Life’s ill / Sometimes life might kill.” These are the first words, as well as the overall sentiment of Vast Aire and Vordul’s first album, The Cold Vein. Together as Cannibal Ox, these two emcees exist as ghetto activists, breaking down the ins and outs of street life through unprecedented lyrical styles. Vordul jams his rhymes together in bunches, fitting as much knowledge as possible into each line. Vast spits more casually, making sure that you have time to comprehend his ironic punch lines. El-P from CoFlow is on the beats, sounding like he is using second-hand technology from the 30th century.

Cannibal Ox starts the post-apocalyptic journey with “Iron Galaxy,” playing lyrical tour-guide through the mind of an average New York City ghetto-dweller. “The F-Word” diagrams Vast’s relationship with the woman he wants and their battle between friendship and intimacy. “Painkillers” maps another battle, this time against pill-popping dependencies. Vordul laments, “At the end of my rope / Writin’ these notes / Hopin’ to float / Above this bullshit.”

Raw beats and lyrics that reek of authenticity are rare in hip hop these days. Cannibal Ox is the cream of the crop.