Release Date: May 22, 2012
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap
Review Summary: Warning: Massive amounts of hyperbole and nostalgia hereinIt's no secret to the Sputnikmusic community that El-P's music means a lot to me; Fantastic Damage and Funcrusher Plus were the first hip-hop records besides Deltron 3030 that truly changed my expectations of what hip-hop as a genre could be. If I wasn't a hip-hop addict then, I'll Sleep When You're Dead and The Cold Vein pushed me over the edge. After last week's genre redefining collaboration with Killer Mike a-la R.A.P.
New York rapper-producer El-P's blitzkrieging fourth record is a paranoid reality show – and that's its appeal, from the psychedelic funk of "Drones Over Bklyn" to the nightmarish soldier story "Tougher Colder Killer." Listen to 'Cancer4Cure':. Related • Photos: Random Notes.
El-P is out for blood on Cancer for Cure, another blast of aggressive, lo-fi, impossibly complex rap from hip-hop’s problem child par excellence. The album mixes dense, message-driven lyrics with deep, dark beats fuzzed to all hell. Raps like, “Live on a high metal big burner bunts and combust into something and so on fuck it,” on album opener “Request Denied,” take one breath to spit and about a half hour to unpack.
El-PCancer for Cure[Fat Possum; 2012]By Brendan Frank; July 4, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGIt’s 2012. It’s still strange to say that aloud. Back in the nineties, or even ten years ago, it seemed impossibly far away. Unless you’re the one making it, imagining what music will sound like in the next ten or twenty years is pretty much impossible to do.
El-P :: Cancer 4 CureFat PossumAuthor: Patrick TaylorAn El-P album is an event. He's only released three vocal albums in the past ten years, and each one has been a must-own, at least for fans of underground hip-hop. His albums are carefully constructed, full of complicated rhymes, themes, and beats. He does all his own production (only fitting for a man originally known as El-Producto), collaborating with a team of musicians to create music that falls somewhere between hip-hop, rock, and noise.
There's a moment two-thirds of the way through Cancer For Cure's second song, "The Full Retard," where a childish, angelic girl's voice cuts in -- disrupting the track's gritty beat -- to talk about a utopian future where "children of every race, creed, and religion frolic" together. It's an ideal image of unity. And a drum like a machine gun kicks in and cuts it to ribbons, while El-P repeatedly sneers the line "lil bitch.
Even the best relationships acquire baggage. Circa 1999, Def Jux forged a fiefdom from the ashes of vinyl champs Fondle 'Em and the soon-to-be-ruined promise of Rawkus. "Independent as fuck" was the mantra, and for those wondering why MF Doom and the Roots couldn't get airplay, it may well have been a war cry. Until Russell Simmons took a temporary sabbatical from model mongering to threaten a trademark-infringement lawsuit, even Def Jux's name riffed on (Darth) Def Jam, the rap overlord at its greased-up and growling Ruff Ryders, Jigga, and Ja Rule apex.
EL-P plays the Hoxton with Killer Mike and Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire on July 9. See listing. Rating: NNNN It's been five years since El-P's last album. In that time, the baron behind Def Jux - a now-defunct, still-storied label repping rap's altier acts - reprised his role as tastemaker for the ….
Cancer 4 Cure’s first song, Request Denied,opens with a slow, spacey crescendo, where El-P’s futuristic beat leads into a William S. Burroughs excerpt that ends “storm the studio” before exploding. In that minute or so, whether you are ready for it or not, the entire album has been set up. The futuristic beat extends to the dystopian lyrics that permeate the album, the sample reminds that El-P as one of the most literate rappers of his time, and “storm the studio” is the first step in reinventing all the hip-hop that El-P is clearly tired of hearing.
Formerly the patron saint of backpacker hip-hop (aka rap music made by white people, and largely consumed by them), El-P now finds himself as influential a beatmaker as any. A decade after his group Company Flow and label Definitive Jux were releasing records comprised of distorted melody lines and walloping sub-bass, there's a whole generation of rappers doing the same. Some of them, including Detroit's magnificent Danny Brown, feature here on a collection that sees El-P update his sound and his flow to combustible effect.
“Off that Mobb Deep shit had me saying ‘dunny.'” That’s Danny Brown, the shrill-strung, wild-haired Detroit rapper who guest spits on the song “Oh Hail No” alongside Crown Heights’ unruliest, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire. Brown’s line appears half-way through his verse. It’s not as ear-grabbing as, say, his brag about being “Inspector Gadget with the ratchet,” but it resonates like a snug key to Cancer 4 Cure, El-P’s third solo album.
?There have been few more persuasive or convincing comeback refrains in recent memory than “you should pump this shit, like they do in the future” - so goes the buzzing chorus of 'The Full Retard', one of our first proper tastes of El-P's return to the studio after a five year absence. Combining instant appeal with Jaime Meline's usual lofty focus on execution and innovation, it was at once a breath of fresh air as well as a shot straight between the eyes. And if 'The Full Retard' didn't convince you that El-P was going to be returning on Cancer for Cure with both fists clenched and all guns blazing, then being pummelled by the relentless flow of opening track 'Request Denied' should put paid to all doubts – bludgeoning words into a dangerously high syllables-per-bar outburst; effortlessly liquid linguistics almost unparalleled in contemporary hip hop.
El-P doesn’t give a fuck about you. His disdain for you, spewed forth in a torrent of righteous fury and hyper-articulate wrath, is the lifeblood of his music. His verses, when you can keep up with them, can read like pages torn from the grimiest chapters of the Old Testament and rewritten by post-apocalyptic road warriors who breakdance for water rights; when he spits them on the mic, you’re reminded that rap was born as a competitive game — and you’re reminded why that used to matter so much.
"Producer, label CEO, and rapper" is how you normally list El-P's credentials, and while those dense, fascinating, and funky beats he creates keep that “p” word in the lead-off spot, his 2010 announcement that his Def Jux imprint was going “on hiatus” meant “rapper” moved up a notch. Some would say “own worst enemy” should be worked in there as well, as he seemed more the “spiritual CEO” of the 2010-2012 underground rap explosion, "losing out" on a time where Def Jux had a shot at being Def Jam, and here he is focusing on his wordplay and metaphors while producing killer Killer Mike albums (R.A.P. Music) for other labels.
“Yes, I’m paranoid — but am I paranoid enough?” This quote best fits El-P’s Brooklyn, NY state of mind: uneasy about being uneasy, angry about being angry, sick of being sick, paranoid about being paranoid. After over 17 years defining underground hip hop as head of the pioneering Definitive Jux label, one third of Company Flow, production work with Cannibal Ox, and his previous solo records, El-P has reached Peak El-P. The roads in his mind are curling back onto themselves like a mobius strip and more than ever, most of the verses on Cancer 4 Cure are infinite loops, cannibalizing his own words over and over.
I wasn’t necessarily sad as much as I was bitterly cynical when Def Jux closed its proverbial doors. High-school boys of a certain creed and disposition knew they never had a shot hanging with the Maybach Music, Def Jam or Death Row crowds, but Definitive Jux? A label populated by moody middle-class white dudes, journeyman backpack rappers and any other oddball MC who didn’t quite fit the script? It’s like they were beckoning right to us; finally we’d have a realm to our own where snobby hip-hop, esoteric coffee orders and fringe politics could live freely, away from any sneer from the sex, guns or drug-dealing core! Remember, this was the early 2000s, long before guys like Childish Gambino, ASAP Rocky and Mac Miller were legitimate pop stars. Of course that was before El-P shuttered the production side of the label, stepped down as artistic director and hopped on Fat Possum to put out his fourth disc Cancer For Cure.
It's been five years since El-P released his last full-length, the impressive I'll Sleep When You're Dead. Most of the time, a long wait produces an album that sounds gone over so many times that all sense of surprise has been removed. Cancer for Cure stuns by featuring some of the most energetic tracks El-P has ever put his name to. From the ferocious opener "Request Denied" to the insane "Drones Over BKLYN," El-P's switched gears from his early, spaced-out soundtracks to in-your-face aggression.
A phenomenal third solo album from the forever-pushing-things-forward New Yorker. Mike Diver 2012 When critics (hi!) take shots at hollow interpretations of substantial art, it's because we really, really want you to step into an 'elsewhere', where the likes of El-P operate. It's not that tough a step, honest. Sure, that he can’t compete with lesser rappers, and weaker producers, on a commercial level might be depressing.
El-P’s Cancer For Cure is an intimidating fortress of an album, but it’s not impenetrable. In the five years since the Brooklyn rapper released his last album, 2007’s hulking, Bush-induced paranoia opus I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, the independent hip-hop landscape that El-P helped define with his work as one half of Company Flow and the founder of the now defunct Definitive Jux label has undergone countless changes. The distinctions between independent rap and major label hip-hop have been blurred or completely obliterated depending on who you ask, leaving many formerly prominent artists lost and adrift, but at 37, El-P is still standing strong and defiant, like Snake Plissken in a baseball cap.
Influenced by the Bomb Squad, El-P's dense layering of synths, sound effects and funky drums results in dark, futuristic beats (think more Blade Runner than Star Trek) that are claustrophobic and given a sense of urgency by the often up-tempo production. On Cancer For Cure, songs like "The Full Retard," "Drones over BKLYN" and "Tougher Colder Killer" might even have a chance to get played in the more progressive dance clubs. Elsewhere, El-P also gets more musical by bringing in Interpol's Paul Banks and Islands' Nick Diamonds for some singing assists on "Works Every Time" and "Stay Down," respectively.
You could quite easily misconstrue the tenacity of Brooklyn rapper El-P's music as one man's anger, but what's probably most telling about his solo output to date is how intelligent he is with it. Ever since his days in Company Flow, one of the most vital underground rap groups around at the turn of the millennium, El's been somewhat industrious, pouring noise, tension and a vicious edge into his drum heavy productions. And while it's not really a new trick - that rap-over-an-awkward-jarring-backdrop is something Public Enemy's production team the Bomb Squad coined and personified back in the 80s - he's definitely pushed the envelope and progressed further than a heavy drone laced drum break, reversed police siren and looped sample.