The Cold Vein, New York hip-hop duo Cannibal Ox's 2001 debut, served as a kind of lightning rod in the battle between underground and mainstream hip-hop that's ravaged the form since approximately 1612. Packed with MCs Vast Aire and Vordul Megilah's hyper-textual braggadocio and produced by Def Jux honcho El-P, a science-fiction buff known for his dense representations of post-industrial carnage, the disc threw down a gauntlet of sorts: Comprehend this or relegate yourself to the blinged-out masses. That's a bullshit dichotomy, of course, which isn't to say that Vast or Vordul (or even El-P) endorsed it. Yet Look Mom . . . No Hands, Vast's new solo album, does feel less encumbered with the responsibility to Keep It Real, as if three subsequent years of interscene backbiting had convinced the rapper of that mission's futility. Featuring production by indie stars MF Doom, Madlib and RJD2 (among others), Hands is hardly an Obie Trice record, which you'll no doubt discover when Vast takes it to the stage Saturday night without female dancers grinding away behind him. But the chorus of "KRS-Lightly" is very catchy!
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