Artist: Vast Aire & DJ Mighty MiTitle: The Best Damn Rap ShowRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Maurice Downes
Not quite the same feel as a full-fledged album, but not another g-dd@mn mixtape (can we move onto the next forgettable trend in Hip-hop already?) The Best Damn Rap Show (Eastern Conference) occupies a sort of strange space in the ever-strange galaxy of underground Hip-hop. The combination of wordy, clever Cannibal Ox emcee Vast Aire and the backing of the DJ half of High & Mighty, DJ Mighty Mi, could remind some of 2003’s Soul Position project between RJD2 and Blueprint, but this one comes off as less conceptual, less connected. Take it as it is: it’s a collection of Hip-hop tracks done by two of the underground’s stronger artists… and most of the time it works out.
The reason that it holds together so well is simple: these are two like-minded artists that knew exactly what they wanted from a collaboration. The Best Damn Rap Show avoids the kind of thrown together quality that plagues other albums like this where a once long-awaited meeting turned out to be a musical nightmare. Or maybe they’re both avoiding the question “Where’s the new album?” as High & Mighty haven’t dropped one in some time and Cannibal Ox constantly have to dodge on-again, off-again rumors (their last album was in 2001). Whatever the reason, they’ve managed a release of strong, head-nodding stuff. The standouts on this one include “Buck 50 Express”, which allows Vast to play off of Mighty Mi’s backbeat perfectly, his manic flow a perfect contrast to the laid-back sound. “Taboo” has the same effect; just high-level Hip-hop done by two veterans, but it’s the track “The Workover” that is the true standout here. Part nostalgia, part story, part wordplay, it becomes a perfect showcase for the writing skills of Vast Aire over some soulful Mighty Mi work. “The Workover” will demand many repeats from listeners.
It’s the quality of work like this that may expose the one true problem of The Best Damn Rap Show: it’s not really the best that either of these two can do. You’ll dig the album, but you’ve heard Mighty Mi do more stellar stuff on the wheels, and in general Vast Aire seems to have ramped down his rhyme technique and tricky word-references. It’s not that they seem to be taking the easy road on this release, but only a few times do they really manage to hit their peak. Also small points are lost for a few ineffectual instrumental tracks and the underwhelming guest appearance by former Artifacts emcee Tame One on “Fighter Pilots”.
That said, you won’t come away from The Best Damn Rap Show disappointed. It only really reaches the heights of what’s possible from a Vast Aire and Mighty Mi collab every now and then, but even when it’s not at its best it’s worth every bit of your attention. And that’s pretty damn good.