After 14 years, Cannibal Ox have returned. In 2001, they released their debut project, The Cold Vein, produced entirely by El-P, and then went quiet after their tour, until now. The Cold Vein, which received little to no commercial success, became an underground hip-hop staple. With El-P busy with Run the Jewels and his own projects, Cannibal Ox, the Harlem rap duo, turned their production to Bill Cosmiq & Black Milk, whose boom-bap drums fit right under their lyrics, adding a modern day twist to their original classic style. It’s not El-P, but it gets the job done.
Blade of the Ronin, completely funded on Kickstarter by fans wanting to hear a second release from their favorite underground hip-hop duo, is what the fans wanted, but maybe not what they needed. 14 years is a long type to get hyped up. The 19-track album is a little overly ambitious, with the 2nd half of the songs, lasting around 4 minutes each, tend to weaken and lose their excitement. Consequence of Sound writes that, “It’s as if Cannibal Ox had 75% of a good idea that never resolves; tracks literally fade out instead of slamming to an end on their own momentum.” Regardless, it’s still a fun, kung-fu style era-like hip-hop, with pretty decent production from El-P’s replacements. It’s hard to win the audience with 19 tracks though. Sure, we probably won’t ever see a third Cannibal Ox release, so at least they made as much music as they could while they could, but if the album was half as long, it would probably be critically regarded more highly. Nonetheless, with tracks like, “Gotham,” “Iron Rose (feat. MF Doom),” and “The Fire Rises,” the sequel to the arguably most famous underground hip-hop album is finally here. Internet rejoice.