Vast Aire: Look Mom... No Hands

Tim Stelloh

Vast Aire

Look Mom... No Hands

Label: Chocolate Industries
US Release Date: 2004-04-27
UK Release Date: 2004-05-03

Vast Aire is pissed. From the sound of Look Mom... No Hands, you would think the rumors of Cannibal Ox's tragic break-up were true (when Can Ox cancelled a tour with Jean Grae last year, rumors popped up that Aire had broken things off with fellow MC Vordul Megilah). The rumors were not true, and a whole lotta hype was broadcast over a supposed "internal miscommunication". Nevertheless, Look Mom sounds like a break-up record. It's like a good old-fashioned freestyle cipher without the freestyle (and without the other MC battling back).

Like his material with Cannibal Ox, Aire rarely digresses from his arsenal of brutal rhymes. Lines like "Sayin' these rhymes ain't fresh is like sayin' Ted Koppel's toupee is okay" ("Zenith"), or "Therefore you ain't the king like Coretta / Man, I defeated you with eight letters / So imagine if I formed a sentence / You wouldn't even be here / You'd be past tense"("Pegasus") are battle rap gems. The marathon dis doesn't come until the end of the title track, which puts "Look Mom" at well over six minutes. It basically consists of Aire punking a guy named "7L" for two-plus minutes. It's one of hell of a longwinded spectacle, but what would you expect? The guy's name is Vast Aire after all.

The track itself is one of the best on Look Mom. Madlib's production walks the line between an indecipherable clutter of noise and an immense, free flowing composition. The intro begins with a simple beat and a distorted piano loop, but promptly breaks into an amalgam of sound, fusing a drum roll cadence, an ethereal snyth loop, two gospel hooks running simultaneously, and a horn section. One of Aire's lines basically sums up his styles and concerns on the record: "The niggas in hip-hop want the mic back / The niggas on the street want they life back". When he's not lambasting the droves of wack MCs that haven't paid their dues, he does the autobiographical, socially progressive thing with cuts like "Poverty Lane 16128" and "Why'sdaskyblue?". The only track that attempts to branch beyond Aire's ego is the awkward "Could You Be" ("You could be the mother of my son").

Despite having a few songs that could have been left aside (72 minutes is just too damn long for a record that's composed almost entirely of disses), Look Mom is a powerful follow-up to Cannibal Ox's seminal release, The Cold Vein. It's not apparent at first, and much of the production sounds like El-P lite (he did production on Vein), but the more you listen, the more there is to notice. Aire did the only thing he could to match El-P's sci-fi genius, enlisting everyone from MF Doom (reminiscent of the Juice Crew's "Symphony"), to RJD2, Madlib, Aesop Rock, and Sadat X. If Look Mom is any sign of Aire's direction, Can Ox's next release should be just as confounding and inspired as it debut.

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