Second Round Knockout: My Love / Hate With Canibus
September 9th, 1998. I can not forget the date. I skipped the first half of school to cop the Canibus CD from Blockbuster Music, some 100 blocks away from the flagpole in front of my high school. By the time I made it back to the school, just as lunch was ending, I had heard enough. I, like the rest of the hip hop world, was thoroughly deflated by the lack of mathematical function from the young upstart rapper. I really thought he was going to come harder. There are artists that we grab on to in our adolescence for reasons. I think Canibus was the expression of my frustration with the monotony of my feeble existence in North Tulsa. I expected “4,3,2,1” to pale in comparison to the full album. I was still bumping his verse from Common’s “One Day…”.
Though it’s in the middle of the country, Tulsa is a west coast town. If you were into Black Wall Street or Brotha Lynch Hung, then somebody had the CD and you could probably borrow it. There was not a lot of variety in the overall tastes of most of my peers until I began to introduce them to other artists and lyricism. Booker T. Washington High School was thriving and fruitful with bootleg East Coast cd’s at the time, because of a brilliant move to get my friend Chris to bootleg copies of the Tony Touch Mixtape. This is how you got music in Tulsa, Oklahoma pre-2000. Chris worked at Blockbuster or something like that and was able to get a CD Duplicator / Recorder as soon as the technology became affordable. If enough people wanted a copy of a CD, he would buy it and then copy it for a small profit. I’d drive up the hype around certain releases and try to get a few dozen people to place orders and if it worked, I got the true copy for free. I think that’s how I got my first copy of Cuban Linx too. Sorry Rae. We probably bootlegged the top 50 rappers to come out between 1996 and 2000, which is saying a lot since this is before the whole Napster thing. I am sure his venture was more lucrative than all of my Kool-Aid and Blow Pop hustles combined.
It was different with the Canibus album. Though I’d shared a verse or two with my friends, I knew my classmates would never appreciate lyrics, no matter how hard they were. That was a connection that only I had. But as I listened to the CD on repeat as I returned onto the school grounds, I felt less possessed by hard bars and hard rhymes, and more sad. I felt bamboozled. I was never the hookie type. There was no telling when I would skip school again. The trip and the album were a disappointment.
I listened again and again, studying the music, trying to figure out where the young upstart had gone wrong, There were no answers.
In the latter part of the day, when my regrets crystallized into a chi on my shoulder, a small thing happened. Without asking, one of the guys in my class, Hollis, lifted the headphones from my head to get a listen. Though I probably would have ignored him if he asked, the act of invading my personal space sent me into a tizzy and before you knew it, I took a punch at him. I landed it, then backed away, awaiting a challenge. He didn’t swing. He chased me around a table in the room before he caught me and pinned me against the chalkboard. He had at least 50 pounds on me and this was before my growth spurt, so I am sure he could have murdered me if he wanted to. But he let me go and tried to calm the situation, while I continued to stomp up and down the halls. I couldn’t believe I started a fight over a Canibus CD.
(editor’s note: I didn’t get suspended or anything like that. I probably shouldn’t have bought 2000 B.C, but I did. And I manage to download or somehow cop every Canibus CD since then. You knew somebody was doing it. It was me. It feels so good to be out of the closet on this one. )