[I]"If boring is the norm, i'm the antonym"[/I], garrulous rap newcomer Canibus informs us during the opening track of his debut LP ...

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[I]”IF BORING IS THE NORM, I’M THE ANTONYM”[/I], garrulous rap newcomer Canibus informs us during the opening track of his debut LP. [I]”Put me in the same category you would put Marilyn Manson in”[/I]. Well, that’s cleared that up, then.

After guest spots aplenty and a celebrated on-wax feud with LL Cool J, Canibus is ’98’s most anticipated ’emcee’. For once, the faith has not been misplaced. This refreshingly concise and mentally alert record shows the 22-year-old is on a mission: he’s taken hip-hop to boot camp, sharpened it up and sent it back into the world leaner, fitter and hungrier than it’s been for years.

Hitherto highly regarded for his battle rhymes, ‘CAN-I-BUS’ offers a more complete picture of the man his mum named Germaine Williams. Mom gets serenaded on ‘I Honor U’, in which Williams speaks of his love for her from a pre-embryonic point of view ([I]”Five months from bein’ able to lay against your chest/I can’t hold you in my arms ‘cos they ain’t developed yet”[/I]). ‘Nigganometry’ is a selection of street-kid truisms outlined as if they were high school maths problems, and ‘Buckingham Palace’, a nod to a year spent living in London, finds him comparing his lyrical potency to a creature with [I]”gasoline for saliva/Drunker than Lady Diana’s driver with reporters behind her”[/I].

In the best track, ‘Channel Zero’, he conflates a bunch of post-[I]X-Files [/I]conspiracy theories with a seemingly thorough understanding of the work of Stephen Hawking, claims the US Government has been collaborating with aliens since 1947, and sketches an extraterrestrial genealogy that implies the mysterious ‘Greys’ are descended from dolphins. Or something. They’re all battle lyrics, of a type, but Canibus injects the bragging and boasting with a surfeit of scowls, hilarious metaphors and one-liners and a sharp, serrated intelligence.

‘CAN-I-BUS’ also benefits from a healthy musical eclecticism. ‘Patriot’ is powered by a baroque fugue, ‘Hypnitis’ reworks Isaac Hayes’ reading of ‘The Look Of Love’ and ‘I Honor U’ has a Des’ree-esque chorus. The only false notes are sounded by a rock-rap abomination that closes the album. The rest is largely faultless and frequently peerless.

Which means Canibus is both smokin’ [I]and [/I]potent. Naturally.