Vast Aire Look Mom… No Hands

[Chocolate Industries; 2004]

Styles: two of the most celebrated names in East Coast underground. Mighty Mi has been making beats since Rawkus’ heyday and Vast Aire has garnered some of the most vehement praise from fans and critics alik
Others: Cannibal Ox, Vordul, High & Mighty

Prior to unleashing my witty criticism of Vast Aire's Look Mom... No Hands, I must confess that I chose to travel the path of unrelenting comparison to Cannibal Ox's masterpiece The Cold Vein for this review. Furthermore, I abolished the simple rule of fair analysis by starting to listen to the album on track eight instead of the conventional method of listening from the beginning. I must admit that track eight drew my attention immediately, due to the guest emcee rhyming on the track, but I won't indulge in making comparisons at this moment. What is evident immediately though is this: Look Mom... No Hands is not The Cold Vein. But to be fair, there are not many albums in hip-hop today that compare to the stellar performances on The Cold Vein.

Vast Aire is definitely the most intriguing and perplexing character from the Cannibal Ox duo. His rhymes are jaggedly cryptic and often make listeners push the pause button before delivering another complex, high-energy verse. The Cold Vein was full of engaging and intelligent banter about family, NYC, and many other familiar topics in hip-hop. Vast Aire's solo project attempts to mimic the positive elements of Cannibal Ox's work, but often lacks originality and creativity. Vast's wordplay completely loses its meaning on this album. Yet, Vast Aire does, in fact, use the fundamentals that made Cannibal Ox so successful. So why does Look Mom... No Hands feel stagnant and redundant on many occasions throughout the record?

There are two reasons for the failure of the record. One, the production is completely sub-par in comparison to Vast's previous work. His eclectic rhymes and melancholy delivery become extinct and almost invisible within the lackluster beat accompaniments. This is evident on tracks like "Pegasus" and "Viewtiful Flow," where the associated backbeat shadow Vast's topic of conversation. Furthermore, the previously mentioned tracks lack any variation and distinction, leaving them completely linear and limp. Two, Vast appears to miss Vordul's rhyming on this album. What made The Cold Vein so successful was their mutual visualization and conception when they rhymed together. This is evident on track eight, "Da Supafriendz," (yes, the one I mentioned earlier in the review) when Vast rhymes with MF Doom, today's most talented hip-hop performer. While most would falter under the pressure of this collaboration, Vast pens his most impressive work on the entire album. The accompanied piano loop compliments Vast and Doom's awkward delivery and makes "Da Supafriendz" one of 2004's best hip-hop songs.

Look Mom... No Hands is worth the investment if you thoroughly enjoy Vast's social commentary. Unfortunately, the remainder of the record proves disappointing. There are a few gems, but overall, Look Mom... No Hands should be titled Look Mom…No Vordul, No Cannibal Ox, No El-P, No Good. I can't wait for the new Cannibal Ox album to drop.

1. Intro: His Majesty's Laughter
2. KRS-Lightly (feat. S.A. Smash)
3. Pegasus
4. Candid Cam (Live Wetlands 1996)
5. Viewtiful Flow
6. Zenith (feat. Blueprint)
7. Whysdaskyblue
8. Da Supafriendz (feat. MF Doom)
9. Poverty Lane 16128 (Karaoke)
10. Elixir (feat. Sadat X & Sinclair)
11. Look Mom No Hands (A.S.C.F.D.)
12. 9 Lashes (When Michael Smacks Lucifer)
13. Posse Slash (feat. Karneige, Breez Evahflowing, Poison Pen & Aesop Rock)
14. Could You Be
15. Outro: 12 Noon
16. Life's Ill Pt. II: The Empire Striketh (feat. Brezzly Brewin of Juggaknots & Vordul of Cannibal Ox)