good for more than just dancing with your girl to.
To be fair, LL wasn’t just in a sitcom, but had co-starred in a Michael J Fox movie. He really didn’t ever wear a shirt and hadn’t released a song that wasn’t girly in years. Also, the fight did start after LL invited him to co-star on a song and then inserted a verse after his saying that Canibus would never ever be as good as he was.

That said, none of the songs involved (including one by Wyclef, who got dragged into the fight) are particularly memorable 10 years later. Certainly nothing was as interesting as the nervous excitement of the Hip-hop community at the time. This rivalry took place in 1997. It was the first ‘Battle’ since the Bad Boy/Death Row beef culminated in the deaths of Biggie and 2Pac. We were intrigued and refreshed by a rivalry that didn’t have the spectre of violence clinging to it.
As for the song itself, Canibus didn’t help his cause by having Mike Tyson as a guest-star – post ear-biting. The instrumental was interesting and complex, which I think ultimately was his downfall.
Canibus’ strength was always his straightforward style. He was a freestyler. Wyclef’s production was imaginative and complicated. It had arias and flutes and influences from all over the world. His beats were experimental. That’s great in theory, but it wasn’t suited to someone who only needed a breakbeat to flow over. It was too much. His whole album got panned for that reason, I think.
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