Look Mom... No Hands

Artist: Vast AireTitle: Look Mom... No HandsRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Mark Cilantro

There is a fine line between avant-garde and wack. Always has been. It is scary to think that a few bad reviews and Thelonius Monk would be have been another weird piano player from Rocky Mount, NC (what up Uncle Junior). But as they say, the sword cuts both ways. A couple of good reviews and a cat that can’t catch a beat for his life becomes “next level.” Both comments have been made about Cannibal Ox since the release of Cold Vein. I always felt that Cann Ox carried the avant-garde banner better than most of their label mates and comrades in the game. With the release of Look Mom…No Hands the big man Vast takes a few steps toward the masses while still pushing the envelope.

Amid rumors of breakups, beefs with their label and cancelled tours, Vast returns with his solo effort sans partner, Vordul. Vast uses the freedom of a solo album to stretch himself with sounds, MC’s, and producers not present on the Cann Ox album. Look Mom… features the wild cowboy, Sadat X, the kid with the golden arm, Otis Jackson, Jr. (aka Madlib), collabo king MF Doom, the far too silent Breezly Brewin (Juggaknots). He also works with his Def Jux fam including RJD2, Camu Tao from S.A. Smash as well as Vordul.

What is most interesting is that this album smashes the box that many underground/independent MC’s have been locked in. Look Mom… has a distinctively violent edge while still exploring the boundaries of creativity. Vast’s fans may be white kids from NYU and Columbia but he is a regular brother from Uptown and is not afraid to let it be known. On skit tagged on to the end of the title track Vast warns all challenging MC’s (specifically 7L & Esoteric), promoters, a**hole A&R’s and others to “address us like men” or get slapped in the face.

The standouts include “KRS Lightly” where he kicks: “I wrote a rhyme to a beat sipping a Sam Adams now everybody and they grandma know Adams…niggas drunk all night looking for skins to kill, now we wake up with the morning after pills.” Camu also delivers a verse that may cause one to reconsider the Smash Brothers debut. “Da Superfriendz” is a Doom produced track that reminds us of all why we love Senor Dumille so damn much. The simple jazz/ragtime loop accented with Vast’s husky voice is complicated and beautiful in its simplicity, not to mention the GI Joe and Inspector Gadget references. Madlib rocks us with the old boom bap on “Could You Be?” where Vast waxes poetic about the fairer sex. A love song by the big man? Yes indeed, complete with the Marvin Gaye/ Tammi Terrell-esque hook.

Vast disappoints on the smoothed out “Viewtiful Flow” where the R&B influence feels forced and uncomfortable. Other songs including “Candid Cam”, “Pegasus” and “Elixir” feat Sadat X seem as uninspired as the bonus cut “Lifes III Pt.2” invigorates.

I would like to have seen Vast shine on more songs where he was the solo MC but his collabos are for the most part natural and you can feel his influence whether he is on the mic or not. If he recorded this record with no hands, then his mother should indeed be proud.