Vast Aire | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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When Cannibal Ox's debut LP, The Cold Vein, came out in 2001, Vast Aire became an instant underground hip-hop hero. Pounding syllables into the mike, sometimes lagging stubbornly behind the beat, his tone peeved rather than pissed off, the Brooklyn MC was so fluent in his own private language--a dense thicket of apocalyptic metaphors a la Wu-Tang--that the other half of Can Ox, Vordul Megilah, ended up overshadowed. Though much of the claustrophobic feel of The Cold Vein undeniably came from the confrontational stumble articulated by producer El-P, plenty of folks suspected that Vast could carry a record all on his own. He seems to have suspected it himself; unfortunately, he was wrong. On his debut solo album, Look Mom...No Hands (Chocolate Industries), Vast often settles for obvious wordplay ("You ain't nobody / And when I'm done with this rhyme you'll have no body") or lives up to his name by compulsively overstuffing lines (pushing a vast amount of air doesn't necessarily make you a killer MC). But though his boasts and battle rhymes sound one-dimensional next to Can Ox's cryptic sci-fi conspiracy theories, his zingers still sting, because he treats his foes as nuisances rather than threats ("I'm fly like Woodstock, you crawl like Snoopy"). Rather than go for a steady groove, Vast has enlisted a rotating team of top-tier indie producers to craft his beats, including Madlib, Rjd2, Da Beatminerz, and MF Doom--who also takes a turn at the mike on "Da Supafriendz," reminding us how much better Vast can sound with a witty foil. Dujeous? and Carnage open. $15, 18+. Sunday, May 30, 8 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace; 773-478-4408 or 866-777-8932.

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