All true and original hip-hop artists evolve and change. Vast Aire was originally known as ˝ of Cannibal Ox. Along with Vordal, the duo released the classic “The Cold Vein” LP, produced entirely by El-P. Released on Definitive Jux, Cannibal Ox was considered an underground group with a futuristic/ apocalyptic style that went over many people’s heads. With collaborations with C Rayz Walz, El-P, LifeLong and many others, Vast Aire was gaining intense respect in the hip-hop community. Vast is also a member of Atoms Family (consisting of Cryptic One, Alaska, Vordul Megilah, Vast Aire, PAWL, Jestoneart, Windenbreeze, and Cip One) and The Weathermen (consisting of Cage, El-P, Tame One, Copywrite, Breezly Brewin, Yak Ballz, Camu Tao and Jakki Da Motamouth).
On the Def Jux documentary “Revenge of the Robots” DVD, there is a major section about his song “Pigeon” and how he struggles in his day to day life. At one time, Vast was the hype man for El-P and by 2004, he has released multiple albums and have gained worldwide exposure and respect. While some may dismiss his slow way of speaking, true fans truly take in what he is saying and understand his brilliant lyrics.
In 2004, Vast Aire released his debut solo album “Look Mom… No Hands” on Chocolate Industries. Fans who were expecting hard, futuristic, apocalyptic music were surprised. Vast Aire considers his debut solo album like a Dolomite movie. There is a serious groove to it that will move the bodies of the most stationary listeners. While he does hold true to the boom-bap culture and philosophy, the beats and themes are diverse, hungry, and innovative. Vast Aire is truly vast in his mind and his art. “Look Mom… No Hands” has production by Camu Tao, Blueprint, Da Beatminerz, Rjd2, and more. Guests include Sadat X, MF Doom, Breezly Brewin, Aesop Rock, Poison Pen, and more. “9 Lashes” is a harsh battle track that disses 7L & Esoteric. “Elixir”, featuring Sadat X, sounds like a party joint at first but the track is lyrically deep. While there are a few catchy tracks, the LP truly consists of incredible rapping, wild lyrics, and innovative flows. Vast Aire is the future. While he has been around for a while, he is one of the true heirs to the boom-bap.
MVRemix: What goes on?
Vast Aire: Just working hard, man. I was on tour with Brother Ali and we were opening for Gza/Genius on the West Coast. We had a lot of fun doing that. I’m promoting the album. It’s grind time. I call it grind time taxing.
MVRemix: Tell us about your first solo album, ‘Look Mom No Hands’. How is it different from Cannibal Ox ‘The Cold Vein’?
Vast Aire: This is my first solo album. I approach all my albums pretty much the same way. The Atoms Fam album came out called ‘The Prequel’, which Method Man is using right now! (laughs). That album consisted of other people and I played my role on that album. Then, me and Vordal, being one of the 8, we got up with El-P and did ‘Cold Vein’. We had fun. I had a lot of fun being in a duo. When I was younger, I started in a trio. Then, I ended up becoming a soloist that was in a crew of people. Atoms Family and me were learning how to do songs. Vordal and I were finding ourselves. Our styles clicked.
MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on ‘Look Mom No Hands’?
Vast Aire: Probably the song ‘Whyistheskyblue?’. Right now, it is one of my favorites.
MVRemix: When you do a song, do you come into the studio with pre-written lyrics or a theme in mind or do you hear the beat first and write then and there in the studio, from the beat?
Vast Aire: It depends. It can happen either way. Sometimes, someone comes to me and they thought about me when they made the beat. I’ll take it and if I like it, I’ll make something with it. Sometimes, I’m spitting a rhyme to the producer. From them hearing the rhyme, they go someplace with the beat. It’s pretty much either way. It’s most likely that I hear the beat first and I make something around it, where I’m vibing. It can go either way.
MVRemix: For those who don’t know, could you explain your name Vast Aire?
Vast Aire: I guess it means mad styles. I think it means a lot of attitude. Vast Aire. I have a very wordy type of style. Vast was given to me by a friend of mine I went to school with and the Aire pretty much came from me bring a junior. My name is Theodore Arrington II. I used to spell it proper. H-E-I-R. But, in the past couple of years, I switched it to A-I-R-E.
MVRemix: How did you hook up with El-P and get signed to Definitive Jux?
Vast Aire: Him and Vordal got real close back in 1995 or 96. I had known Breezly Brewin. I got in tight with Brewin and Vordal got in good with El. Our relationships flourished.
MVRemix: How is El-P’s production style and process different from the other producers you have worked with?
Vast Aire: I don’t know, really. I have a weird taste. He is just one of those producers who fit my taste. Sometimes, I just like a certain vibe and El is real good at letting off this grimy, metallic, futuristic vibe. I like to look at it as a futuristic thing or honest sound. I like how he manipulates sounds. He is good at what he does.
MVRemix: What is the favorite part of your live show?
Vast Aire: I think my favorite part of any show is when the crowd is vibing. Some crowds are easy because they know you. Some crowds are just getting to know you. Some crowds don’t know you at all. I love taming a crowd that swore they were going to hate me. That is probably my favorite part. I have a live DJ on stage. I don’t play that DAT sh*t. I don’t play that CD sh*t. I’m running vinyl like I’m the last cat. I just come with that raw Run DMC vibe.
MVRemix: What are some songs that made you fall in love with hip-hop?
Vast Aire: Ah, man! Damn! My brain is in the matrix right now! Off the head, I would say ‘Nightmares’ by Dana Dane. I swear to God, I think that is the reason I started rhyming. I was thinking about it a couple of months ago. I think I first heard Dana Dane’s ‘Nightmares’ when I was in The Bronx. I’m from Uptown and sh*t. I couldn’t believe it. I was like ‘What is this?’ It had so much attitude. I’m all about attitude and flair. You had to respect hip-hop when ‘Nightmares’ came out. It was showing you that hip-hop was not over and we had a long road ahead of us. Of course, ‘I Ain’t No Joke’ and ‘Microphone Fiend’ by Rakim too.
MVRemix: What did you think of the remake of ‘I Ain’t No Joke’ by Buckshot of Black Moon and Boot Camp Clik?
Vast Aire: Yeah, man. He did his thing from his angle. I definitely enjoyed that.
MVRemix: What emcee would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Vast Aire: There’s a lot, man. I would love to do a song with Ghostface Killah. I love his new album, ‘The Pretty Toney Album’. I would love to do a song with Kanye West. Outkast is another group. There are many different people. Non-Phixion too. I would like to work with them.
MVRemix: What producers would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Vast Aire: Probably DJ Premier, Havoc from Mobb Deep. Definitely, Alchemist and Kanye West. I would love to do something with Rza.
MVRemix: What are the 3 best things about living in New York City?
Vast Aire: #1 is 24 hour transportation. I don’t care what time it is, something is running whether it is a bus, a train, or a cab. You can get the f*ck home. When you are in a city and people start sweating because it is 2 AM and they know that they cannot get anywhere until 7 AM, that’s real pathetic. #2 is that New York never sleeps. You can catch a movie or go to a good diner. It is a city that does not sleep. You can have a good meal at 4:30 in the morning with your friends. The third best thing is the culture. New York City is a city that literally reps America. If you are a race, you are in New York. Food, language, and opportunities are there.
MVRemix: Where were you during September 11th terrorist attack? How did you deal with it?
Vast Aire: I was in Canada at the time. I was on tour and I dealt with it as good as anyone could deal with it. I basically had to sit and wait to see what was going to happen. Personally, if you were watching it from a hotel room in Canada, you would have thought it was the end of the world. There is no way you could show me the Pentagon and New York on fire and tell me it is not the end of the world. I was just praying that my little sister was not on her field trip downtown. She lives uptown. I was hoping she was away from the madness. A couple of my friends almost died. It’s real, man. At the same time, I hate to say it, but we had it coming. That type of thing goes on in other countries every 3 months and we are at the Super Bowl going ‘Yeah!’. It was a wake up call.
MVRemix: What is the last incident of racism that you experienced?
Vast Aire: Wow! That is real funny you asked me that! I would say 2 weeks ago. I was on tour with Brother Ali in San Francisco. Me and Ali opened up for Genius and it was a real good show. The vibe was great and everything was good. I was chilling and talking to some chicks when this dude walks by and says ‘You Black *sshole!’ His friend is grabbing his shoulder and pushing him. I looked to the left and there were cops right there. So, I am thing this… if I make a move, it’s going to look bad. I think that was his intention because I was talking to a girl that he likes. I guess jealousy led to racism. If I’m such a ‘Black bastard’, than why are you at my show? Why are you at a Genius of Wu-Tang, and Vast Aire show? Also, why are you at a Brother Ali show? Brother Ali is Black but he is an albino! Why are you at our show? There’s going to be Black *ssholes all around here. (laughs!). I was just a Black *sshole for those 5 minutes.
MVRemix: What was your childhood like? What kind of kid were you?
Vast Aire: I was pretty much an open-minded kid. I liked G.I. Joe. I liked Transformers. I liked water balloons and all that.
MVRemix: What was the lowest or dirtiest thing you ever did for money?
Vast Aire: Wow! I haven’t done anything foul for money. Money hasn’t corrupted my soul yet.
MVRemix: What have been in your CD player or on your tape deck recently?
Vast Aire: I have a 50 CD holder so there is a pretty huge genre from reggae to hip-hop to old soul classics.
MVRemix: Sadat X (of Brand Nubian) is one of my favorite emcees. He is on ‘Elixer’. How did you hook up with him and what was that collaboration like?
Vast Aire: He is an incredible dude. He actually did a song with my friends from Atoms Fam. He did a song with Hanger 18. From him getting up with them is how I got up with him. He knew the music. He was real cool with the vibe and all that. I asked him to be a part of ‘Look Mom No Hands’ and he was down. I let him hear the Ayatollah beat and he was open. We just freaked it.
MVRemix: Word association. I am going to say an emcee or name of a group and you tell me the first word that pops in your head. So, if I say ‘Chuck D’, you may say ‘revolutionary’. Ok?
C Rayz Walz.
Vast Aire: Crazy walls.
MVRemix: MF Doom.
Vast Aire: A genius.
MVRemix: Curtis Mayfield.
Vast Aire: Vintage.
Vast Aire: Chaotic.
MVRemix: Phife Dawg.
Vast Aire: 5 feet.
Vast Aire: Talented.
Vast Aire: One of the best.
MVRemix: Gil Scott-Heron.
Vast Aire: Strong.
MVRemix: George Bush.
Vast Aire: *sshole.
MVRemix: What do you think of the U.S. involvement in the Middle East?
Vast Aire: I’m into conspiracy theories. You can’t ask me about the government because I just think they are *ssholes. It’s just one of those things that is just in your face. You can’t do anything. They will do what they want. It is supposedly a free country but it is truly not. When my president gets on TV and speaks on behalf of the country that did not want him to win, it is a joke. As a president, he does not represent Vast Aire. He may represent your state and patriotic, blind lunatics. He does not represent my people or my culture. I am African and Indian, so I’m very bitter with The United States. As an African, I hate you. As a Cherokee, I hate you. It’s pretty foul. This is pretty much America. I’m going to come up in your house, kill your family, put up new pictures, set up new furniture, give you the basement, and then, tell you ‘I’m sorry.’ You get the shed. After all of that, you are left with the shed and there is nothing you can do. That is how I look at America. They’ll do something and then they will say ‘sorry’ for about 3 days. Then, they will sweep it under the rug. Look what they did to Asians. They are in that whole World War. You are at war with Japan, so you group up every Asian in America and put them in horse stalls somewhere in Texas! This is the most free country, so ‘Okay!’ I tell everybody, ‘Kiss your girl, blast your favorite song, and have a cheeseburger because tomorrow, it will all be gone’. We will be in some Mad Max sh*t over gold and oil. It will be like Tina Turner and Mel Gibson over gold and black gold. It is pathetic. We could have been using electric cars and solar powered toothbrushes. The powers that be and the dynasties are involved. The leader of the metal industry is going to marry the leader of the plastic industry. These groups are not trying to lose their power. It is going to be this way until it falls. I do not see this utopian, peaceful, compassionate world. I see this world just burning out until it is done.
MVRemix: What is hip-hop music lacking these days? What does hip-hop need?
Vast Aire: To be honest, hip-hop needs Jay-Z. I don’t know why he’s leaving right now. Hip-hop needs raw, honest, grimy musicians who are not afraid to take chances and be honest. I love ‘Rapper’s Delight’ by Sugarhill Gang. I think it is an incredible song and it is a real song. I also think ‘Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos’ by Public Enemy is hot. I think that needs to be bumped, addressed, and played just as loud as ‘Rapper’s Delight’. You have to be honest with yourself. That is the way I always tried to be. When I am dead and gone in another 60 years, I just want people to peep my catalogue. I want them to peep my honesty and the rawness of a New York kid who had half a mind.
MVRemix: If you could re-make any classic hip-hop song, what would it be?
Vast Aire: Man, don’t even go there. But, since you are going there, I would re-make 2 joints. I would re-make ‘Protect Ya Neck’ by Wu-Tang Clan. I’m surrounded by so much craziness. Between Atoms Fam and The Weathermen, I’m surrounded by so many voices and talent. I would re-make that 9 man song ‘Protect Ya Neck’. If it was me alone, I would re-make ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’ by Nas.
MVRemix: What are some major misconceptions that people have of Vast Aire?
Vast Aire: Oh, God! A huge misconception people have of me is that I think like them. Whatever ‘them’ is. They could be as broad as a fundamentalist, like anti-living. Imagine there is someone who is against living and they hate everything but somehow, they love my music. I’m not as hateful as some of my fans. I practice Akido. I’m into Zen. I’m into balance. I’m not really caught up in stuff that I said earlier. I think that there is a place for ‘Rapper’s Delight’ and ‘Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos’. That is what I grew up on. I did not grow up with just one of them. You know what I mean? I feel that some of my fans may be a little closed minded. They may think I rep something for them, when actually, I’m just speaking for myself. I’m not asking you to go left or right. I’m telling you to stand for a direction. I’m not trying to point you anywhere. I’m trying to get you to think about going somewhere.
MVRemix: The album ‘Look Mom No Hands’ did not come out on Definitive Jux. It came out on Chocolate Industries. Why?
Vast Aire: It came out on Chocolate Industries because I was pretty much in a bidding war with a few labels. Chocolate Industries won. That’s pretty much what happened.
MVRemix: I heard there is an issue with your website.
Vast Aire: My website is www.vast-aire.com There is a fake one out there that was confusing people.
MVRemix: Do you like one LP more than the other?
Vast Aire: I love ‘The Cold Vein’ and I love ‘Look Mom Both Hands’, but for different reasons. ‘The Cold Vein’ is like a real good Star Wars movie. ‘Look Mom No Hands’ is like a real good Dolomite movie. They both have their own place. I had a lot of fun working with the musicians I worked with. We all love and respect each other. That’s what it is about.
MVRemix: What is after ‘Look Mom No Hands’?
Vast Aire: Basically, a lot of beautiful music and a lot of craziness. Vordal and I are working on a project right now called ‘Cipher Unknown’. It is an EP of music that we have been putting together over the years. Some of it consists of remixes while other parts of it consists of new music. Some of it is stuff that never got put out. That’s a real hot project. Me and my man, Karniege, who is on the album, he is also on Def Jux 3 ‘Make News’. I’m doing a project with him. We make beats together. We also rhyme together. He is my hype-man too. I’m doing a project with him called ‘Mighty Joseph’. There is an Atoms Fam album. We are finally coming back together to form Voltron. That album is crazy. We are in the beginning stages of that. Weathermen are working on a project right now. We are trying to figure out which voices go together. There’s just a lot of work right now. I stay busy. You’ll hear me on Ayatollah beats and J-Zone beats. There’s a lot of stuff going on.
MVRemix: What other releases do you have out now?
Vast Aire: I have a mix-tape out called ‘Dirty Mag’. There is also a limited edition disc of me and Vordal called ‘Speakeroxxx / The Ox Below’ and we bit Outkast’s cover. That is what I want to get across to the fans. You have to respect people’s growth. Vordal and I are no different from Outkast. We do the music we want to do. You either like it or you don’t.
MVRemix: Any final words for the people who are going to read this?
Vast Aire: Go out and support real hip-hop. ‘Look Mom No Hands’ is a beautiful album. It’s a real album. It is honest. It is raw. It’s just hot, man. I’m real proud of the album. Everyone in my crew is proud of it. Just keep your ears to the street, man. If you are a fan, keep your ears to the street and know that we will stay dropping hot music.