Canibus [6.8] “Can-I-Bus”
On September 8th, 1998, Canibus (born Germaine Williams) released his debut album ‘Can-I-Bus’ through ‘Universal Music Group’. There’s so much story in this story that we won’t go into the story (not deep, anyway). Here’s the gist; Canibus was a phenom. Canibus was a rapper that you heard one time and you’d determine he was possibly the best rapper on Earth. As far as hype through early projections, he built a high school LeBron James-like presence.
It seemed like the world was waiting to see if the Bronx Emcee would live up to his potential. He bodied a string of freestyles in ’98 and the preceeding year. Most notably “’97 Mentality Freestyle” which at the time was even more impactful than the original song by Cappadonna, from his debut album “The Pillage“. On it, The “Canibus Man” started by saying “I speak in frequencies dogs’ll have trouble hearin’/ Canibus is the lyrical version of German engineering/” and goes on to spit his now-infamous “I’ll battle you…” stanza.
Another DJ Clue track, “Fantastic Four“ featured Canibus on the last verse, properly outdoing great verses by his contemporaries Cam’ron, Big Pun and N.O.R.E. The now-classic, ‘A+‘ “Beasts From The East” also featuring Mr. Cheeks and Redman saw a similar showing and yet another memorable stanza. ‘Bus’, DMX and N.O.R.E would tear ‘Funkmaster Flex‘ New York radio show down for 40 minutes going verse for verse. He also featured on “Music Makes Me High (Remix)” by Lost Boyz and what was supposed to be another big feature, LL Cool J‘s “4,3,2,1”.
On the original version, Canibus goes to say “Yo LL, is that a mic on your arm? Let me borrow that,“. LL takes offense, tells him to re-write his verse, also leaving Canibus off the music video version. He appears on the video remix, along with Master P, but their clips are cut into the original, seperate from LL, DMX, Method Man and Redman, who are all also featured on the track. This led to the ‘Canibus Sativa‘ dissing LL Cool J on his first single, “2nd Round K.O“, and here we go. It’s album time.
The Fugees‘ Wyclef Jean had a hand in most of the album’s production, with frequent collaborator Jerry Wonder. It should be noted that production and content were the main criticisms of the album at the time. Heads in the street felt it was too preachy, and knowledge-y. That, and a more radio-ready (pop-rap hooks) sound than one may expect from one of the hardest rappers the game had seen. ‘Can-I-Bus’ LP only has 3 features. Starting with the uncredited ‘Free’ (yes, from “106 and Park”), MB2 and Panama PI. Without further ado, let’s revisit the ‘Can-I-Bus’:
Canibus downloads files from some federal somewhere…and leaves before they come to catch him.
2. Patriots Featuring Free
BEAT: 7.5 LYRICS: 8 HOOK: 6.5 OVERALL: 7.3
Canibus and Free go in. Addressing themselves as soldiers. “I can kill anything if it bleeds or breathes“. Cool start off. Reminds me of the way Raekwon started off “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…”.
3. Get Retarded
BEAT: 8 LYRICS: 8 HOOK: 10 OVERALL: 8.6
“All I really want is you niggas to stop bitin’/ All I really want is you niggas to start writin’” This was hot before the album even came out. Fire.
BEAT: 7 LYRICS: 8.5 HOOK: 4.5 OVERALL: 6.6
The game he’s giving out on this, just on a practical level is ridiculous. Giving out lessons, posing questions exactly like a teacher would.. The lyrics could easily have fit on a ‘Tribe’ cut off of ‘Low End Theory’. The “F U C K, L L” at the end was a nice touch, especially because next…
5. 2nd Round K.O
BEAT: 7 LYRICS: 7.5 HOOK: 7 OVERALL: 7.2
Funny that people thought the album didn’t live up to the quality of “2nd Round K.O”. In retrospect, on the technical side of lyricism, its not what we may have thought it was. It was also long and drawn out. The 2nd half of the last verse was EPIC, though.
6. What’s Going On
BEAT: 5.5 LYRICS: 8 HOOK: 7.5 OVERALL: 7
Looking back, I can see how Canibus was a buzzkill. This whole song is about stopping violence specifically at Hip-Hop shows. At one point claiming the government wants the shootings at shows to help their agenda of shutting down rap, as a whole. Yeah.
7. I Honor U featuring MB2
BEAT: 7 LYRICS: 10 HOOK: 10 OVERALL: 9
Shame this was never an official single…wait…I believe this had a visual. I couldn’t find it on the internet, but I believe I’ve seen it. Maybe it was “fan made”. Anyways, this nigga made a song about being conceived and born. 3 verses of this shit! Crazy. Luke Fiasco HAD to have heard this song. He’s remade it 82 times.
BEAT: 6.5 LYRICS: 9 HOOK: 7 OVERALL: 7.5
An updated, less-everything version of Biz Markie’s “The Vapors”. Even has 4 verses. 8-bars, nontheless, but hey. That hook is hypnotic, by the way.
9. How We Roll featuring Panama PI
BEAT: 8.5 LYRICS: 8 HOOK: 7 OVERALL: 7.9
Oh shit. A dope beat.
10. Channel Zero
BEAT: 7 LYRICS: 9.5 HOOK: 6 OVERALL: 7.5
This song has an original version with three other verses. Word is, the label made him change it. He goes even deeper. Scary. This was ’98. He was KNOWLEDGEABLE. Don’t fall into the “Grand Deception”. Also, this nigga hasn’t done a hook, YET! C’mon Canibus.
11. Let’s Ride
BEAT: 4.5 LYRICS: 8 HOOK: 3.5 OVERALL: 5.4
Easily the weakest track on the album. I don’t know what was going on there. Canibus FINALLY appears on a hook, saying 2 words, twice “Old-School, Old-School”. Not what this album needed coming down the stretch.
12. Buckingham Palace
BEAT: 4.5 LYRICS: 8 HOOK: 6 OVERALL: 6.2
“When I say Can-I, you say Bus” He did it. Hook. “BP” is like a freestyle with a break in-between.
13. Rip Rock
BEAT: 3.5 LYRICS: 7 HOOK: 4.5 OVERALL: 5
Aight nigga, stop doing hooks. We see why you don’t…Whyyyyy? What possessed these people to end the album with a weak rock/rap fusion. All these niggas cared about was The Fugees album. I’m convinced. This is why you need executive producers and A&R’s, or friends. WTF?
If this album stops at track 10, it changes eveeything…Initially, I felt the album may have been slept on a BIT. Maybe it was being graded according to who we felt he should be. Maybe those beats weren’t that whack. Maybe the songwriting wasn’t lacking as much as we thought. Nah. Nope. Nuh uh. It got what it deserved. We could’ve treated CANIBUS himself better though. The rhymes weren’t his mixtape-level, but he held it down, mostly. Later, on ‘2000 B.C”, Canibus’ second album, he would blame Wyclef for the atrocity. It has to be said, the fall of Canibus after ‘Can-I-Bus’ catapulted the rapper to grow a cult fan base on the internet. He’s arguably the first “internet rapper”. A childhood introvert, turned superstar rapper, turned introverted superstar internet rapper. Can-I-Bus, Yes.