Canibus Vs LL Cool J Revisited.
The rap climate in late 1997 were going through a transition period. Bad Boy’s influential pop sound was dominating the charts and more artists wanted to shift away from the aspects of battling, beef, drama, due to the deaths of Tupac and Biggie. But within one song, All of that seems to have changed. When LL Cool J released the b side of his single Father titled 4,3,2,1 off of his album phenomenon in 1997, It was just the what the streets was fiending for. Backed by the head nodding production along with seasoned vets such as Method Man, Redman and LL himself blazing mics. What made this track so special that it also introduced two young and hungry rappers by the name of DMX and Canibus into the scene. At the time being on the same track with established veterans made an artists career and this was the biggest break both X and Canibus had. But during the recording of the 4,3,2,1,. Things didn’t get off on a right track. Canibus original verse made reference to LL’s mic on his arm and asked if he can borrow that
Meth, where the Gods at? Redman, where the squad at?
L, is that a mic on your arm? Let me borrow that
Who’s the God of rap, you sayin’ is nice
I beat a nigga to death, and beat a dead nigga to life
When you look at me long enough, I start to read your thoughts
If the signal was strong enough, and then I’ll call your bluff
To see how many rhymes you got
I could go on for more Millenias than Mazda’s got on a car lot
And there’s no where to run to, when I confront you
Nigga, I call your bluff, like you had a phone number
Who want to see Canibus get wild?
Who want to act fly and get shot down with a surface to air missile
I take them on in all shapes, sizes, and forms
And spit on, anybody who ain’t close enough to shit on
Zero to sixty, I’m already doing a hundred, when I’m blunted
And I give it to any nigga’ that wants it
Your head will spin so fast, you’ll catch whiplash
I practice, lyrical witchcraft, on your bitch ass
Make your hard drive crash to c colon backslash
Then I’ll go back to the roots and school your wack ass
‘Cause the object of the game, is to spark every cell in your brain
At degrees hotter than blue-flames
Propane gasses, incinerate into ashes
I got you breathing harder than girls at Lamaze classes
Stop bitching about if it’s written or freestyle
Got the whole Spanish community saying I’m muy mal
Charging niggas with booty styles fifty dollar fines
In addition to twenty-five dollars for wack punch lines
‘Cause I’m the top dog running the yard
And I represent, ‘cause I’m never chained to the fence
Hence, to battle me is impossible
I put your whole crew in the hospital, with I.V.’s in all of their nostrils
So stop sleeping on me, I ain’t a mattress
But you do more drama than a soap-opera actress
Don’t even think about pulling out and opening fire
Gun-shots wound, but I remove bullets with pliers
I inspired to kick the fattest that you’ve ever witnessed
From a far-side that’s even confusing the fat lip
Rhymes designed from lines of pure knowledge
I make your head nod ‘till your neck runs out of cartilage
I think it’s obvious that I can bring the ruckus
Scream at your crew like a military drill instructor
When I come through, niggas stand still in statues
If I have to, I’ll battle your whole rap crew
Then I’ll attack you with words that’s absurd
And rip your fucking skin off, just to get on your nerves
Obviously this wasn’t a shot at LL but more as an ode of respect but it’s clearly LL didn’t see it that way and took the verse out of context. Its further belief that LL was upset about possibly being overshadowed by Canibus. Whatever the case maybe, LL told Canibus that he’d change the verse as long Canibus did. He clearly didn’t and kept the original verse he had going at Canibus and released it as a single and video.
When young sons fantasize of borrowing flows
tell little shorty with the big mouth the bank is closed (yeah, word up)
The symbol on my arm is off limits to challengers
You hold the rusty swords I swing the Excalibur
How dare you step up in my dimension
Your little ass should be somewhere crying on detention
Watch your mouth better yet hold your tongue
I’ma do this shit for free this time this one’s for fun
Blow you to pieces, leave you covered in feces
with one thesis (“LL Cool J is hard”)
Every little boy wanna pick up the mic
and try to run with the big boys and live up to the real hype
But that’s like picking up a ball, playin with Mike
Swingin at Ken Griffey or challenging Roy to a fight
Snappin, you amateur MC’s
Don’t you know I’m like the Dream Team touring overseas
For rappers in my circle I’m a deadly disease
Ringmaster, bringin a tiger cub to his knees (uhh)
In the history of rap they’ve never seen such prominence
Your naive confidence gets crushed by my dominance (word up)
Now let’s get back to this mic on my arm
If it ever left my side it’d transform into a time bomb
You don’t wanna borrow that, you wanna idolize
And you don’t wanna make me mad nigga you wanna socialize
And I’m daring every MC in the game
to play yourself out position, and mention my name
I make a rhyme for every syllable in your name
Go platinum for every time your grimy ass was on the train
Watch your mouth don’t ever step out of line
LL Cool J nigga, greatest of all time
Clearly feeling angry, confused, and a bit betrayed. Canibus wanted to go clearly at LL’s head but he also had to remind himself of the possible consequences he can risk by making this move. One of them being that he’s not only going against LL Cool J, He’s also going against a brand of Def Jam and someone with a legendary status. He also realized that LL wasn’t just some ol shmoe joe and that he has a track record for dropping bomb disses(Break of Dawn, Jack the Ripper) It’s also the fact that he could be blackballed so with all of those factors, Canibus agreed to try to talk to LL on an unauthorized phone conversation to settle the dispute.
The conversation itself showcased Canibus showing humility to LL which could further cause more damage to his credibility as an emcee.LL would suggest that he and Canibus would squash the issue, do an underground track together showing unity and nobody would ever know who he’s talking about. That never happened.
Between being challenged and now with the risk of this phone call being put out there, Canibus felt his back against the wall. During the time, If a self-proclaimed battle emcee didn’t respond to another emcee, He was looked upon as soft or looked upon as a total coward. Canibus took the gamble and responded to LL’s 4,3,2,1, verse with possibly one of the most vicious battle tracks of ALL Time. Canibus fully went into LL’s jugular: Took stabs at his credibility as a emcee, His contradictions as a so-called role model, How he abandoned his hardcore style, and most notably the line about him having :99 percent of his fans wear High Heels”. The thing that made 2nd Ko so special were that Canibus not only hit with facts but then add the fact that he featured HeavyWeight Champion Mike Tyson on the track and video made Canibus look more like a serious contender.
The buzz and anticipation for his debut album became even higher with the release of 2nd Round KO. Many people at the time thought it was over for LL. Then Wyclef himself dropped a diss record on LL titled Whats Clef got to do with it which featured actress Naomi Campbell telling LL to give it up. 2nd Round Ko pushed LL into a corner to respond. Considering he created this hysteria himself, He had it coming.
The Ripper Strikes Back
Even in interviews LL said he wasn’t gonna respond, People should have known he was lying because he released his response to 2nd Round Ko titled The Ripper Strikes Back off the Survival Of the Fittest mixtape. LL’s flow and energy was more magnetic and at the same energetic. He even sounded more ferocious than he has in years. He basically took on all 3 of his combatants(Wyclef, Canibus, and even Mike Tyson) in Break of Dawn Fashion. People may have thought that it was weak but LL had some left in the tank when he delivered such blows to his adversaries.
forty-nine pounds and tryin to be a monster
Run around town with the Bob Marley imposters
Ask Canibus, he ain’t understanding this
Cause ninety-nine percent of his fans, don’t exist
As well as Tyson:
Heard that convicted rapist on the record too
Fresh out of jail, ass cheeks still black and blue
Tell me bout the things ear biter taught you
How to bust a nut or two? (Yeah that’s butta boo)
On paper, It looked basic and week but He made up alot of it with his energy. He did a great job of cleverly flipping some of the lines Canibus threw at him and it also re-juiced LL’s career. Canibus on the other hand suffered a rare sorority of beginners luck as his debut album would be a total disappointment and not what the fans who were served hardcore lyrical acrobats as appetizers ordered. Many of the album’s flaws is due to Wyclef’s ear for production and it didn’t do much to carry Canibus’s style. This literally set Canibus’s career back while LL’s flourished during this moment. So this begs the question.
Was Canibus a victim of Industry sabotaging?
While Canibus was licking his wounds and tried to recover from the abomination of his disastrous debut album, LL took the opportunity on his album The G.O.A.T. to put more foot in the young lion’s neck on the track titled Back Where I Belong. Back by a Rocky sample, LL went for the kill and even shockingly dropping the revelation of Wyclef and LL purposely setting him up. Then theres another accusation thats been surfacing throughout the past couple of years of Eminem possibly ghostwritten The Rippers Strike Back for LL even though Em clearly denied. It’s ironic that soon enough shortly Eminem would blow and become a major star.
The moral of the story is that LL’s ego played a big factor in this beef. He couldn’t handle the fact that a young upstart got the better of him on his own track so he pulled a Industry move and tried to muscle him out. He took advantage of Canibus’s naiveness with the game and used the beef to possibly jump-start his career which was at the time was lagging.
Canibus was also going against not only LL like I said before, He was also going against a million dollar corporation in Def Jam as a brand which possibly led him to be blackball from getting any big features like he was before. After the release of his really good album 2000 BC, Canibus would go through a creative slippery slope releasing mediocre albums despite hitting LL with a nice diss titled Rip the Jacker. But by that time, It was too late.
One career flourished and another one dwindled. But theres no denying that these two have earned the respect of millions for handling their disputes like true emcees instead of doing what many would do nowadays with Twitter(Start beef and apologize).A true legendary battle despite the outcome.