Vast Aire – Ox 2010: A Street Odyssey (Man Bites Dog / Fat Beats)

%image_alt%Vast Aire makes his return for the 3rd solo album with the cock-eye dated “Ox 2010”. Now, I can’t claim to have followed Vast Aire’s solo career closely over the last few years, but for an artist to have formed Cannibal Ox, you can’t ever dismiss their work. With the name of the album, plus just a cursory look at some of the track names such as “Dark Matter”, “Battle of The Planets” & “The Cannon of Samus” it’s clear that Vast still aims to push the boundaries of his (and your) imagination when it comes to subject matter a la Cold Vein. So far, so good.

As the album proper starts following the obligatory skipable introduction track, “Nomad” has Vast Aire rhyming outside the mould (his words, not mine) over something that sounds a bit like a souped-up Imperial March. “2090 (So Grimmy)” feat. Double A.B. sees VA tackling a slowed-down southern vibe which obviously isn’t his comfort zone, but his rhyme style passes the test. Moving on to through to the middle of the album, bam… you’re hit by one of the nicest beats I’ve heard all year. Thanos’ “Horoscope” mystical snyth and punchy kicks is perfect in every switch-up and it stays constantly interesting as a result. Vast blesses the majority of the track with clever and graphic imagery, but just occasionally he drops a stink line. Maybe I’m being prissy, but I get the impression that Vast Aire of old wouldn’t have made such a mistake, especially on such a brilliant production. This theme continues on the second best track on the album, “Thor’s Hammer” where Aire is upstaged by Raekwon & Vordul Mega with a lazy verse that isn’t nearly as complex or thoughtful than you’d expect from him.

Has Vast Aire just mellowed, with less emphasis on concepts and linguistics, with a focus more on straight rhyming? Looking at the track names would suggest no, plus there are moments of old such as “Spy Vs. Spy”, but it’s a shame that the highest notes of the album see Vast playing the odd flat one. Now, it’s easy to pick faults in lyrics, but overall the effect of the album is just one of a general malaise. Nothing terrible and some pretty darn good moments, but an overriding feeling that this could and should have been much more. Vast Aire still clearly has much more to give, so I’d hope that this isn’t the signal of the end.

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