A few days back I was so surprised to see Canibus listed as one of my Facebook friend’s favorite rappers that I was moved to visit Wikipedia in search of an answer for the seldom-asked question, “What’s Canibus up to now?”
On one level, I knew the answer, since I’d covered Canibus’ debut album for an omnibus Fugees-themed My World of Flops entry that ran not long before The A.V Club killed the column: not a whole hell of a lot.
But I was still curious so I visited Wikipedia and found unintentional comic gold. Sometimes Wikipedia entries are just official sounding dispensaries of mostly sound information and sometimes Wikipedia entries are unexpected rocket rides to Crazy Town.
Canibus’ gloriously excessive entry is one such unintentional marvel. I was particularly amused by this section on his beef with Eminem:
Canibus vs Eminem fued (1998 - 2006)
After Williams' diss for LL Cool J, LL Cool J responded with a diss verse to Canibus which seemed too genius for a verse by LL Cool J, leaving Canibus confused and thinking it was Eminem that wrote the verse. Canibus then reached out to Eminem, and the meet up went ok. Eminem in fact was impressed by his lyrical skills and wanted to record a song with him, but because of williams' trust issues he left the room in a rude way. According to Eminem: "I then thought to myself, this guy is an A**whole". Eminem then dissed him in his 1999's "The Slim Shady LP" on a bunch of tracks that include "Just Don't Give a F**k", "Role Model", "If I Had" and a bunch more. Canibus later that year met up with eminem while Em was on tour and apologized. They were supposed to record Canibus' Song "phuk you" on his album "2000 B.C." where Eminem would come in on the second verse. Eminem was too busy to record because of work and family things, so Canibus got mad and instead turned the second verse and almost the rest of the album to a diss towards Eminem. He also called Aftermath Entertainment a circus and called Dr. Dre the clown. There was also another diss on a song called "The Ballad". Of course Eminem then gets mad and disses Canibus on a bunch of songs from the marshall mathers LP which include "Under the Influence", "Kill You", "Drug Ballad" and more. Canibus is only then surprised to find out that his album didn't sell very well while Eminem's album sold over 10 million copies, Eminem was also referred to as "The White Canibus". According to Canibus he believes "Stan" is also a diss towards him so in his 2001 album "C True Hollywood Stories" in a song called "Stan Lives" where the story is about him rescuing Stan then stan being mad at Eminem and becoming the ultimate fan of Canibus, there was also another diss for LL Cool J's Tattoo. The disses went on in 2002 with "The Eminem Show" and "Mic Club: The Curriculum" and finally in 2003 Canibus put in his last disses on "Rip the Jacker" on only a few of the tracks thinking he beat eminem and he's done enough for hip-hop and then went to pursue his military career never to hear his last album until he finished his military service. Eminem on the other hand took advantage of Canibus' dissappearance and in 2006 with "Raw and Uncut" released the song "Can I Bitch" which Canibus didn't consider as a diss track towards him only for being a pop song. Could it be for any other reason? Some fans speculate that he has done enough fueds and doesn't wanna get involved in any beef anymore, however the mystery continues.
That’s the kind of Wikipedia entry I live for. It’s bizarrely conversational, more like a not very eloquent, sober or even coherent friend telling you some shit they heard, or kind of heard, or fuzzily remember or misremember, than a traditional online encyclopedia entry. The point of view is incredibly strong to a distracting degree, but it’s hard to pin down exactly what it is. Much of the entry is positive. It mentions Canibus' lyrical skills and that Eminem was initially very impressed by him and puts the two artists on equal footing even if one is possibly the most successful rapper of all time, commercially, while the other is famous primarily for being a failure.
But Canibus also comes off like an asshole in much of it as well. And not just any kind of asshole, no, the worst kind of asshole: the kind that leaves meetings “in a rude way.”
Who wrote this entry? Why? I have no answers. All I can say is that the mystery continues.
This will shock you, dear reader, but this entry contains a factual error. “Stan Lives” is the title of the skit leading up to the track where Canibus lashes out at Eminem for abandoning a fictional character in one of his songs and makes-pretend that he found the mythical “Stan”, saved him from drowning and became his mentor, collaborator and best friend.
Eminem had Dr. Dre. He had Jimmy Iovine. He had a massive machine behind him. So it’s adorable that Canibus thought he was going to defeat him through the power of imaginary friendship.
No, the diss song where Canibus takes on Eminem is actually called “U Didn’t Care” and it’s fascinating primarily for the insight it provides into Canibus’ psyche.
Eminem eventually responded with “Can-I-Bitch” in 2006 but by then Canibus didn’t really have a career left for Eminem to destroy.
Yet someone on Wikipedia kept track of him all the same, and chronicled his professional ups and primarily downs, like when he humiliated himself by pulling out a notebook during a battle rap and rattling off his pre-written verses in a battle in Canada, at a length and with an exhaustiveness more befitting a World War or the career of The Beatles.
Canibus is like a lot of figures I find fascinating: he had his moment in the sun, his big break, a brief window where he could have become a superstar but he failed for any number of reasons, many ego and narcissism-based. He made too many enemies and started too many feuds he couldn’t win.
He was a nerd who rapped about nerdy shit, a hip hop Neil DeGrasse Tyson minus the success and the following. He is legitimately talented and original, but also a big fucking geek who has consistently been his own worst enemy.
Finally, I suppose I find Canibus fascinating because I relate to him. I had my break when I published The Big Rewind on Scribner in 2009. For a brief window there I had a shot at catapulting to the next level of professional success, of joining the ranks of the Chuck Klostermans and Jon Ronsons and Augusten Burroughs of the world. It just didn’t happen. I put out some books I’m super proud of and, all things considered, my first five books all sold pretty well (the sixth, not so much) but, like Canibus, they didn’t sell well enough for the majors to want to continue to invest in me.
Like Canibus, I’m going the independent route partially because it suits my idiosyncratic gifts and partially because, real talk, ain’t no major publishers out there trying to publish new books by the Nate Dogg.
So while I’m fascinated by the existence of Canibus super-fandom I also relate to Canibus on some level. We’re both survivors in cruel industries where being able to make a living doing what you love represents a triumph in itself, so while me and my man Canibus may not be moving units like Eminem or my own personal arch-nemesis John Green (where’s the section exhaustively documenting our beef in either of our Wikipedia entries?) we’re still around, and that’s good enough for me.
Like Canibus (probably) I make my living begging strangers for money on the Internet. Won’t you spare a dollar, good sir or ma’m over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace