Friday, October 5, 2007

A Couple Months Behind, But Still Worth Mentioning: El-P

The new El-P dropped a couple months ago, so I'm a bit behind, but it was one of those records I picked up and then didn't get a chance to listen to. However, I finally gave it a spin, and it kicked ass. Unsurprisingly, I immediately recalled Funcrusher Plus and The Cold Vein, for the record rides the typical Definitive Jux, gritty, apocalyptic sound. However, all the lurking, unsettling, otherworldy synths and bells and whistles would all be just chaotic if not for El-P's intricate, visionary production. It's still chaos, but it's calculated and focused.

This overall focus drives a record that would be great as a solely instrumental one, but is ten times better with the El-P's perfectly accompanying flow. His words are pessimistic, agressive, wrenching, and over the course of the album paint a vivid, highly thoughtful picture of a dystopian future. As with 2002's Fantastic Damage, critics have (accurately) labeled I'll Sleep When You're Dead as a post-9/11 record, one that explores the fear, uncertainty, and paranoia of the world following the terrorist attacks.

While he commands skill on the mic, the lyrics themselves and not the delivery make the album so compelling. Essentially, it's pure poetry, at once urgent and articulate, both emotionally charged and perfectly expressed. On "Run the Numbers", he spits, "The boys and girls club of unemployable liars squadren/Silly peasant pathetic plus dirty mutt of the ages/OK dystopia, these fuckers are ripe for containment/Half dead man slut ever ready to love my leader/Servitude is contagious". This is just one of the gajillion instances I could highlight, for El-P seems to have an endless pit of things to say.

And I'm not talking about fifty different ways to say "I got shot nine times" or "I get money". This is real rap music, a reminder of how artistic hip-hop can be when it wants to. El-P's still rocks considerable wit on the mic ("C'mon, ma, can I borrow the keys?/My generation is carpooling with doom and disease/Buckle up, skipper/The new american Asterix/You're riding shotty with Jesus of Nascar-eth"), but does so without any bullshit. And for all you indie hipsters out there, Chan Marshall drops in for album closer "Posenville Kids No Wins / Reprise (This Must Be Our Time)". How you like them apples?!

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