They get equal billing, but Mighty Mi is the star of this rap show.
Here's the thing: If you're going to name your album The Best Damn Rap Show, it had damn well better blow my socks clean off.
I suppose it's possible that Vast Aire and DJ Mighty Mi thought they were doing some form of expectations management when they didn't append the word "ever" to the end of that title, given that it's obviously a riff on The Best Damn Sports Show Ever. Either that, or they were afraid of being sued. Regardless, putting an "ever" on the end of the title would have put it into competition with the Illmatics, Chronics, and Nation of Millionses of the world, and I'd have to guess that Vast and Mighty are smarter than that. So, they settled for the implication that their little circular slice of circular digital media was simply The Best Damn Rap Show Right Now. Which it isn't. It's not even close, actually.
Most of the problems lie with Vast Aire. This may well be the point where we start asking whether Vast Aire needs El-P and his bag of screechy sounds and production tricks kicking him in the ass to inspire a decent performance, but I'm appalled at how lazy Aire sounds on this album. Constantly half a beat behind, he sounds for much of the album like he's trying to stay awake, much less keep up with the music around him. The point is only underscored when, in another bit of poor judgement (if an unselfish one this time around), Tame One is allowed to do a verse in the otherwise unspectacular "Fighter Pilots", tears the roof off the joint and walks out of the building. "You wanna battle me / That'll be tragedy", Tame One says, and he might just be talking to Aire himself, given that his one verse blows away every single other verse on the rest of the album.
That's not to say that Vast Aire is completely awful -- he does come out with the odd perfect punchline and he also manages to display some cleverness in his rhymes. The problem is, he just doesn't have the delivery to go with that cleverness. "I'll break your five-dollar ass and make change / It might seem deranged / I'm the Aire in the room, but you don't know my name" is one of the choice sets of lines here, but such impressive bits are just too few and far between -- Vast Aire's ignorance of rhythm is just too much to bear while you're waiting for the next solid rhyme.
Luckily, this isn't just Vast Aire's baby -- in a rare move, the producer is getting equal billing for this release, the idea being that we should be listening to Mighty Mi's work just as much as we listen to the rapping on top of it. It's just as well, as Mighty Mi impresses at least as much as Vast Aire disappoints. He gets plenty of showcases that feature Aire in little more than a cameo role, including the upbeat stunner "Friendly Fire" and the funky-as-hell "Black Sunday". Mighty Mi pulls Vast Aire's rap up a notch or three on the electronic, synth-driven "What Goes Up", which sounds a lot like Reanimator's recent work. His considerable scratching skills take center stage on "Aire Maestro", and he even knows when to drop a beat and get out of the way, as on "Fighter Pilots" and "Buttafly Knife". Anyone would be hard pressed to find a single song on this album that could possibly be considered a failure from a production standpoint.
So it's got that going for it.
Still, all the fantastic production in the world isn't going to make any album The Best Damn Rap Show. The disc is certainly not a total waste, and fans of solid production and DJing will certainly find something to like. Vast Aire is simply going to have to step up his game to prove that he isn't just a flash in the pan. This disc isn't going to convince anybody.