In 2001, under the guidance and production of El-P, Cannibal Ox — Vast Aire and Vordul — created a new movement in the underground with The Cold Vein, helping to establish Definitive Jux as the vanguard of progressive hip-hop. And after boldly taking rap to the “Iron Galaxy” and releasing the “Ox out the Cage,” Vast Aire’s solo debut, Look Mom … No Hands, proves there is life beyond Cannibal Ox.
Unlike your average college backpacker from the burbs, Vast Aire reps “happy starving Harlem.” Vast is one of the few avant-garde emcees who can ground his unconventional style by staying true to his roots and hip-hop culture. On the aptly titled track “Poverty Lane 16128,” he brings his signature husky and staccato flow and spits: “I’m in the city where the buildings fall down/ and the drug price go up/ the government be lying how airplanes blow-up/ I think this whole system’s corrupt/ they rather fly in outer space/ than fill an empty cup.”
With no El-P beats and just one guest appearance by Vordul, Vast Aire enlists beatsmiths Madlib, Rjd2, Ayatollah and Da Beatminerz. Madlib blesses Vast Aire with three joints, including the blazing lead single “Look Mom … No Hands.” Among the standout tracks is “9 Lashes” where Vast Aire buries 7L and Esoteric with a verbal barrage over Rjd2’s sinister violin loops. On “Da Supafriendz,” MF Doom drops a ridiculous beat that sounds like something from a Western saloon circa 1849.
Look Mom … No Hands is a solid album with only a few weak cuts, including the R&B infused “Viewful Flow” and “Could You Be.” The album won’t win any fans with just one listen, but the A-list supporting cast helps elevate it. Vast Aire demonstrates potential as a solo artist, but Look Mom … No Hands will have fans craving another Can Ox project.