Back in 2001, Vast Aire and Vordul Mega — collectively known as Cannibal Ox — released their debut album, The Cold Vein, which was (also) the first release from the legendary underground label Definitive Jux. Over production by label founder (and Company Flow off-shoot) El-P, the duo had incredible chemistry that propelled the album into Hip Hop reverence. In fact, it still finds itself on many lists of best post-millennium albums.
However, it wouldn’t be until 2015 — 14 years removed — that they returned with a fresh (yet familiar) sound, courtesy of new lead producer Bill Cosmiq. This was due to a rift between Vast and El-P, a rumored (and later debunked) break-up due to Mega’s alleged clinical depression, solo endeavors, and other factors, that kept them working on everything but a sophomore release.
As Vast explains to AAHH, Bill Cosmiq, now just going by COSMIQ, was close with one of his childhood friends. When they connected later in life, their creative connection was undeniable. The rest is, well, history.
It’s been three years since the release of Blade Of Ronin and Vast and COSMIQ are on the verge of releasing a new collaborative effort entitled AIREPLANE. As fans of the incredibly potent wordsmith have come to expect, it promises to be conceptual, cinematic, and a whole lot of other adjectives that all point to amazing.
“It has multiple layers to it,” Vast explains to AAHH. “The whole theme of this album is layers, levels, dimensions, plateaus, corridors, rooms, closets, drawers … this is the micro to the macro; this is going from a cell to a giant nebulous star.”
“We’re gonna start at the base chamber of the pyramid, and at the end of the album we’re gonna end up at the gold cap, and you’re gonna hear this sonically,” he says. “This is not just something we’re claiming. We’re designing the album to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s going to draw you towards an apex … a zenith, if you will.”
“I think the analogy of the airplane was the perfect way for us to describe that journey that we’re trying to take people through,” COSMIQ adds. “Every track is like we’re taking you to a different place; we want the listener to sit back and listen to the whole process in its entirety. It’s not just a series of singles.”
As Vast explains, the project does have singles, but they serve as mini-movie trailers. “In a trailer, you’ve got the middle, you’ve got the end, you’ve got the beginning. You don’t know what you’re looking at in a trailer. So by us showing you “Dark Metropolis,” which we released a few weeks back, and also our current world premiere of “Airebender,” it’s just a peek. It’s a nice, beautiful peek.”
This is some of the greatest music that I’ve ever made, and the reoccurring theme is the struggle for perfection.
“Digest the metaphor,” Vast continues. “Some people, their ears bother them on the airplane at different altitudes. Some people can’t hold they lunch. In the end, though, you’re gonna love your journey, you’re gonna love your destination, and when you land, everyone’s gonna be clapping.”
16 years after The Cold Vein, Vast notes that he stills feels pressure when putting together a project. “If we don’t have the pressure, then something’s wrong. We don’t love it anymore,” he explains. “We need the pressure. That’s how you know we care about what we do.”
Before AIREPLANE drops, Vast has an EP planned entitled AIREPORT. “The EP is on a similar wavelength, but it’s not all COSMIQ,” he says. “COSMIQ will be on it, and he’ll be helping to guide it, but it’s not gonna be all him. I’m gonna have guest producers, and there’s gonna be more interaction with different MCs.”
“I would look at it as AIREPORT is just a series of dope new records from IGC, and all the people connected to IGC,” COSMIQ adds. “Just giving fans a window into what we’ve been working on.”
Having entered the game back in the late 90s, Vast — and COSMIQ — are optimistic about how far we’ve come, unlike some of their contemporaries. “I think we’re in a great time,” says Vast. “I think hip-hop is beautiful, I think hip-hop is great, and I think hip-hop is finally figuring out how infinite it is.”
“We’re figuring it out right now, that you can’t limit us. We finally have fifty-year-old MCs. It took a while to get there,” he continues. “We have MCs that are about to knock on the door of 60. We have DJs that are 60. So pay attention. If Mick Jagger can run around the stage half naked at 70, we gotta allow KRS-One to do that.”
“You can find whatever it is that you enjoy,“ COSMIQ says. “Some people have been catapulted to the top of the game with the style that, back in the day, I don’t think the masses would’ve been ready for. Technology democratized the way we listen to music, and it isn’t just one DJ that’s telling you what you can listen to or only four [radio] stations.”
The million dollar question is, will there be another Cannibal Ox album? “Of course,” says Vast Aire. “We’re wrapped up in this project, but that’s definitively on the horizon.”
AIREPORT and AIREPLANE are both dropping soon.
We had Stevie Wonder, and we had Whitney Houston, Prince, Marvin Gaye, the list goes on. We had these people, so we’re trying to leave something for the next generation. — Vast Aire