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Vast Aire Of Cannibal Ox & Producer COSMIQ Prepare To Drop “AIREPLANE”

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.

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.
—Vast Aire

“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

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
interview

Rising Malaysian Star Zamaera Is Poised For Greatness

Z chats Malaysian Hip Hop culture, her new project, and much more.

Photo credit: Kanya Iwana

23-year-old Malaysian MC Zamaera has been slowly bubbling onto many radars as of late. After appearing on a viral installment of Yo! MTV Rap Asia’s Rap Cypher, knocking out her first festival appearance, and dropping a buzzing new single titled “Z vs Z” ahead of the upcoming EP of the same name, she is primed and ready to take things to the next level.

Hip Hop in Malaysia has grown exponentially throughout 30 plus years,” she explains to AAHH, indulging our ignorance of the regional scene. “I didn’t live through the early stages of this groundbreaking period in the Malaysian music industry, but one characteristic of Hip Hop is its continuous evolution in sound, style, and swagger.

“It doesn’t matter if you jump on the Hip Hop bandwagon in the 80s or 2000s; if you have something to say — visually, lyrically or sonically — you’re a part of the culture,” she adds.

 
As Z explains, Malaysian society’s reaction towards Hip Hop has been somewhat of a gradual appreciation. She fell in love with the culture in her late teens. “Love, heartbreak and all the sweet sins of adolescence brought me to Hip Hop; and now I’m in it for life.”

She’s accomplished a lot — considering her debut video dropped just over a year and a half ago. This year, she was blessed with the opportunity to journey to the US to develop and focus her craft, and her career. It was here that Z vs. Z was born.

“It was a very reflective period for me,” she notes of the experience. “I did all of the creative work while I was there. I worked with the amazing producer Floyd “Timeless” Thomas, writing the lyrics. I also teamed up with the ever so talented creative director — Kanya Iwana — and the most brilliant ALL FEMALE TEAM, Savannah Chonis, Francesca Martin, Nawel Abdelaziz, and Shaina Santos for the album artwork.

 
“The experience was humbling, overwhelming and stimulating,” she adds. I was given a chance by Lakefront Records, which resulted in the recording of this EP in the United States [specifically, Chicago]. It was overwhelming because I was in a foreign place, where EVERYONE is trying to make it. Stimulating, because of the work ethic that I managed to experience. The entertainment industry is no joke, and that motivated me to do more for myself as an artist.”

The new EP, as she explains, is the essence of her as an artist, stemming from reflection and acceptance — two things she describes as dominant themes in her writing. “It took about two months for the idea to be translated into the entire project,” she reveals.

During her recent appearance at the Good Vibes Festival in Selangor, Malaysia, she had a chance to debut her two-month labor of love in front of a receptive audience — an experience she doesn’t take for granted.

“That was a day of many firsts. The first time I performed at a festival, first time I used in-ear monitors, first time performing with dancers, first time I played the entire EP LIVE,” she exclaims proudly. “I’ve learned to let go of the things I don’t have control over — but all in all, it was an adventure of a lifetime.”

With a dizzying 2018 thus far — and an even more jarring 2019 ahead — Zamaera’s current mood is focusing on her mind, body, and soul. With an endorsement deal with Nike Malaysia, her project, and (if it all pans out the right way) a tour, you can hardly blame her for cherishing a little downtime.

“Follow me on my social media,” she says as our interview draws to a close, “because I will be announcing something extremely exciting very soon.”

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This Week’s ‘On The Cusp’ Playlist

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated…

On The Cusp is a living playlist dedicated to showcasing the buzzing new music on our radar — as curated by our writer Riley Wallace. For all inquiries and submissions, hit up the playlist’s official Twitter feed.

This week’s cover artist is Chris Allen.

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interview

World Premiere: Koncept Takes To The Night Streets Of Seoul In “Fuck You Music” Visual

The song is about anyone that ever told you that you couldn’t do something or that you couldn’t accomplish your dreams,” Koncept explains.

AAHH proudly presents the second of five new visuals by Brown Bag All-Stars alum Koncept, who we’ve been rocking with for a minute now. Set amid the futuristic looking night lights of Seoul, South Korea, the song, “Fuck You Music” — which appears on the Sony Asia release 14 Hours Ahead as “You Music” — is a middle finger to anyone who ever tried to hold you back.

Relevant: Koncept Talks Korea & Premieres New Video For “Never Again”

The song is about anyone that ever told you that you couldn’t do something or that you couldn’t accomplish your dreams … [that] you can’t go after what you believe in. This is a big fuck you,” he explains.

“I was working really hard on things and I was sort of in a place where I had no choice but to wait for something to happen … I was in a funk,” he said of the song’s creative inception.

Currently in the Los Angeles putting the finishing touches on his new album, Koncept shares that he is planning to come out strong after the final three visuals in this latest run are released; his roll-out includes an Asian tour with Scoop DeVille that kicks off in November with stops in Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Intriguingly, he also describes plans for a collaborative project with the “Poetic Justice” producer.

Check out Koncept’s “Fuck You Music” video, above.

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Mark Steele “It’s Been A Minute” Album Is Almost Here

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change…

Preparing for his It’s Been a Minute album, Mark Steele, in great spirits, opened up in our interview about change leading to new beginnings in his life. “I’m at a crossroad right now. I feel this energy of something manifesting,” Steele tells Above Average Hip-Hop. “I’ve never felt this close. It’s such a dynamic too, I still go through everyday struggles just like the next person.” With change appearing in the MC’s life, he is more in tuned with who he is, where he is headed without forgetting where it all started. Durham, North Carolina.

Steele was born and raised in Durham where he grew up fast witnessing a lot. “We’re kind of like a melting pot. We get influenced by everybody because a lot of people come down here for an easier way of living,” Steele notes. “I think I’m a great representation of what Durham is: multilayered.” Steele embraces sounds from New York, Philly, Atlanta, and DMV area. With hip-hop adapting to each new generation, it’s a blessing to hear real lyrics every chance you get. Steele also influenced by hip-hop’s “golden age,” the 90s rap era, where “everything lyrical” is major to him. “I’m fearless with creating records and not really caring what’s popular a lot. I’m bringing lyrics,” notes Steele. “I’m one of those rare people, a trendsetter.”

The MC started rapping in a duo group called Mic & Rep with his friend in high school. During his college years at North Carolina Central University, he met record producer and executive, 9th wonder, who later on becomes his mentor. From that point, his solo career began.

“My music has substance, it’s conceptual.” Whether it’s good or bad I can create some type of art from it, I know that I’m good.”

Best known for his ESPN Sports Center anthem “Greatness,” Steele has been working none stop to become a leader of hip-hop’s new generation. Coming off his Before A Minute mixtape hosted by DJ Wade Banner serves as a prelude to Steele’s forthcoming album It’s Been A Minute. “This is the best thing I ever done in life, I can’t wait to give it to the people,” notes Steele. The rapper doesn’t have to wait much longer, this Friday (Oct.12) we’ll be able to hear his anticipated project where he shows vulnerability and honesty. “A lot of hidden messages in the album. You’re going to have to dissect it a couple of times. It’ll be from how the record was structure, topics, lyrics, and transitions,” he says.

With limited features on the new album, Steele managed to get No Malice. Steele tells me they share mutual producers and it was “the grace of God” to get No Malice on his album. With everything leading up, he’s happy where he is and excited for what’s to come. He shows the definition of hard work and where it can lead you, but importantly how he takes one step at of time.

“Have you ever been so stressed and so blessed in the same breath? That’s exactly where I’m at right now. It’s an interesting period and I’m just enjoying the moment.”

Towards the end of our conversation, Steele shares his last words. “For anyone that’s trying to pursue anything. Doctor, lawyer, artist, etc. The biggest keys: keeping god first, putting in the work, and lastly, don’t give up.”

Mark Steele is also co-headlining his It’s Been a Minute album release concert at Drom in New York City alongside No Malice on Friday, October 12th. Purchase your tickets here: https://goo.gl/BgnXD2

Get familiar with Mark Steele. Check out his latest music video for “Grace of God” featuring No Malice.

 

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6 Times Hannibal Buress Blended Hip-Hop & Comedy

Hannibal Buress is planning on crossing over to music with a new album.

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