February 27, 2018

My Gut Reaction: Canibus - Mind Control (June 21, 2005)



With his reign as one of the three hip hop Cameo Kings winding down as the 1990s came to a close, Germaine “Canibus” Williams has had a tough time navigating our chosen genre. His career appears, on its surface, to be as haphazard and happenstance as life itself, with many of his creative and business choices seemingly made without any of his own personal input. Even the major decisions he does make, such as joining the military after the release of his fourth album, Mic Club: The Curriculum, or signing with Wyclef Jean’s camp for his debut, Can-I-Bus, concluded with very little impact caused by his own hand, such as getting kicked out of the military for smoking weed (um, his rap name is Canibus, what was everyone expecting), or getting kicked out of Wyclef’s crew and subsequently fighting with him.

The sixth Canibus album, Mind Control, is yet another project on which Germaine had no hand in its fate. Click through to learn more.


Mind Control was recorded before his third project, C! Tru Hollywood Stories, the album-length Eminem dis that Marshall barely responded to, but released sixth in line, roughly two years after the critically-acclaimed Rip The Jacker. Like Rip The Jacker, Mind Control’s production was handled by solely one person, but instead of Jedi Mind Tricks’ Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind, a large part of why that project was so critically acclaimed, a man who called himself Mark Sparks worked the boards. Sparks had a deal with Germaine that Mind Control would be released only if something happened to him while he was serving a tour in the United States Army: although he was drummed out before anything could happen, Canibus still had a contractual obligation with Gladiator Music, the label that owned the project (one which our host formed with Ricky Lee), so it saw a release in 2005, forcing Germaine’s own newly-recorded (of a sort, a tale which maybe I’ll get into at a later date) album, Hip-Hop For Sale, to be pushed back several months.

The tricky thing about reviewing Mind Control is that a whopping nine out of its eleven tracks have been previously released: three as random leaks, five on a mixtape entitled My Name Is Nobody, and one on an otherwise unrelated project by the proto-Slaughterhouse Canibus is still a part of, the Horsemen. That leaves only two “new” songs for his fans to ingest, which isn’t much to work with: as such, Gladiator Music's parent company, Tommy Boy Records (yeah, that weirded me out, too) didn’t bother much with promotion. Canibus himself has distanced himself from the project, a fact that should insulate me from any potential negative review Mind Control could inspire (let’s be real here, it totally inspired it, I’m writing these paragraphs after having listened to the motherfucker), but will that stop the Canibus stans from coming out of theuir parents' basements to comment? How the hell should I know? I haven’t written about the guy in five-and-a-half years.

1. 33 3’S
Only Germaine would kick off a rap song with the line, “Yo, in linear terms”. Except in order to hear that, you have to sit through a bizarre recreation of that Tootsie Pop commercial where the owl impatiently bites into the candy after three licks. (This isn’t even the first rap song to reference the “how many licks” question, as Ice Cube famously got the brand wrong on Westside Connection’s “The Gangsta, The Killer, & The Dope Dealer”, and of course Lil’ Kim released “How Many Licks” in 2000.) Our host’s answer to Jay-Z’s “22 Twos”, “33 3’s” purportedly features thirty-three uses of the number “3”, but I don’t care enough to count, and neither do you. Canibus says a bunch of nothing, which is standard issue: throughout his entire career, he’s believed that squeezing as many words into a verse as possible was the only way to be considered a great writer. He doesn’t sound bad, though, just obnoxious, not unlike the preppy villain in a 1980s college-based comedy that wears three polo shirts with the collars popped while honestly believing he is better than everyone else. The Mark Sparks production is so fucking annoying that you’ll either skip to the next song or throw your phone out the window of a moving vehicle. Either move would be justified, really.

2. CANIBUS MAN
Only Germaine would have a song on his album called “Canibus Man”. (Okay, sorry, I admit I’m just being overly picky now. And no, “Method Man” doesn’t count, as many rappers have named songs after themselves. Nobody calls Canibus “Canibus Man” except the man himself, though, hence my frustration.) The Mark Sparks beat does scream 2001, with its faux-Rockwilder sound practically begging the listener for attention, if not radio airplay, and let’s be serious, when was the last time anybody ever played Canibus on the radio? Still not the worst music I’ve ever heard, though. Canibus gets off one fire bar (“I go to war ‘cause I’m prepared to lose” is a pretty good twist on a cliché), but it’s buried within nearly five minutes of mind-numbingly disconnected thoughts such as, “Thinking about all the possible ways to kill you while I smile at you”, “Coming from the underground I discovered / A ground beneath the ground before underground bunkers” (huh?), and “Caucasians eat frogs”, which comes immediately after our host threatens to bake the heads of his enemies (wack emcees, naturally) with garlic breadsticks, um, sticking out of their eye sockets. The hell?

3. ATLANTA
We live in a world where “Atlanta” exists, and it is so goddamn hilarious that I can almost let Canibus slide, but that would make for one very short paragraph. This track is terrible, no doubt, but our host’s unimaginable impression of a Southern rap song (at least circa 2001) is just so… strange. He slows down his flow (so much so that you’d be forgiven if you thought “Atlanta” was performed by an entirely different artist) to fit the needs of the instrumental, his bars almost insultingly simplified to pander to a different audience: “Atlanta” may be about Germaine’s time in the titular city and how much he appreciates it, but it plays as a parody of rap music from the South. The beat switched a bit during the third verse, forcing Canibus into a double-time flow that doesn’t help matters any. He also spends a good chunk of the first verse mansplaining that he’d rather get into a car accident with a black woman than a white one because he believes he could successfully gaslight a black woman into thinking it was their fault, not his, and thus concludes the most fucked-up thing I’ve heard in a rap song in a very fucking long time, but it’s not like Canibus has a catalog full of songs about how much he loves the ladies. Moving on.

4. GYBAOTC (FEAT. FREE)
The title is stylized as “Gybaotc”, which looks like a poor editing decision, as it is an acronym for “get your broke ass out the club”, and this track is the most complete actual song on Mind Control thus far, as there is a story here: Canibus is a dude who wants to have some fun at the strip club, but doesn’t have the budget for it, and as such, acts in a way that gets himself thrown out, as the lack of funds eliminates any motivation the dancers could have to be nicer to him. (This is his reasoning, mind you: never once does he take any responsibility or think, “Huh, maybe I shouldn’t have tried to grab her ass”. This is the same guy who brags about gaslighting women into taking blame, though, so…) Don’t get me wrong, this song isn’t any good, and there aren’t any Canibus fans out there who wanted to hear him rap alongside uncredited guest star Free (of 106 & Park fame; she also serves as the final connection Germaine had to Wyclef Jean’s Refugee Camp collective at the time, and hey, remember when Canibus was aligned with Wyclef? What a time to be alive) on some Ludacris/Shawna, Trick Daddy/Trina, or even some JT Money/Solé shit, but at least he’s finally tried something different, so yay? Also, Free plays the dancer who isn’t having any of Germaine’s bullshit, so good on her, even if her verse is merely okay.

5. IN THE RAIN
The first “new” song on Mind Control is really bad. Sometimes you don’t need to say any more than that.

6. MIND CONTROL
With that R&B chorus which, no bullshit, reinterprets Raff’s “Self Control”, famously covered by Laura Branigan in 1984 (and not credited to anyone in particular), it’s debatable exactly who Canibus intended this title track (and second “new” song of the evening) for. Pretty easy to understand why our host has since disowned the project, though. The brazen Raff theft is the only creative part of this horseshit.

7. LAST LAUGH
This one I remember hearing before, on some mixtape back in the day when I still gave a shit about Canibus. I had always assumed that “Last Laugh” was a sly dig at his now-former sworn enemy LL Cool J, given the two “L”’s in the title, but in listening to “Last Laugh” today, I concede that I may be wrong: this just appears to be, on its surface, Germaine’s attempt at a lyrical clinic, one in which he explains why he’s a better rapper than you without ever displaying why he’s better, as his performance on here isn’t entertaining or engaging in the least bit. Also, the gimmick of the creepy laughter dispensed throughout the shitty beat was pretty dismal. (I kind-of enjoyed the one instance where the laughter is replaced with an homage to Biz Markie, though.) Who’s laughing now, Germaine? Well, probably you, since I’m the dumbass who just sat through this song. Sigh.

8. NOT 4 PLAY (FEAT. KURUPT)
Nonsensically titled “Scrolls” when it appeared in the exact same form on The Four Horsemen’s The Horsemen Project, “Not 4 Play” (a name that works much better) is a showcase for the half of the four-man crew that has never appeared on an album from any proper Wu-Tang Clan member. By that I mean the spotlight is on Kurupt, as there isn’t anything remotely Canibus-ish about Germaine’s performance on here. (Kurupt is also the only guest artist that receives proper credit on Mind Control.) He shouts-out Ras Kass and Killah Priest, which was very kind of him, and the instrumental (credited to Mark Sparks on here, but to Numba9 on the Horsemen disc, curiously) isn’t exactly bad as it is incomplete, but the track is a failure because of Kurupt’s stilted, awkward bars, in which he still manages to prove to the listener just how much he hates the opposite sex. Groan.

9. STUPID PRODUCERS
Goes a long way toward explaining how Canibus has consistently ended up with crappy beats throughout his entire career. It isn’t entirely accurate, of course: given its clear one-sided nature (see: the fucking song title), our host fails to even consider that he and his team could also be a part of the overall problem. (It’s not just the lack of a budget that prevents Canibus from securing beats from A-list producers on a regular basis, after all.) At least our host is laser-focused on this tale throughout the track, which features an okay instrumental and the absolute worst use of a rapper’s higher-pitched alter ego (see: The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Gimme The Loot”; Warren G.’s G-Child) that I’ve ever heard.

10. TALK THAT TALK
The final “new” song of the evening plays as a goof on the type of motivational speaker-esque songs Eminem almost exclusively records today, even with the fuzzy “guitars” within the terribly dull beat. And Canibus recorded this shit back in 2001, before Marshall quit abusing drugs. How did he know? (In reality, this just proves that they’re both cut from the same washed cloth, but it’s funny to imagine Germaine as a prophet of sorts.) Our host also can’t help but to take a quick swipe at Ladies Love Cool James, as he is petty and refuses to accept that he lost that battle. Yes, Germaine lost. If you still think otherwise, you're an idiot.

11. NOBODY
Canibus uses this outro to claim Mind Control as his “third album”, which could have been true, had it not been held back several grades. And yet, “Nobody” is also a previously-released track, having first appeared on the online-only mixtape My Name Is Nobody (as its intro, no, I’m not kidding). How exactly does that math work? Why use the same spoken-word interlude twice? Are we through the looking glass now? Maybe Canibus and his trolls have been gaslighting us this entire time.

THE LAST WORD: Without a Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind to fall back on, Mind Control suffers not just from several boring Canibus performances, but musical backing that fails to grab the listener in any fashion. This collection of random songs, which is all Mind Control is, don’t fool yourselves, all fail in their collective attempt to entertain. I realize that they were all recorded in 2001, released four years later, and then written about by me thirteen years after that, so you may say that the era in which I could have enjoyed Mind Control had long passed before I pushed play on YouTube. (What, you thought I bought this shit?) To which I say: may I remind you that even your beloved Canibus hates this album. None of the tracks mesh together in any coherent way, and, as usual, our host gets trapped up his own asshole, spitting lyrics because he likes the sound of his voice and because he finds himself to be clever more so than because he’s actively trying to be one of the best rappers in the game. I go into every review trying to find at least one positive thing I can mention, and here’s all I got: at least Mind Control isn’t all rapitty rap rap let-me-get-my-thesaurus I-am-so-much-smarter-than-you lyricism, which every single one of his other projects has been so far. I mean, Mind Control features a song where Canibus gets kicked out of a strip club for being too aggressive with one of the dancers, and another which is just an ode to Atlanta. He was actively trying new things, and I can't be mad at that. Maybe with more care being taken (I realize Germaine was in no position to do this himself, so I don’t fully blame him), Mind Control could have been more Can-I-Bus and less C! Tru Hollywood Stories. But as it is, I agree with Canibus: this shit is “exceptionally mediocre”, as he referred to it himself during an interview. I’ll go one further: it fucking sucks. Come @ me.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
I mean, if you want to read more about Germaine, you can. But don’t trip over yourselves doing so.



8 comments:

  1. Canibus delivers a nice bar here & there, but this project is hilariously bad. The production is TERRIBLE. His beat selection skills may be the worst of any rapper of his caliber, if you really look @ it. It's unfortunate, but oh well. I applaud you for being able to even sit through this whole album to review it. lol

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    1. Eminem is worse, and I say that even though I can't stand Canibus.

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  2. Yeah, he definitely lost. But he definitely shouldn’t have. And I’m of the opinion that LL was most certainly the petty one since it was him who started the damn beef over the absolute bitchiest of reasons.

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  3. that album cover is hilarious, like when someone stands in front of the tv and you have to stretch your neck round them to see whilst casting a withering glance at them for their interruption

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  4. Canibus reviews on here are pointless and repetitive. Why whine when you know you don't like the music or him? I don't like him either but yeesh. Even the Eminem review read like someone going through a mid life crisis. Just depressing and predictable.

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    1. This narrative thread tracks the progress of Canibus throughout his career, and there have been a lot of terrible choices made both by him and for him along the way. I write about this stuff in the hopes of finding diamonds in the rough. If you equate criticism to whining, then we have nothing further to discuss, and you can kindly remove yourself from the blog, as you have clearly missed the point of this whole operation.

      Thanks for reading!

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    2. @anonymous you've also missed the point where its funny to trash trash. personally for me such scathing criticism makes it even more worth reading as I laugh my ass off at some of max's reviews. keep it up, max!

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  5. Fuck this album...the shit you put yourself through to keep us entertained...but on an unrelated note, Max, there's a group that you and your two other readers should check out, it's called Nephlim Modulation Systems. It's a group that Big Jus formed after Company Flow disbanded and a lot of their music has a crazy vibe to it, like he was trying to outdo El-p

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