Cloak N Dagga— Def Con Zero: The Last Tour On Earth (Head Trauma, 2005)
Canibus, one half of Cloak N Dagga, might best be remembered as the also-ran MC who dissed LL Cool J with “Second Round K.O.,” which LL answered with “The Ripper Strikes Back,” way back in 1998. He’s done more since then, but Canibus has failed to make any music worth owning after going down as one of the first rappers to have their solo debut ruined by a post-Fugees Wyclef.
With that being the last noteworthy blip in his career, it’s fitting that Def Con Zero starts with a loudspeaker announcing the rules for existence in a post-apocalyptic bomb shelter. Those three diktats, that the sex in the shelter is for procreation only, that no rhymes from outside their jurisdiction will be recognized, and that it’s “not about who sells the most albums, but who sells the last album” explain all of Def Con Zero.
First off, while there are occasional tracks that celebrate the pimpin’ proficiency of our protagonists ancillarily, this is a strictly hardcore album with the blunt, flat beats and compressed cymbal hits that requires. This album is not for cruising strip clubs so much as strip malls and looking hard. Occasionally exhilarating, rarely exciting.
Second, while there are undeniably good moments in rhyme (“I’m the walkin’, talkin’ Stephen Hawkins”), there’s no doubt that the lyrics are dated. On the last track, there’s even another dis on LL. By refusing to recognize rhymes from outside, Cloak N Dagga handily insulate themselves from both being called out and having to justify their fairly monotonous flow.
Which brings us to the third point— there doesn’t seem to be any forward motion on Def Con Zero. There’s a lot of hardcore posturing, some deft boasting, and that’s about it. The theory seems to be that by remaining unchanged, they’ll sell the last album and thereby vindicate their long sojourn in the bunker.
Too bad that by remaining sequestered, they’re only likely to sell those albums to each other.