Cannibal Ox are back, buds, and I’m real, real pleased to say that not much has changed since those long-gone-now, so sepia-toned days when The Cold Vein monopolized your headphone space. The Harlem duo’s 12-year hiatus contained the end of their former label Def Jux and the ascent of their former producer/living rap deity El-P to the highest rungs of the Ladder of Cred (who else is already drooling over Run The Jewels??), but MCs Vast Aire and Vordul Mega(llah) seem up to the same old, same old: trapped in an aural urban wasteland, wading through a thick layer of pigeon shit, shouting down alleyways, lifting four middle fingers up to the skyline. Their second full-length album hits sometime this year. In the meantime, we get the three tracks of the Gotham maxi single to tide us over.
On the title track, Vast and Vordul vibe together as viciously as ever, the former all patience, the latter all blunt force. Vast’s rhythmic dynamism and crisp articulation transform would-be clumsy lines like “You can get a facelift with a box cutter/ That’s Mad Cow, son” into nuggets of menacing New York wisdom. Vordul’s chorus booms assertions of dominance “even when struggling at the bottom,” while his double-tracked verse blends “roof” and “ruthless” into a perfectly marble-mouthed homophone. Producer Bill Cosmiq doesn’t stray too far from the El Producto template; his synths and strings howl over a boom-bap kick+snare shuffle as thick, almost trombone-like pulses punctuate the mix. Check out “Gotham” below or hear the maxi single in full here. If you’re into owning digital copies of things, you can cop it from Amazon — or you can wait it out for the full-length sometime soon (I hope).