Playing G.I. Joe With Vast Aire
Vast Aire and Copywrite at Whiskey Junction
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2007
Review and Photos by Jeff Shaw
It's a cold Tuesday night after midnight, and one of the most influential independent rappers of the past 10 years is waiting to go on stage. The weeknight crowd at the Whiskey Junction is thin -- a few dozen perhaps, much less than rooms he usually plays.
Vast Aire doesn't care. The Brooklyn-based legend is back on tour.
Whiskey Junction made some noise for Vast Aire and Copywrite Tuesday night. Click here for more photos.
It's been a waiting game. When Vast and Vordul Mega formed the duo Cannibal Ox and released groundbreaking LP The Cold Vein in 2001, the impact was felt throughout the underground hip-hop community. Here were two artists with different styles combining to paint bleak, intricate lyrical pictures. Then, Vast's 2004 solo release Look Mom ... No Hands showed a more playful side, highlighting his creative wordplay skills. Deceptively simple lyrics melded with keen observations and pop culture references to create a memorable first LP. With cameos from MF Doom, Blueprint, Aesop Rock and others, the record left fans wanting more.
Holding court before the show starts, Vast tells them that the wait is almost over. He talks affably to anyone who comes around about his forthcoming projects (a new solo album, Deuces Wild; a group effort with fellow Brooklyn rapper Karniege called Mighty Joseph, and another collaboration with New York MC Genesis).
His tour mate, the well-respected Ohio MC Copywrite, approaches. It's time to go on. They head to the front of the room.
And they tear the place down, performing with the same energy as if there were 1,000 people somehow packed into the Junction. Vast's laconic, smooth baritone contrasts well with Copywrite's fast-paced staccato flow. The crowd might be sparse, but it is dedicated and knowledgeable about the material, and if Vast is dismayed by the turnout, it never shows.
When it hits 2 a.m., show promoter Nick Oz practically has to force him from the stage. This is a man who lives and loves hip-hop, and whether there are 36 people in the building or 36,000, he's back.
Before he and Copywrite took the mic, Vast sat down with me for a few minutes. Here is the resulting Q&A, after the jump:
City Pages: What's the difference between Vast Aire the solo artist and the Vast Aire who works in collaborative projects like Cannibal Ox or Mighty Joseph?
Vast Aire: Truth is, there is no difference. What's the difference between Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac? Both are good music. Vordul and I, we don't like all the same things, so there might be something on my record that he wouldn't do, and there might be something on his record that I wouldn't do – but we're artists. We work together and just create.
CP: You're on the verge of releasing new full-length material for the first time in a while.
VA: My fans are hungry, man. I haven't dropped an album since 2005, and now I'm sitting on three albums. It's gonna be wild. Mighty Joseph is gonna be a crazy record. Murs is on it, Madlib, J-Zone – and a lot of people I came up with. It's a powerful record, and I'm glad we finally finished it.
CP: After the Mighty Joseph record comes out, you have a new solo disc out in spring, Deuces Wild. How have you progressed since Look Mom ... No Hands?
VA: Look Mom was like a crazy Frankenstein experiment of mine. I was bridging gaps between the Midwest, the East Coast and the West Coast, bringing everybody together. Deuces Wild is more personal. Also, I'm so much more focused on Deuces Wild. When I made Deuces, I sought to beat Look Mom. And I did, no ifs ands or buts. I don't mind saying it: it's the best thing I've ever done.
CP: Look Mom has one of the best dis records in indie rap history, “9 Lashes (When Michael Smacked Lucifer).”
VA: First, that beef is very old, and that beef is over. I want that on the record. Second, we have a lot of history with those kids [Boston-based 7L + Esoteric, the duo the record was aimed at], and I felt they were being disrespectful at that time. So I said what I had to say in that song, but bygones are bygones. I said what I had to say on that record, and that's over. That beef is way over. I'd like to say peace to them, and I hope they're doing well.
CP: Mr. Lif tells a story in the Revenge of the Robots DVD that I've always wanted to ask you about. Did you really detain your whole crew at a European border because you had written rhymes in your passport?
VA: I detained Company Flow, Mr. Lif and Can Ox for three hours just because I wrote in my passport. I thought of a short rhyme, about six to eight bars, and I wrote it down. So they delayed us because of that. But look, I get up in the morning at 3:30 just to write one line and go back to sleep. I don't give a fuck about getting detained. That line is on the Can Ox record somewhere, so it was worth it.
Vast Aire's solo album, Deuces Wild, comes out next spring. Mighty Joseph, his project with Karniege, has an album slated for a February release.