Canibus: A Soldier’s Story

The Four Horsemen collaborators have had quite a year: Kurupt moved back to Tha Row. Killah Priest dropped a highly slept-on new album. Ras Kass was arrested after being on the run. And Canibus got dog tags and joined the US Army. Like the others, getting in touch with Canibus these days is not easy. […]

The Four Horsemen collaborators have had quite a year: Kurupt moved back to Tha Row. Killah Priest dropped a highly slept-on new album. Ras Kass was arrested after being on the run. And Canibus got dog tags and joined the US Army.

Like the others, getting in touch with Canibus these days is not easy. A devoted soldier, the artist divides his time between those two roles. With an already critically hyped album about to drop, ‘Bis and AllHipHop got together. The burning questions still unanswered from Spring needed clearing up. Also, we wanted to hear about Rip The Jacker from the mad scientist creator himself. Both topics are covered.

In the late 90’s when Canibus was jack hammering verses alongside The Lost Boyz. Common, and others, we knew he was serious. Although he no longer sits on a major label, or parlays with the who’s who in hip-hop, this interview is dangerous proof that Rip the Jacker himself, is still serious. Most obviously, what prompted you to join the service this Spring? The timing was certainly a focal point.

Canibus: I couldn’t begin to sum up the events of why I joined the service in

this interview and if for some reason I did decide to explain every

detail then I’d be surprised if anyone understood my reasoning anyways.

There are a variety of reasons that I decided to be in the U.S.

Military. Anyone who requires more of an explanation, can go through

boot camp, and I’ll tell them when we get deployed to the desert. The hip-hop community seemed to be anti-war in the heat of things. As a minority,

as a hip-hopper, how do you make sense of the war, and the duty?

Canibus: Well, I’m in no position to be a spokesman for either side. Sure

this is “Modern America”, but it seems so much like ancient Rome. The

Senate makes decisions to serve the best interests of the people, but

not always, and they feud as a result. The emperors were less important

than they seemed in the long run. And no one political party or

doctrine had the answers to engineer a perfect society. If the problem

wasn’t a social one, then it was an economic one – which is probably the

reason why we’ve combined the two today. It has never been easy to

please everyone in society. Sometimes compromise can make a country

weak. Not enough compromise and things fall apart from the strain of the

pressure. The civilians that protest war don’t always have the resources

to know the facts. Lack of the facts plague those who are pro-war as

well. But I think you can be anti-war without being anti-America and I

think sometimes people confuse the two. Also, as a Jamaican…how is serving for a country that you weren’t born in while

so many Americans turn tail?

Canibus: Yes…I was born in Jamaica and I will always have a deep connection

to the island where I was conceived, but I don’t live there. I live in

America and I have to abide by the laws of this land. People divide

themselves by instinct and the Army eats away at that instinct because

when it come down to it, we all bleed the same color. In fact, there

seems to be less racism among soldiers because of what each has

sacrificed. As they say here “Mission First” not color, creed, or social

status. They don’t trip off tattoos and how you talk off-duty. If you

can adjust to the proper candor >to get the mission done then you’ll be

ok. Unless you’re a total s###### you don’t have to change completely,

just evolve….and evolution (mental and physical) is good in most

cases. How will this affect you as an artist?

Canibus: As an artist my style is amorphous. Sometimes I adjust and adapt,

other times I refuse to. My skill isn’t affected by my being here. The

listeners of my music have the choice to either grow with me, move on to

something more fulfilling or stay behind. I can’t choose your speed for

you. I can only choose the tempo that fits me. It does seem that my

style is more mature than it used to be. I stepped it up with imagery

and vocabulary. I make references to other poets and writers in my

rhymes more often than I have in the past. Running an independent label

makes you more responsible by default. Sure you have less resources but

it forces you to squeeze the most out of every opportunity. I have

become a better artist by paying more attention to the art than the

industry surrounding the art. Larry Fishburne said “The Army is no place for a Black man” in Boyz In Da Hood. How true is that?

Canibus: I don’t know…..How much validity would you say there is in Morgan

Freeman’s role in “Glory?” How do you manage to set asside time as an artist with these new obligations?

Canibus: When you are in uniform the Service demands a certain type of

quality and dignity. In return for your service there are a variety of

resources and tools, which are totally at your disposal. These resources

are designed to give you a better quality of life off-duty. Sure we

could use a raise, who couldn’t ? (laughing) But there are programs that

circumvent the need for cash, which turn out to be very helpful for some

people. I love music so I can’t put it down no matter what, but I can

share my recreational time with a sh*tload of other activities. People harshly criticized your earliest works. Meanwhile theirs cult followings. How does that sit with you five years later?

Canibus: Once I vocal I rarely ever change anything. Each project (album) is

unique in their own way. Sometimes people interpret the albums

differently in small or large pockets of opinion. I realize that once I

give it to them then it is no longer mine because it’s done and I can’t

change the content or switch it for better or worse. Consumers are

usually less involved than fans and fans sometimes forget that they

can’t change it either. Those missteps lead to them changing their

opinions. I can only hope that my work is noticed some day for it’s

genuine intent at large. My continued goal is to make hip-hop

better….not worse. I got ugly on tracks to make them better…..not

worse. Only time will tell if my theory was plausible Production. It’s always been a critics sword on you. This time around, heads everywhere are saying that Stoupe really helped make your best album. Not many people know of him from Jedi Mind Tricks, so describe his influence on your work?

Canibus: Stoupe has an immense amount of respect from me for his ear. He

hears things that I don’t. I still notice new s### in his tracks. That’s

why they stay on replay in my box. There are other producers that bang

on the drums crazy too but Stoupe is unique. He co-crafted the Rip The

Jacker album from beginning to end. I know it was intense cause the

rhymes are conceptually intense and the timing was mind-f######. He

chopped and cropped ’til it was tight. But what do you expect from a

JMT beat blazer? They got the Hip-Hop ingredient. Chuck up at

Babygrande kept it punctual and we never missed a deadline with Koch.

Lou up at Mic Club always kept me in the loop with everything that was

pertinent to the release. Alexandra Greenberg kept me visible. Chris and

Pun got my sites pumping. I got a team. A small one, but the keyword is ONE. Mic Club was one of AllHipHop’s albums of last year. Seven months later, youre dumping a new one on us. Why such a seemingly rushed process?

Canibus: I can only attribute the heavy influx of material to my love of

hip-hop and always wanting to have the latest version of my style

available to the fans…and there’s much more to come. C-True Hollywood Stories had lots of guests. Mic Club had G Rap. Who’s the unexpected weapon on this one?

Canibus: Rip The Jacker was too selfish to share his mic time with anyone.

But, Mic Club is currently working on some explosive features for

upcoming Canibus releases. What’s the greatest weakness in hip-hop right now, Mr. Ph D?

Canibus: Common weakness is the division of the community of rappers that

exists today whereas other genres of music for the most part strengthen

themselves by sticking together. What music did you bring with you to the bunk?

Canibus: Thank God I took my recruiters advice and left my valuables at home

because the Drill Sergeants would have trashed my CDs. Most of them

like rap music so they probably would have kept them anyways… Besides the freestyles and guest work, “Get Retarded” was the first track you did that just moved me. Describe to me the concept of recreating a classic, and ripping it.

Canibus: Working with Salaam Remi on “Get Retarded” was an experience I’ll

never forget. He also produced “Whatch Who you Beef Wit” and “Shove

This Jay-oh-bee” featuring Biz Markie. Salaam felt that the rhymes I

had for the song would go well with Roxanne Shante’s excerpt “Get

Retarded”; which is sort of a throwback to the mid-eighties hip-hop era. Promote your record. Justify it to a fan, or a hater. Why does this record matter as much as its hyped to be?

Canibus: Rip The Jacker consists of my most complex rhymes to date. The beats by Stoupe

give each song a platform that provides a cushion for the piercing depth

of the rhymes. What sets it apart is it is organized as an old school

album with future school music and new school ambiance. Last words…

Canibus: To check out the latest on Canibus go to, become apart of

the family…and I’m still looking for the nicest emcees to put on.

Suivez moi.