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VAST AIRE
OX 2010: A Street Odyssey
Fat Beats / Man Bites Dog
Format: CD / LP / Digital
Release Date: May 31, 2011
By Dave Cantor June 29, 2011

As remarkable as it is, there’re more than just a couple performers from the auld tyme Def Jux roster still kicking around and releasing reputable music. And despite what you may have read elsewhere, Vast Aire is one of those performers, even if OX 2010: A Street Odyssey isn’t bound to pull in too many new listeners or convince long time fans of any enduring greatness.

Forming Cannibal Ox along with Vordul Mega back during the late 1990s, Vast Aire and his associate found like-minded and similarly menacing producer El-P. Issuing The Cold Vein (Definitive Jux) in 2001 made CanOx one of a few groups capable of creating a singular atmosphere over the length of a long-playing album – Latyrx perhaps edging out the New York crew by a bit. Of course, Oxtrumentals (Definitive Jux, 2002) goes a long way to proving El-P was as important in creating the monolithic record as its vocal stars. But with that combination at work, there was an overtly aggressive tone, probably puttng some people off.

Working as a solo act for most of the last decade, Vast Aire’s gone and staked out a corner in the underground’s always shifting market. Not unlike Lyrics Born, the guy just hasn’t released anything as unique as he did with his earlier group. Linking up with the Fat Beats label wasn’t a bad idea, but Vast Aire assimilating any number of new fangled aural compliments might have been. “Almighty” suffers as a result, even while the rapper extends a relatively memorable chorus. “2090 (So Grimmy)” doesn’t get any better.

A bit further on, Guilty Simpson guests on “The Verdict.” And while the hook that Vast Aire half-sings gets problematic, the production recalls The Cold Vein with its digital bounce. What’s most frustrating about a solid effort from a veteran with Vast Aire’s lineage is that, as hard as he tries, there’s really no way the performer can summon the same general ambiance informing that earlier, career-making release. Vast Aire certainly doesn’t embarrass himself, but when another MC turns in the most memorable vocal performance on a disc, something’s missing. “The Cannon Of Samus,” which features a confident and evil sounding Kenyattah Black, only runs through the requisite lauding of verbal skills, but does so in such a convincing manner, and alongside a phenomenally creepy production, that it warrants proper notice.

Really, what the utility of OX 2010: A Street Odyssey comes down to is whether or not after purchasing this monster it’s gonna get more than a few plays. And it probably won’t. Maybe a track or two is capable of catching a listener’s ear, but there’s really no call for return listens. “I Don’t Care” kinda rules, but unfortunately sports a lesser Wu affiliate. Bummer.

Visit: Vast Aire | Fat Beats
Purchase: Insound | eMusic