Now that Canibus' war of raps between him and veteran hip-hopper LL Cool J seems to have died down, the chart-topping artist says he has some regrets about the whole thing.
"I didn't want to come off in the wrong way," the 23-year-old rapper explained Wednesday from the New York offices of Universal Records. "I didn't want people to think I wanted to make my career off of battling."
The battle, which escalated to include traded barbs on tracks by Canibus, LL Cool J and fellow rapper Wyclef Jean -- with former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson even jumping into the fray -- obscured the real, intellectual focus of Canibus' artistry, claims the Big Apple-based rapper, whose recently released Can-I-Bus rose high on the Billboard 200 albums chart in its first week of release.
The seeds for the battle between rap-legend LL Cool J and the up-and-coming star were first planted when Canibus participated in the recording of the song "4,3,2,1," for LL's latest, Phenomenon.
The song, which also featured guest appearances by rap artists DMX, Redman and Method Man, originally contained a line by Canibus that LL took as an insult. LL then asked Canibus to re-record his verse without the insult and then, without telling him he was going to do so, took aim at him in the final version of the song.
That, and the fact that Canibus (born Germaine Williams) was left out of the "4,3,2,1" video, led to Canibus' "2nd Round K.O." (Real Audio excerpt), a song that featured the rapper tearing into LL Cool J's reputation, between shouts of encouragement from Tyson.
LL responded with "The Ripper Strikes Back," in which he called Canibus-producer and tour-mate Wyclef a "Bob Marley impostor," which then led to Wyclef defending his reputation with "Retaliation."
"I don't regret doing ['2nd Round K.O.']," Canibus said Wednesday. "But I do regret ever getting the phone call for '4,3,2,1' in the very beginning, because that's what started it all."
According to Canibus, the attention the battle drew was a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the battle got people geared up for his recently released debut album, Can-I-Bus. But on the other hand, many fans and critics had harsh words for the album upon its release because not all of its tracks are as hard-hitting as "2nd Round K.O."
"I think ['2nd Round K.O.'] definitely sent a message," Canibus said, "and it totally wasn't the right message -- it was just a message. Sometimes people listen to certain messages longer than others."
Tom Moscato, webmaster for The Greatest Hip-Hop Beefs Homepage (http://members.tripod.com/~DonTeflon/BizBeef.html), which tracks hip-hop's greatest lyrical battles, agrees with Canibus' assessment that the battle raised certain expectations for his album.
"Personally, I think he waited too long to release his album," Moscato said. "The hype for it was good, but I don't think [Canibus] took advantage of it as much as he could've."
But Canibus had other intentions for Can-I-Bus.
"I want[ed] people to be aware that I'm an MC that's about technology, science and the sciences," said Canibus, a former computer-science student. "I'm about the art also, but the point that I post the art from is more based around the sciences and biology and technology."
Such songs on Can-I-Bus lend the album a sober tone as Canibus eschews rapping about the pursuit of money and women.
The album's second single, "I Honor U," is a love song to a mother told from the point of view of a newborn. It includes a graphic rap about the journey of a sperm to the ovum, while "Channel Zero" (RealAudio excerpt) is an "X-Files"-like examination of conspiracy theories, and "What's Going On" examines the hip-hop scene without using the obvious Marvin Gaye sample.
"I could've started the album off with gun shots, like so many albums that come out right now," Canibus explained. "I could have started it off with me robbing someone for their Rolex [or] I could've had an interlude with some chick sucking my d---. I could have done a lot of things," he continued. "But I wanted to keep it intellectual."