20 Questions: Cannibal Ox

Photo: Mirek Goraj

Natalie Portman. James Brown. Seinfeld. These are just a few things that Cannibal Ox love, just as much as people love the fact that they're finally back.

Cannibal Ox

Blade of the Ronin

Label: IGC
US Release Date: 2015-03-04
UK Release Date: 2015-03-23

The impossible has happened: Cannibal Ox have released a second album.

Some are not too surprised by this development, given that the duo consisting of Vast Aire and Vordul Mega dropped a short EP in 2013 after over a decade of inactivity. At the start of that decade, 2001 specifically, a little album called The Cold Vein was released, produced by Company Flow's El-P and the flagship full-length for his new record label Definitive Jux. With Vordul and Vast's poetic, dense lyrics given a dark, brooding atmosphere in the form of El-P's beats, the album quickly became a stone-cold classic, immediately putting the label on the map, setting the guys up for success, and redefining the very possibilities of what indie rap could do at a time when more indie-centric press was finally coming into prominence.

So what the hell happened?

The duo never broke up, nor did they ever be anything but be hugely productive on their own. The Atoms Family siblings doled out solo albums on their own and chalked up a decent amount of press as they did so. However, while the dissolution of Definitive Jux somewhat hampered any possibility of a future Cannibal Ox release, but the duo found a kindred spirit in the form of new producer Bill Cosmiq, who obviously studied a lot of what made The Cold Vein so iconic before laying out the moody blueprints for Blade of the Ronin, the long-awaited second album from a group whose first placed at #81 on PopMatters' list of the 100 Best Albums of the 2000s.

To celebrate the momentous occasion, the Ox sat down to answer PopMatters' 20 Questions, revealing the duo's shared love for everything from Natalie Portman to James Brown to, of course, Seinfeld.

* * *

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

Vordul Mega: The Fault in Our Stars made me very emotional! Book: The Confession by John Grisham.

Vast Aire: A Time To Kill.That movie is hard to watch.

2. The fictional character most like you?

VM: I'm like George from Seinfeld because of his inquisitiveness and curiosity. [laughs]

VA: I am like Jerry, as I am never satisfied with my women and I laugh at the Soup Nazi ("No soup for you!").

3. The greatest album, ever?

VM: I don't really have one favorite.

VA: My favorite is A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory. I can just sit back and enjoy that album as its special to me.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Both: Star Wars!

5. Your ideal brain food?

VM: A real good movie gets me open to write; also anything with Natalie Portman!

VA: I am the same, we are very cinematic and we love women! Anything with fly brunette involved and I definitely ready to write!

6. You're proud of this accomplishment, but why?

VM: One of my greatest accomplishments is to be alive; I am proud to enjoy everyday! Growing up in the inner city is very challenging.

VA: I am proud that I wrote a book, which I have been working on for 10-years and its just about finished. Its based in metaphysics and spirituality.

7. You want to be remembered for...?

VM: Just for being real, an honest artist.

VA: I want IGC & Crimson Godz to be remembered as some of the greatest Hip Hop Artists to rep the culture. The track record of music is clear!

8. Of those who've come before, the most inspirational are?

Both: James Brown, period.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

VM: Nas' Illmatic.

VA: Main Source's Breaking Atoms.

10. Your hidden talents... ?

VM: I can glow in the dark [laughs]. No, for real I can draw.

VA: I practice Aikido & Shorinji Kemp. I'm the Sumo wit the illest Judo! [laughs]

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

VA: Don't answer everybody, because they don't always deserve your words. Only engage with equals. Don't go down to them; make them come up to you.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

VM: One time, as a kid I stole a speaker stereo system so we could enjoy music. It eventually broke, but me and Vast blasted some great music!

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or... ?

Both: Cannibal Ox is one of a kind and don't want nobodies name on our behind.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

VA: I would love to have dinner with Oprah. I think if I got a chance to pick her brain we could both could inspire younger generations to be better. By desert, we would have already covered politics, religion, philosophy, science, human relations, and food. She might just fall in love with me! [laughs]

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

VM: I want to go back to the Flintstones' era, where all my technology is half rock, part live animal!

VA: I want to go forward to the Jetsons' era. Oh wait, we are here now! [laughs] I guess I want to be present, in the now.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

VA: Gears of War! We don't play Hitman ...

VM: Mortal Kombat with the vacation.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or... ?

VM: Baked chocolate chip cookies.

VA: Red velvet cake all day.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

VM: Let's form a cipher around the globe! Ox take over!

VA: Anything less would be uncivilized.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

VM: I would ask them "Why and how?"

VA: [laughs] And I will ask them "Where & when? You dirty politician!"

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Both: #BladeOfTheRonin #IGC Look out for our world tours!

Splash image: photo by Mirek Goraj






Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.