Canibus Raps Smart But Street

The MC's second album, 2000 B.C., is strung with violence, depicted in 50-cent words.

On his second album, 2000 B.C., Canibus doesn't just battle his opponents on the mic — he rips them to shreds, beats them to the ground and hits them with such words as "osteoporosis" and "hydraulics."

In Canibus' world, Canibus is clearly the man. "I'm among the crème de la crème when it comes to lyrics in this rap game," the 25-year-old, Jamaican-born rapper said recently.

But Canibus (born Germaine Williams) said his intelligent lyrics are still street. "We just rhymed and we rhymed hard," Canibus said of his formative years in hip-hop. "We don't rhyme like rural kids. We rhyme like urban street kids. We don't rhyme like we come from an advantaged area. ... I don't rhyme like I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth."

Canibus spits vitriol all over 2000 B.C., due July 18. The album is a string of nonstop battle raps on which the rapper threatens opponents with various forms of violence and questions their manhood.

The rapper calls himself "unequivocally the illest killing machine in the industry for the 21st century" on "The C-Quel" (RealAudio excerpt). He sells his enemies' vital organs on the black market on "Watch Who You Beef Wit" (RealAudio excerpt).

Canibus, who began in hip-hop by helping manage hardcore Queens quartet the Lost Boyz, entered the rap-game limelight in 1998 as a protégé of Wyclef Jean. Jean produced the rapper's debut album, Can-I-Bus, which featured the melodic single "I Honor U."

Jean and Canibus had a falling out over the sound of the record, however. Canibus said he felt the album, which is certified gold, wasn't street enough, and that it alienated the fans of the raw, minimal sound he grew up on.

This time, Canibus recruited Jay-Z collaborator Irv Gotti, DJ Clue, the Beatnuts and other street-oriented producers to carry the musical end.

"They got an ear for tracks," Canibus said. "They got an ear for the hard-hittin' neck-snappers, and that's what they gave to me."

Canibus is one mean-sounding dude. His voice has a natural huskiness to it. The rapper incorporates a deliberate snarl into his delivery for effect, which helps him sell "Watch Who You Beef Wit," a standout track on the album.

The song is built around a mysterious piano tickle and one of Canibus' preferred "neck-snappin' " beats. The lyrics are unabashedly confrontational, detailing a kidnapping spree during which he and his cohorts tie a radio DJ up and force him to play five songs off his new album: "The whole weekend you get blindfolded and beaten/ Nosebleeding/ Gaspin' for air weezin'/ You got kidnapped and you don't even know the reason."

The rapper is the equivalent of a hip-hop vagabond. He's lived in Jamaica, England, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Miami and the Bronx. His mother worked as a low-income housing inspector, moving from area to area. He also spent time at five community colleges and worked various temp computer jobs before settling into hip-hop.

All of which makes him seem unfazed by life. He blew off questions about his public feuds with Jean and LL Cool J, with whom he staged a ferocious lyrical battle — Canibus eventually lost, the victim of LL Cool J's "I Shot Ya."

"We don't really have no reason to speak," Canibus said of LL Cool J. "Nobody gives a f---. That's how I look at it."