Real Name: Germaine Williams
D.O.B.: 1974, Jamaica
Label(s): Universal, Babygrande, Gladiator
The Early Years
Germaine Williams was born in Jamaica in 1974. His father, Basil Williams, is a former Jamaican cricketer. The family moved frequently, living in The Bronx, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Miami, and Montreal due to his mother's career requiring constant relocation. Canibus stated that he was an introverted child growing up. After completing high school in 1992, he spent a year working for AT&T and another year as a data analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice. His interest in computers and the Internet led him to study computer science at DeKalb College in Atlanta. His stage name is derived from the marijuana plant, cannabis, because he likes to think of his lyrics as "activating the mind" in the way the plant does.
He began rhyming in the mid-'90s and by 1995 formed a duo called T.H.E.M. (The Heralds of Extreme Metaphors) with Atlanta rapper Webb (now called C.I., also known as Central Intelligence). While he was with Webb, he took part in a legendary cypher with the Wu Tang Clan family in Buffalo, New York, which earned him respect from the rap veterans. In 1996, T.H.E.M. split and Canibus teamed with businessman Charles Suitt. In 1997, Canibus started earning respect in the hip hop world after making numerous guest appearances with artists including The Lost Boyz, Common, Wyclef Jean, Kurupt, Ras Kass, Heltah Skeltah and The Firm.
LL Cool J Beef & Albums [1997–2000]
For the first part of 1997, he was managed by the Fugees' Wyclef Jean, who was introduced to him by Jay-Z. It was at this time that the intense rivalry between him and rapper LL Cool J began. The battle stemmed from a collaboration with LL titled "4, 3, 2, 1" from LL's 1997 album Phenomenon. LL took offense to the lines, "L, is that a mic on your arm? Let me borrow that", which referenced his tattoo of a microphone on his arm – and which Canibus claimed was his own way of showing the rap veteran respect – and wrote an indirect diss to Williams: "The symbol on my arm is off limits to challengers" and "Now let's get back to this mic on my arm / If it ever left my side, it'd transform into a time bomb / You don't wanna borrow that, you wanna idolize." Before the song was released, LL Cool J asked Canibus to change his lines. Canibus claims that LL vowed to modify his own lines as well, but the latter denied this and pointed out that nobody would know who he was talking about if only Canibus' line was changed. The original version eventually leaked, and fans started to piece the lines together.
After inking a deal with Universal Records in 1998, Canibus released his début single, "Second Round K.O.", in which Williams commenced an all-out assault on LL for dissing him on "4, 3, 2, 1", insulting his family, his TV show, and his attitude. The rivalry continued, with both sides releasing further diss tracks (LL Cool J's "The Ripper Strikes Back" and "Back Where I Belong", and Canibus' own "Rip the Jacker", among others), but eventually the feud fizzled down to each artist taking subliminal shots at each other.
Canibus' début album Can-I-Bus came out in September 1998. While "Second Round K.O.", produced by Wyclef Jean, was a success, with the song and video featuring Wyclef and a cameo appearance by boxer Mike Tyson, the album itself was a commercial failure. Despite eventually being certified Gold, critics (including The Source) also panned the album, criticizing both Canibus' subject matter and Wyclef's beats, most of which were considered inferior to both "Second Round K.O." and the artists' previous collaborations.
Because Wyclef produced the grand majority of the tracks, Williams blamed him for the general dissatisfaction with Can-I-Bus and cut ties with him, going as far as to diss Wyclef, most notably on the title track of his second album ("You mad at the last album? I apologize for it / Yo, I can't call it, motherfucking Wyclef spoiled it!"). Said album, 2000 B.C., was also released to mixed feelings and reviews – the latter once more focusing on the lack of topical variety and uninspired production – also suffering from very little promotion by Universal Records.
2000 B.C. featured the first collaboration between Canibus and Kurupt, Ras Kass and Killah Priest, a rap supergroup collectively known as The HRSMN (referring to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse), on the track "Horsementality". Though following 2000 B.C.'s release it had been announced that the group would be releasing an album, these plans never materialized, with only an EP of outtakes from 2001 entitled The Horsemen Project released by Killah Priest's management in 2003. Since 2000, however, the members of the group have worked together on various songs and rumors of a full-length HRSMN album are rampant to this day and include speculation about collaborations with Pharoahe Monch, Common and Rakim, among others.
Though much bitterness between Canibus and Wyclef Jean remained for a period of time, the two artists finally settled their differences at the end of 2004; they have since worked together on two remixes of the Machel Montano song "Carnival Survivors". In an interview with HipHopsite.com conducted in November of 2005, Williams revealed that he had recorded five songs with Wyclef and Jerry 'Wonder' Duplessis at Platinum Studios in New York for the upcoming Fugees reunion album. Whether or not those recordings will appear on the album hasn't been determined yet.