The Hip Hop community is obsessed with labels. From gangsta rap to nerd rap, everything is broken down and placed into categories. But Cannibal Ox’s front man Vast Aire is not having it. With a fanatical underground backing, many have been quick to label Can Ox as so called “nerd rap”. This term, which has as negative connotation for many, has divided the mainstream and underground Hip Hop worlds for years. But why is the Hip Hop community so quick to place labels upon every subgenre of Hip Hop? Vast Aire thinks he knows why and he is not pleased to say the least. Love him or hate him, this is Vast Aire and he is never going to change.
AllHipHop.com: With your new album The Best Damn Rap Show, is it safe to say that this is going to be your hardest and most street oriented effort since DJ Mighty Mi is handling the production?
Vast Aire: I think it’s safe to say that it is going to be a great album. It’s an EP, with musical interludes in between, and it’s real powerful. I am real proud of it, and Milo [DJ Mighty Mi] is proud of it as well. As artists and friends we had a lot of fun making this project. But it’s gonna be hot, and I feel it’s one of my best works ever. That is why I named it The Best Damn Rap Show. Lyrically and beat wise it is real powerful and strong. I get straight to the point on every track, so there is a lot of replay value.
AllHipHop.com: Beat wise; is this your most edgy effort to date?
Vast Aire: Beat-wise it’s mad sick! You know I have a weird taste, as I like what I like. And I definitely went there with these beats. Mighty Mi gave me about 65 beats, and I found the hot eight that I loved, and ran with them.
AllHipHop.com: What was the chemistry like working with Mighty Mi for this album? Why him specifically?
Vast Aire: Well, Mighty and I are friends, and all friends have different connections to each other. You might do everything with this cat, but other things with someone else; you know what I’m saying? So with Mighty Mi, all of our inspirations come from movies, we are really on some movie s**t. As well as, video games, sneakers, things like that. Just that whole vibe of being friends, hanging out, and bulls**ting about girls. That energy was put into this project.
AllHipHop.com: What types of movies are you into?
Vast Aire: All types really, but I love gangsta flicks and yakuza joints. Plus, the John Woo joints, Sci-Fi movies such as, Blade Runner, and all of that.
AllHipHop.com: Some people were a little disappointed with the production aspect of the solo album, as some wanted that Cold Vein type of vibe. What are your thoughts on that?
Vast Aire: Damn! That is a certain type of fan that I have. People want what they want. I love Kill Bill, and I wanted a longer fight in the end. But did that destroy the movie? People are going to want what they want. I think it comes down to how mature you are. I have to make music that I want. I’m not worried about fans who want me to do 16 albums with DJ Premier, or whatever. I can’t worry about that. I have to do the music that I love and everything else will fall into place. I think if kids would just sit back and really listen to the album, they would love it. Is it better than Cold Vein, I don’t know? That is not for me to answer.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about Can Ox being labeled as so called “Nerd Rap”. Is that something you embrace or dismiss?
Vast Aire: The bottom line is, people stand and say what they want about you at all times. Someone will call me Black, meanwhile, I don’t prefer that term. I prefer to be called Nubian. You don’t call an Asian person Yellow. So it’s all about who the person is. Someone else, they will accept something different. So I just want to do me, and not worry about what everyone else thinks.
AllHipHop.com: So it’s something you dismiss? Because I know some underground artists hate the term.
Vast Aire: I don’t like the term, but I’m not stressing it, because people always have to label things. It’s hard to explain. I don’t know what makes me a nerd! Listen to “Iron Galaxy”, and then listen to “Planet Rock.” Listen to “The Message” and then listen to “A B-Boy’s Alpha.” Listen to “Why’s Da Sky Blue” and tell me I am nerd! You know what I mean, what is a nerd? Let’s go there! Do I have a pocket protector and bifocals? Like, come on man! And I ain’t had a book-bag since the 11th grade. So what are we really talking about? I’m a nerd? N***a, I grew up in the streets! And just because I can hold a conversation, and I have a f***ing opinion on politics, I’m a nerd now? Tell the n***as on 4th Ave that I am a nerd! Anyone who has stood in my presence knows that I am not a nerd. But, you would have to stand in my presence to know that.
Man, killing everyone on a track does not make you gangsta. And making a good point about health care and how we got a f***ed up president and government does not make you a nerd. Life is a little more diverse than that. People are just judging. And some of these Rap fans are worse than old grandmothers who sit on the stoop and judge you because your hat is sideways. Anybody who really knows the culture knows I am doing me first, and Hip-Hop second. Now if it’s nerd, gangsta, or whatever, I don’t give a f**k. I don’t embrace that term; I do Hip-Hop, that is it! I don’t embrace this fake underground religion that is going around. It’s bulls**t! And it’s so divided and fake. You have the underground thug who is trying hard to make a hit for Hot 97 and he is not going anywhere. Then you have 18 fake Erykah Badu’s. ‘Oh, I have a head wrap and a poem. I’m talented’. It’s tiring, man. I really love what I do, and have invested a lot of time in it. That is why I have a strong fan base and I haven’t had a real job in eight years, and I’m 27 years old. That is where it ends with me. I just do what I love. Tomorrow I could be on MTV and I would love it because it’s real. I’m not part of this anti-blow up bulls**t. I didn’t make my music so it could be hidden in a closet.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about a lot of your fan base being suburban White kids?
Vast Aire: I don’t really care, actually. First off, I’m successful in the so-called underground, and most of my fans are White. Jay-Z sells six million records, and most of his fans are White as well. So what the f**k? I’m tired of all these groups, and they know who they are, I am not going to blow them up, complaining about “White this, white that.” It’s like yo, we are a minority. We are in America remember? Don’t forget where you at just because you live in a Black neighborhood. There are mad states across America, and brown people dominate some of them, but for the most part, I am a minority in this country. Not in the world, but in this country. So why shouldn’t there be more White kids at my show? I don’t care who you are, if you are vibing with the live show and the music, than fine.
I don’t even care about all that racism, it’s all bulls**t. It’s a trick! It’s a demonic trick and it’s disgusting. It separates people. Come on, remember Blondie? F**k Eminem, look at Blondie. F**k Vanilla Ice and Snow, look at Rick Rubin. When you wanna think about White people in Hip-Hop, think about the Beastie Boys. White people have already proven themselves in this. There should be way more White rappers, and way more woman in Hip-Hop today. But you have the powers that be. Hip-Hop is dominated by Nubian and Latino men. Where are the women at? All the women that are out now are damn near veterans, and that is sad. So I don’t like any of that. I grew up in uptown New York. I grew up with a bunch of Latin and Nubian kids. Eventually, we got cool with two White kids, this kid Ralphie and his cousin, which was my first experience. And ever since that day, White people were more than Superman to me. At first, a White person is Superman, He-Man, a cop, or a bus driver. At first, you don’t know a White kid. You have to meet and get cool with one, meet their family, and the next thing you know you have a friend. You are not looking at color then. And that is what happened to me. That kid was poor, that is the color we were. F**k all this racist bulls**t, we are the same color. So technically, we bonded because we were in the same class. It’s class that truly brought us together. And I imagine the same thing happens to White people. A Black person has to be more than just Mike Tyson or Michael Jackson. You have to meet them, and invest time in them.
AllHipHop.com: On a lighter note, right now what is the current status of Can Ox?
Vast Aire: We are working on our new album, which is called Cypher Unknown, which represents the OX on the mathematic table. And, we are just having fun right now. We are pushing our solos at the moment, but we have been working on it. The album is almost done, and it should be out soon.
AllHipHop.com: So it should definitely be out this year?
Vast Aire: Na, not this year. Probably, the beginning of ’06.
AllHipHop.com: Is the album going to be on Def Jux again?
Vast Aire: I’m not sure. I couldn’t tell you that right now.