March 10, 2010
My Gut Reaction: Canibus - C! True Hollywood Stories (November 6, 2001)
Like most people after suffering a bad breakup, Germaine did some soul-searching and decided that he did, in fact, enjoy rhyming, and therefore, everybody else was at fault in regard to the failure of his career. Newly homeless, he met Louie Lombard and christened him as his new business manager: the first bullet point on the agenda was getting Canibus back into the studio for somebody, anybody, so why not Louie? Lombard's label, Archives Records (yeah, I had never heard of it either, but when I first read about it, I thought it specialized in reissues, not unlike Rhino Records), quickly signed Germaine, and with the help of his friend and promoter Pakman, Canibus set out to work on his third album, C! True Hollywood Stories.
And in doing so, Canibus quickly lost all of his fucking fans.
C! True Hollywood Stories, obviously modeled after the popular E! program, is almost magnificent in its commitment to the absolute worst aspects of hip hop. While he has never publicly stated as such, Canibus intended for this album to be satire, his skewed take on what hip hop sounded like in 2001. However, my concern is that Canibus is not actually funny: he was part of the fucking problem back in 2001, not part of the solution. Additionally, if you'll go back and re-read the release date of C! True Hollywood Stories, you'll understand why nobody gave a flying fuck about this album back then.
Now, too, actually.
C! True Hollywood Stories has been unanimously named as the man's worst solo effort, which is quite a feat when you consider how fucking disappointing his first two albums were. The Germaine Williams that hip hop heads fell for (when they tripped over his rhymes) had quickly lost his way, eschewing agressive verbal threats for love songs and an unhealthy obsession with Marshall Mathers (more on this later). Having finally hit rock bottom, there really isn't anyplace else for Canibus to go, but I'm still not looking forward to listening to this album.
I understand that Canibus was going for an E! True Hollywood Stories-type of feel (I naturally assumed that from the album title), but this rap album intro is too corny for a proper write-up. As such: Hahfuwn wijdwiw qiqiq dodwdaslnca nd;wadjad jd ojfkfpF.
2. STAN LIVES! (SKIT)
Germaine's ill-advised obsession with Marshall Mathers takes a turn for the bizarre and downright stalker-ish here, as he casts himself in the role of the guy who saved Stan from the car accident that took his life (allegedly) at the end of the third verse on Eminem's “Stan”. Seriously, Canibus, why even fucking bother? The placement of this skit so early in the tracklisting does not bode well for my listening pleasure.
3. U DIDN'T CARE
Canibus gets a bit too obtuse with his Eminem dis track, now taking on the persona of Stan himself, spitting verses as if the fourth verse of “Stan” (the one where Marshall actually responds to Stan's letters with an apology for not getting back to him sooner) never existed. (Although I guess it is plausible that Stan would have never heard the fourth verse, since he was supposed to be dead and all.) Germaine's infatuation with his target is unnerving at best. I suppose it doesn't help that this track sucks balls, too.
4. THE RIP OFF
Ahh, a song discussing the general feeling Canibus fans have when talking about this album. No, that isn't it? This is the most calm that I have ever heard Germaine sound. After a clever hidden shout-out to Ras Kass, Canibus runs down the story of how he was convinced by his then-manager Louie Lombard to record and release C! True Hollywood Stories independently: he even sounds content with the fact that, even with the Wyclef connection, he wasn't meant to sell millions of records. The beat (credited to two producers, Chips and Slice O Life, who would never be heard from again) is too simple for my tastes, and I wish our host adopted a more aggressive tone (read: I wish he sounded like himself. To answer someone who doesn't think that he is the best rapper, Canibus responds, “That's cool. I don't agree.” The fuck?), but this wasn't all bad.
5. C! TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORIES
Germaine's autobiographical rhymes (delivered in a clear, concise manner, more in line with “The Rip Off” than the other tracks that Canibus fans fell in love with) are derailed by a godawful “hook” (which consists of the title being repeated ad nauseum) and our host's seemingly never-ending need to become BFF with Marshall Mathers. My theory is that Canibus was on some fucking powerful drugs during the recording of this album, resulting in the ridiculous number of Eminem references and his overall calm demeanor: listening to C! True Hollywood Stories is kind of like watching a porno flick where the woman getting it six ways from Sunday is obviously blown out of her fucking mind on heroin and God knows what else.
6. A DIFFERENT VIBE IN LA
Canibus seems to be confusing “being in Los Angeles” with “being an artist who was formerly signed to a major label but was dropped due to a lack of sales”. This sounds like one of the worst tracks from Can-I-Bus, except now Germaine actually has the life experience to make something like this work. The hook is pretty fucking awful, though: what Canibus really needs in his crew is someone to tell him “No!” every once in a while.
7. I GOTTA STORY 2 TELL
Canibus swipes a song title from The Notorious B.I.G.'s catalog to spit a one-verse wonder attempting to rip some unnamed rapper apart. (Still not sure who: I listened to it twice and I'm still not sure if he's attacking Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, Jadakiss, MC Skat Kat, or someone else entirely. My money's on Hova, though I have no idea what would compel Canibus to go after Jay like every other young rapper in history like that.) This is much closer to the Germaine that everybody actually likes. Even the Eben instrumental isn't that bad.
8. STAN 'N CAN (SKIT)
And the Fatal Attraction continues, albeit with a potshot at the end of the skit.
9. HATE U 2 (FEAT PAKMAN)
Canibus sure name-drops his manager often on C! True Hollywood Stories: I imagine that this is similar to how Guru's solo Solar-produced records read when transcribed (admittedly, I have never listened to those projects: if I listen to Guru, Primo had damn well better be riding shotgun). I wonder if Germaine tries to sit through this album these days, only to give up when the memories of what Louie allegedly did come to mind. (They're not together anymore, as if you couldn't tell from the previous sentence.) I thought it was funny that a rapper named Pakman appears over a self-produced beat that sounds like it could have easily been swiped from an older Namco arcade sound board. The verses sound okay, but the hook ruins everything for everybody.
10. STOP SMOKIN'
One of the corniest songs in all of Germaine's catalog. The beat aims for a Southern bounce effect that doesn't take, and Canibus alters his voice to play three different roles. The best thing about this shit? It's a three-minute long anti-drug public service announcement. No, seriously: a guy who named himself after a specific mind-altering substance is telling others to stop abusing a different mind-altering substance.
11. LEMMIE HEAR SUMTHIN' ELSE (FEAT PAKMAN)
Buried within this trifle of a rap song, an attack on rappers who have nothing new to say, is yet another potshot at Germaine's first object of his affection, LL Cool J. At least this Canibus sounds like the same guy who could have recorded 2000 B.C. (Before Can-I-Bus).
12. HOTT TONIGHT
In a move that absolutely nobody demanded, but was inevitable, Canibus writes a sex rap, although, in a goofy twist, his vulgar take on fucking is actually aimed directly at the female audience. The mythical female audience that would purchase Canibus albums if they even existed, but still. Why in the hell would an underground album have to include a song like this? The skit at the end is almost useless, except it should be noted that even Canibus seemed to feel that this album was turning out below par.
13. GOTTA GET THAT DOE! (FEAT PAKMAN)
Pakman has already made far too many guest appearances on this project, but at least he can manage to sound alright. Germaine, on the other hand, comes across as if he feels that he's above the material, kind of like Phillp Seymour Hoffman if he was offered the lead role in Daddy Day Care. Yeah, this was pretty forgettable.
14. R U LYRICALLY FIT? (FEAT LUMINATI)
I don't know what was with the Luminati appearance during the first verse (what kind of weed was Canibus smoking when he actually believed that guy sounded good? I need that in my life!), but Germaine brings up a good point during his rhyme: he's a member of the Horsemen. So where the fuck are the cameo spots from Ras Kass, Killah Priest, and/or Kurupt? Those guys may have been able to salvage this shitty album. Okay, maybe that's asking too much, but they could have at least tried.
15. YA TEEF IZ YELLOW (SKIT) (FEAT PAKMAN)
You gotta be fucking kidding me.
16. LUV U 2 (FEAT PAKMAN)
Okay, the concept is kind of clever: this sequel to the earlier “Hate U 2” uses the exact same beat, but all of the lyrics have suddenly taken on a more positive bent. Otherwise, this is basically the same song, and you already read about it twice, so...
17. BOX CUTTA BLADE RUNNA
The coolest song title on the album is saddled with a weak-ass Eben instrumental that sounds like an afterthought. Germaine's one-verse wonder is decent (although he should really let the LL Cool J thing go already), and he sounds focused again, a trait that isn't evident on most of C! True Hollywood Stories, but this track is only barely passable as hip hop entertainment.
18. DRAFT ME! (FEAT C4 & “STAN”)
Over an out-of-place guitar riff, Canibus declares his love for his country and his willingness to fight for our freedom in a song that is truly xenophobic. This is unique subject matter for a rap song, though, and Germaine's displaced passion for the theater of war is only tripped up by the “appearance” of Stan (to be fair, he warned listeners about this on the “Stan 'N Can” skit). Later on in his life, Canibus actually joined the military, but he was dismissed after a superior officer caught him smoking weed. That isn't even ironic; it's almost as if that was the man's destiny.
19. ONE OF MY FAVORITES (SKIT)
Because hearing a serious reading of a rapper's lyrics is always amusing, right? Wrong.
20. C.T.H.S. (OUTRO)
Useless, especially since this isn't the actual end of the album.
C! True Hollywood Stories ends with a bonus song.
21. BONUS TRACK
This isn't really a bonus track: it consists of a live performance from Canibus in which he spits the exact same verse that popped up on the “One Of My Favorites” skit. While it is an impressive verse, just what was the point of this exercise? Or the project as a whole?
THE LAST WORD: C! True Hollywood Stories may have been Germaine's twisted take on what a mainstream hip hop album sounds like (or maybe it was really his crossover attempt), but if that's the case, then Canibus is brilliant, because he made this sound almost exactly like a shitty rap project. The hypermultisyllabic Rip the Jacker persona has been replaced by some jackass obsessed with sex, violence, and Eminem (probably a combination of all three, for all I know) who sounds brand new to the genre, and not in a good way. (The Eminem stalking doesn't even meet any sort of natural conclusion: Germaine simply stops talking about it. What the fuck, man? If you're going to go after the man, don't do it half-assed!) The beats also uniformly suck, which adds more fuel to my “Canibus couldn't select a good beat if you put a gun to his head” theory. I'm all for supporting independent releases, but not when they're tossed-off, ridiculous efforts such as C! True Hollywood Stories. I'm surprised Canibus even still has a career in the industry after this shit. Avoid this one as if it carried the swine flu.
You can catch up on the other Canibus released by clicking here. If you really want to, that is.