Cannibal Ox Is Back, But Is Anybody Listening?

Photo by Marco Torres
Cannibal Ox's El-P (left) with Killer Mike at Warehouse Live in June 2012
You may have missed it, but no one would blame if you did because you're not alone. In March, legendary indie hip-hop group Cannibal Ox announced they were making a comeback in a big way, launching a new album, their very own record label, and a Kickstarter campaign to fund it all.

The last time Cannibal Ox recorded a studio album was 2001's The Cold Vein. It was produced by Def Jux mastermind El-P, a distinguished rapper in his own right, and released to wide acclaim and obsessive fandom. Then they went almost totally dormant for the last 12 years.

It's almost to be expected there would be some precipitation in their fanbase in that time, but when Cannibal Ox decided to make their Kickstarter, they still had a pretty lofty goal. The Harlem rappers asked for $30,000 to fund the entire comeback album cycle. Even with an announcement of the Kickstarter on Web sites as big as Pitchfork Media, who were early supporters of the collective, it did little to help them.

By the time the 30-day time limit was up, Can Ox had raised just shy of $5,500, well below their $30,000 goal. Was it hubris to think they could get to $30,000 after 12 years of letting their brand slip into obscurity? Perhaps it was just them shooting for the moon, hoping it would happen but not really expecting it. Either way, it didn't pan out.

Undeterred, Can Ox have claimed since late last year that their new label, Iron Galaxy Records, will be soon to take over the world. And while the Kickstarter campaign might not have exactly lit a fire under the asses of Cannibal Ox fans around the world -- who may just be a little bit tired of waiting for that record they've been promised for more than a decade -- who may have simply grown out of this type of music or maybe have too many bills to pay now to donate money to a rap group they forgot existed, it's all about the music right?

After all, vague promises can only go so far. We need to hear something, right? Well, the wait for new music from Cannibal Ox also ended recently. "Gotham," their new single, hit the Web a while ago, but only saw its official release last month. Two questions, however, must immediately come to mind. First off, is this any good (i.e. was it worth the decade of waiting)? Second, does anybody care anymore?

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This is a good piece but i got some issues. Kickstarter is not a barometer of how hot or cold something is, many of the people who would happily support a new Can Ox album may not know about kickstarter or atleast be less familiar with it then people trying to raise money for web comics. This could also be due to poor marketing on their part i never heard anything about a Can Ox comeback or album, also EL-P's Def Jux records filed for bankruptcy 6+ years ago ( it took elp 5 years to put out his own album). You cant also knock em for not sounding like The Cold Vein as an artist im sure you wouldn't want to wait 12 years to sound like you haven't evolved at all. lastly what is chiillwave? does that actually exist? 

KING 1 Like

@nosaprise Chillwave existed for four and a half months back in 2010. 


El-P is/was not a member of Can-Ox.  


@michaelbell.1975 The article never says that. Even though he might as well have been since The Cold Vein's success was as much due to, if not primarily due to, El-P's production and direction as it was to the lyrical content.


Good article. The game has changed. Underground is dead. I read Co-Flow barely drew a thousand people at Coachella last year.

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