July 15, 2007

Drink Coasters: Canibus - Can-I-Bus (September 8, 1998)

A wise man who once worked as Debbie Allen's housekeeper once dismissed Germaine Williams (birth name Canibus Jones) as a rapper with a well-known affliction. You see, it seems that ninety-nine percent of his fans didn't exist. And after you listen to Can-I-Bus, his debut release on Universal Records, you will wonder why the remaining one percent hadn't yet defected.

Canibus is probably best known as a battle rapper who hooked up with the wrong crew. The first time I had ever heard him was on his guest appearances on "Beasts From The East" and "My Crew", both taken from the Lost Boyz's Love, Peace, & Nappiness. He sounded great on both tracks (even on "Beasts", where the other guest, one Reggie Noble, rapped circles around everyone), and a promising career was born. I also liked his appearance on that shitty Firm album, too. He was set up to be the next big thing, as all of his guest appearances left the listener wanting more.

However, his career was effectively ended when he was invited to participate on James Todd Smith's Phenomenon, on the infamous "4,3,2,1". Canibus wrote a quick verse about the microphone tattoo Cool James had on his arm, which LL took offense to; he pulled rank and demanded that Canibus rewrite his lyrics. However, James didn't bother changing his own lyrics, which were in retaliation to the young whippersnapper's aborted verse. As such, an otherwise crappy LL Cool J album was suddenly popular, and the LL Cool J/Canibus feud was underway. Normally rap beefs can be entertaining, as long as it's all kept on wax, but young Canibus was handicapped from the get-go by his new found family: Wyclef Jean and company (or, depending on how you see it, Everyone From The Fugees Except For The Talented Chick), the aforementioned "wrong crew".

Can-I-Bus is one of the most horrific debut albums I have ever heard, mainly due to it being such a waste of potential. Canibus is a gifted battle rapper, but not a gifted lyricist; at this point, he still was unable to write a song that was about anything remotely important besides "I'm the best rapper" and "I love my mama", both being overused topics. Clef's production contributions are what hinder young Germaine's progress, though. After the nerdiest rap album intro I have ever heard in the past hour, the first lyrics we hear from the album's star, "I'll make your bitch crew shit stools", sets the tone for what will end up being a very disappointing and altogether shitty listening experience. Free, better known as the co-host from BET's 106 & Park who quit the show, makes her rapping debut on the first song, "Patriots", several years before her TV hosting gig, and she sounds completely out of place. The second song sounds a little better; I will admit to a soft spot for "Get Retarded", but that would be only due to the production work of Salaam Remi (who now works, to much better effect, with Nas), and not because of the rhymes themselves.

A lot of people complain about Germaine's lyrical content, but those people are the type who probably don't like keeping a dictionary on hand whenever they listen to music. Here's something that everyone can understand, though: Can-I-Bus is hampered by Canibus's obsession with LL Cool J. "Second Round K.O.", the first single, features a bizarre cameo by, of all people, convicted rapist Mike Tyson, who instructs young Germaine to "eat, eat, eat MC's", probably starting with the ears. This diss track sounded alright back in 1998, but the fact that it's damn near ten years old (and the fact that Cool James ripped the upstart a new asshole on his "The Ripper Starts Back") makes for an uncomfortable listen in 2007. "N---onometry" also contains a weak jab at Ladies Love, although the song sounds so fucking boring that it would take an act of God for you to listen straight through to the end, where it takes place.

In fact, the only song that I can halfheartedly recommend is "Buckingham Palace", where the beat is kept to a bare minimum while Germaine spits some of his most entertaining boasts , even though the hook sucks. But don't even get me started on the closer, "Rip Rock", where the mere title alone should make you run for the hills.

Can-I-Bus is the worst debut record from an artist who should fucking know better. He's not the best rapper in the world (I don't care if he seems to have a more advanced vocabulary than the average Joe, he's not the best rapper in the world), but the lyrical genius is clearly present. As I have said many times before, without good beats, nobody gives a damn about what the artist has to say. Unfortunately, Canibus doesn't have anything important to say on this CD anyway, so the Ras Kass argument doesn't even apply here. Listen at your own risk.

(Agree/disagree with the above review? Leave some comments below! Don't be shy!)



  1. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJuly 19, 2007

    This was a crushing disappointment. Channel Zero was okay and Buckingham Palace was terrific but all in all this is the perfect illustration of how someone who DOMINATED every cameo and freestyle to this point wasn't necessarily capable of making a good album. There's good punchlines sprinkled throughout but that's like finding an untouched cheeseburger in a pile of garbage.

  2. completely true. Its obvious that wyclef jean basically controlled this album from the beats all the way to every line that canibus said. Listen to 'The carnival' by wyclef that came out around the same time then listen to this and you'll see what you mean.

    Its amazing really that the same emcee made this and then made Rip The Jacker & For Whom The Beat Tolls. I think canibus has finally found his own style these days, but i agree, this was an awful start to a career.

  3. I have a question. Why do people like Canibus and Lil Wayne get judged more harshly when it comes to the subject matter (or lack thereof) of their rap while someone like Redman or Ludacris do not? Redman's lines were actually the most nonsensical on that song (even though I liked them - "..my style is Milk of Magnesia..")
    But you don't mean to actually tell me that you believe Redman's verse was better than Canibus' on "Beasts From The East"? And generally speaking, you can't be serious that Canibus does not say much on his songs. He's grown a lot since the 90s but even on Can-I-Bus, on songs like "Niggonometry" and "What's Goin' On?" he had a lot more subject matter than what was going on around the time - "Money, Cash, Hos" (Jay-Z), "Feel So Good" (Mase) and so on...
    Everyone's entitled to their opinion but let's not have double standards please. I like Reggie too but he's never said anything profound. Let's be fair when we judge...

  4. strangathegreatApril 03, 2008

    whoever wrote this review is a f*kin idiot for sure. Besides not having the hottest beats in the world that album had lyrics on every song. If you even paid attention to his words then you would have understood that this kid was ahead of himself at that present time. If your complaining about content then you must complain about every rapper that exists because all rappers talk about is life on the streets, becoming successful and females..you may have the secluded underground mc's who speak of the planets and monsters who don't exist or one dimensional rappers who only talk about political revolution but all in all every rapper has his niche....Channel zero was some real talk do your research and see how Germaine studies and relays his reports into lyrics. But thats your opinion, if your a true fan of lyrics then you can't deny Canibus for anything he has ever done...He is by far the smartest mc I have ever heard. And some weak beats can't stop that from being so.

  5. AnonymousMay 24, 2008

    Yeah if you dont like this album I really question whether or not you know anything about hip hop..First off LL's comeback song was trash and noone ever heard it..Canibus comeback was much much bigger and I challenge anyone to name some lyrics off their head that killed Bis..His first album is one of top 5 most underrated albums of all time..give me a break every song is tight even Rip Rock..I kno way more people who know this album and still listen to it then any Ll cool j album ever made ..I guarantee you do to..Ask some chick that like hip hop and you will see..Canibus downfall is that he has one style, angry, and he is hard to work with..Wyclefs production was fine..CanIBUS all day long

  6. This CD is definitely not the greatest, but there are several things with which I have to disagree. I think your statement that LL destroyed Canibus in battle is based not on the quality of music but on the record sales and judgment of the generally retarded listening public. Listen to both "The Ripper Strikes Back" and "Second Round K.O." and the choice is clear-- in a battle, punchlines always decide the outcome, and even though Canibus had the disadvantage of going first, it's clear that he comes out on top. Besides, which of those songs is more often played these days? At least in my view, "Second Round K.O." has the much better staying power.

    Additionally, you say that Canibus should "know better," but like everyone else, he was ultimately in it to see if he could stack chips like his peers, and his bid to do it with Wyclef failed miserably. I can't blame a dude for trying to get rich; sad as it is, it's the American Dream.

    Meanwhile, LL had long since faded off the scene even when Phenomenon dropped and this battle was still raging. "Doin' It" and "Headsprung" were his two last gasps of air in the mainstream before he faded into the silver screen forever. Canibus, a man devoted to hip-hop since he discovered, has since released "Rip the Jacker" and "For Whom the Beat Tolls." With all due respect to "Radio" and "Momma Said Knock You Out," two great albums in their own right, Canibus is and always has been one of the greatest lyrical emcees who ever lived, and those two albums rank in the top 10 released this decade. After finding the production that matched his style, Canibus has gone on to have a storied underground career and a fanatic cult following.

    After clearly not being devoted to refining his craft, when he had broken into the scene with one of the most innovative, hard-hitting and liquid flows ever, Cool J is an anachronism among the new breed of artist. What's the most ridiculous punchline, the most introspective sequence, or the most intelligent verse he's ever dropped? Rakim was around at that time too, and he's re-invented his style many times over at this point.

    It doesn't take a dictionary to figure out the level of dope that material like this stands on:

    "I confuse ni**az like somebody tryna gang-bang / Wearin' a blue shirt and red pants / Throwin' up signs with they left hand / Standin out on the corner o' Wetlands / Wit a confederate flag for a headband"

    "I got divine chromosomes in me / My sperm scrambles the eggs in a woman's ovaries"

    But maybe it does when you hear something like this:

    "You wonder why I do this, I do this because I find it therapeutic //
    for all the enthusiasts that love my music //
    You're stupid; my brain's faster than Cray computers //
    With microprocessors submerged in cryogenic fluids //
    On some rude shit, I put voodoo on your two-inch //
    Tell you that you better not use it, then bootleg your new shit //
    You think that you can fuck around? Prove it //
    You got a beat? Loop it //
    You got lyrics? Then flip something to it //"

    If you can name a time LL ever reached that level lyrically, please let me know... the guy could appeal to the mainstream, but any objective person who knows what it's like to rap no doubt understands that lyrically Bis raps circles around him. To me, "Second Round K.O." is no different.

    1. I agree that canibus has gotten better but i can name many rappers better than him, and for ll cool j getting lyrical, "the ripper strikes back" has many famous lines, the most famous being that 99% of cannibus fans dont exist.

  7. You have to be kidding me, go turn on mtv i bet you think that shit is good. Stop being 11 and understand the lyrics maybe they will make sense.

  8. Wow.. We finally have a rapper that raps about computers! and cyborgs! and the internet! and microprocessors! and ALIENS!! yay!! this is what we've all been waiting for!!.... He is a nerd. Rap is not meant for nerds. He acts so hard, but has most likely never harmed anyone or anything. Wait, no, there was that one time he erased his hard drive like 9 times!! That was some gangsta shhitt! No one likes a poser. Maybe if he had presented himself differently people would appreciate his lyrical "talents" more, but none the less he has to pretend to be a bad-ass. Therefore he has a lowly following of under-appreciated, introverted, teenagers who feel they need to stick up for him because if he's not considered "cool" how will they ever be?!

  9. Can I Take a Shit on this album, should be the title! Can I Take a Shit is a boring dude with a boring voice and boring content.

  10. your a dick face,is obvious that u dont know anything about good lyricism and beats

  11. I liked this album. But then again, when I listened to it, I was expecting a flaming pile of excrement. It don't think it's a drink coaster, but it doesn't deserve a purchase.

  12. AnonymousJuly 15, 2009

    Yeah this album sucked. What a big let down. Poor production as well.

  13. AnonymousJuly 20, 2009

    you guys seriously need to stop judging MCs because of the beats, if appreciate the beat more than the rhymes than ur not even a real fan, dont listen to this dumb slut

  14. the production on this album is what made me want to trow away this CD, the lyrical content is amazing, and im glad bis threw away that dumb bitch wyclef, this could of been a great CD if it wasnt for him

  15. max its time for "2000 B.C" to be reviewed, or what happened? the beats to that album bored you to daeth to?

  16. Who says that 'Bis is not hardcore schould know that he was in war! Only for escaping the fake rap industry. So Can-I-Bus is a album that I think you can listen 2 times,not more. But all his other albums especially Rip The Jacker are from the beats to the lyrics on TOP!

    Peace fom

  17. to be honest im sik off bis, i herd he has a new album out i dnt want to ever touch it. i think hip for sale is gabage and so is for whom the beats toll, gabage, the only glorious creation was rip the jacker nuff sed goodnyt

  18. atleast max is not of those people that complains about his lyrics

  19. I generally like your reviews Max, but you are smack out of your mind to think this about this album. This is, WITHOUT A DOUBT, one of the most impressive lyrical forays in hip-hop history, and I also think the beats are great. The worst part of your review was when you said LL ripped Canibus a new asshole. Everyone and their mother knows that Canibus ate LL alive in that beef.

  20. No, this isn't a great album, but that's not Canibus' fault. While the beats range from weak to average for the most part,lyrically Canibus kills it(I also thought Free killed her verse on the opening track). Canibus might not make the greatest albums but dude is a dope lyricist and the sickest battle emcee of all time, periodd.

  21. Canibus...


    What can one say about this dude that hasn't been said already?

    He once had a legitimate claim as "King Cameo", along with DMX and Busta.

    He tried ripping Cool James' spine out.. That went bad for him AND for L. (Contrary to popular belief, BOTH of them lost. Oh, you want proof? In 2014, both of them are laughing stock in hip-hop, albeit for entirely different reasons.)

    He released rotten egg after dead carcass in his bid for a solo career. (FUCK Rip The Jacker)

    What more can be said? Oh, yeah. He committed battle-rap seppukku on pay-per-view.

    I'll go back to his cameos pre-2001 if I want my Bis dose. Other than that, R.I.P. Canibus

    Oh, and R.I.P. LL Cool J for that matter

    Both of y'all should stick to touring.