CANNIBAL OX – “The F-Word”

Mathematics, wounded Ox style: F1 is of course “fuck”, but F2 is “friend”, and F3 = F1 times F2 = “friction”. This, in other words, is not undie rap so much as indie rap: jagged beats turning, like a spit with your heart on it. Cannibal Ox leaven the rhythmic austerity with glassy, elegant synths and with Vast Aire Kramer’s flow, which – like Andre on “Ms.Jackson” – starts rueful and ends up angry and bitter. With this pained, nerdy twang Vast plots the decay of a crush-contaminated friendship, maximising his alt.crossover potential, as this subject is close (like shrapnel) to the heart of many a sensitive listener. Me included: I’m older now and I’m a clever swine, but “The F-Word” brought all sorts of nasty memories bubbling up. Still, though, it’s wonderful, to hear rappers get not only vulnerable but downright abject, and to hear it done with such unusual musical steel. I’ve a mind to call this essential.