El-P gets an inordinate amount of love on the Internet, but deservedly so. He rose to prominence as a member of the seminal group Company Flow in the late 90s and has been holding down the Jansporters ever since. After Rawkus Records closed shop, El-P started his Definitive Jux label, continuing to bring his brand of adventurous and daring Hip-Hop to the world with his own releases and classics from Aesop Rock, Murs & 9th Wonder, and Cannibal Ox. Def Jux is on hiatus but that hasn’t stopped El Producto from bringing the ruckus. Cancer For Cure, released on Fat Possum records, is El-P’s first solo LP in five years and fans of the omega Def Jukie are in for a treat. Duke still has razor sharp chops, albeit a tad more accessible at this stage.
Cancer For Cure is undeniably an El-P record, nobody else could pull this off. All of the traditional El-P calling cards are present in abundance: verbose lyricism, wide-ranging topics and challenging, futuristic production that fully engages the listener’s thought process and deductive reasoning. El-P comes out swinging on “The Full Retard” daring the listener to look in his toilet, shit ain’t changed. With a line from his late homie and kindred spirit, Camu Tao, playing an integral part of the mood, “so you should pump this shit…like they do in the future,” El Producto spits cryptic, paranoid, dystopian bars dissing the authorities while showcasing his oratorical dexterity.
Got a strain un-contained that could turn parade zombie/Walk with an army on me, stalked by the harm and armor posse/prolly got me on a radar with a dot/These watching, plotting minions of the lower God scene/Shit hawks abound in the town of bullet dodging/I’ma rocky, run a hundred miles before my coffee/ Shitty little sick kid, the Gippers hitting for dolo, now I’m rarefied/Signal lit verified bossy/Fuck your droid noise, void boys ‘noid ploy/Oi oi, I’ll rugby kick the shit out of your groin boy…
“Oh Hail No” featuring Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire and Danny Brown is a caucophonous, dark, multi-layered track that begs for repeat listens. There’s a lot going on here and Danny Brown showcases an uncanny ability to spit whatever cadence or tempo he wants regardless of the BPMs and still make it sound dope. If “Tougher Colder Killer” is to be taken as a measuring stick, Killer Mike’s El Producto-helmed R.A.P. Music has the potential to be on everybody’s best of 2012 lists. Killer Mike went beyond making the song cry, setting up El-P’s second verse with a hilarious four line soliloquy and subsequently ripping it to shreds with more ‘motherfuckers’ than Sam Jack in Pulp Fiction.
I’ll slap a motherfucker so hard his mama probably said ‘baby you okay?’ I just got a straight pain inside of my face, you understand me? Your dad should be ashamed of raising you suckers man, real shit man. Your dad should’ve left home like millions of other dads did. By staying at home, man, he only made you a tougher, colder, pussy…The return of the other/insane psycho sick savage raw rap rhyme motherfucker/With a big black belly/If I get to shaking like jelly and the gun don’t jam, you’re a dead motherfucker/Niggas say sweet like smuckers/Peanut butter pack the motherfuckers/I’m ashamed for your mothers/Pause, calm/How I know your momma? Bad mother-fucker/Double entendre?
El-P continues his career-spanning affinity for happy subject matter with “For My Upstairs Neighbor,” a song he’s confirmed in a recent interview on The Skinny is actually based on a real life situation he experienced. Defiant and angst-ridden, the song was inspired by overhearing a stream of verbal abuse coming from his upstairs neighbors. The beat is brooding and calculating, harmonious but with enough minor keys to raise the tension. From the chorus, “If you kill him, I won’t tell”, it’s evident that El-P is addressing the subject of death and the aftermath of violence with more honesty than all these rappers’ records with body counts higher than Gary, IN at the apex of the crack epidemic.
“$4vic” is the magnum opus of Cancer For Cure, functioning as a goodbye to his friend Camu Tao along with the aggressive, apathetic melancholy and self-destructive behavior of his darkest days. With robotic jungle 808s as the foundation for the track topped by discordant guitars and agonizing synths, El-P expounds on the allegory of the $4 vic. Mentally and physically going through everything that entails separating a stranger from the money on their person for,in the end, essentially nothing is an apt comparison for a man making an sincere appraisal of the wrongs he’s done himself. The songs refrain, “I’m still living like a $4 vic/and there’s a lotta trouble for a little win” is enough for everyone out there stuck on stupid to reconsider their priorities.
El-P scored one for the heads with an appearance on David Letterman where he performed “Stay Down,” a sign that commercially this could be his most successful LP in his career. El-P is creatively provocative as ever and while he’s still almost daring the listener to share his unabashedly ominous and pessimistic vision in all its glory, at this point in the game he elected not to take folks as far down the rabbit hole. Still, like the rest of his discography the beats and the rhymes on Cancer For Cure are dense, nuanced, and labor intensive. Subsequent listens yield themes, references, and elements you hadn’t picked up before. It’s not lounge music, it’s not club music, it’s music that makes provokes thought beyond the superficial.
Out of 5
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