Interview: Vast Aire Talks Cannibal Ox Reunion and Success in Underground Hip-Hop


Vast Aire towers over most rappers, his significant stature announcing his presence even before he's said a word. On record, he cuts the profile of a street savvy  rapper with a deep rooted love of the English language and the possibilities for play inherent to it, as likely to turn his love of extended metaphor and off-kilter imagery to criminal exchanges as much as romantic ones.

It is slightly surprising to hear how jovial and at peace Vast sounds over the phone, speaking of future plans with the long memory of a promoter and the excitement of a young artist first getting a chance to play with the big boys. With over a decade spent in the trenches of independent rap--a time producing an album widely regarded as classic, but also pockmarked by turmoil that combined business and personal--Vast's clear glee, level-headedness, and peace with his position come as a refreshing turn in a scene that often engenders bitterness.

That joy is due, in no small part it seems, to the recently announced follow-up The Cold Vein, the seminal album Vast helped craft as a member of Cannibal Ox, one of now defunct label Definitive Jux's flagship artists. Since its release in 2001, Cold Vein has come to stand as one of the cornerstones of a particular moment in both independent and New York hip-hop, a critical darling that helped jumpstart a fledgling indie.

Though Vast has remained busy in the years since Cold Vein's release, putting out a steady stream of solo albums and mixtapes, fans have clamored for a second Cannibal Ox album. Recently Vast and groupmate Vordul announced that they would be reuniting for their long-awaited sophomore LP. We caught up with the New York emcee on the verge of Can Ox's upcoming tour, which kicks off at the Knitting Factory on Dec. 9.

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