Last week I wrote about Atlanta rapper Killer Mike’s new record, R.A.P. Music, produced entirely by Brooklyn’s El-Producto. Today I’m reviewing El-P’s new record, Cancer For Cure.
“It’s like a fresh start to a new world – and I already want to go home,” intones Jaime Meline on “Works Every Time,” the third track on his much-anticipated new record Cancer For Cure. It’s a rare, tuneful moment for Meline, alias El-P, whose verses skew more towards stream-of-consciousness assonance than melody. And lyrically, on an album full of metaphor and sideways language, this moment – so unguarded and straightforward – seems like a sort of statement of purpose for C4C. Let me explain.
Much is made of El’s futuristic, sci-fi, Blade-Runner-meets-1984 aesthetic, and this album bears it out. Each beat is rhythmically impeccable: assembly-line hi hats, compressed crash cymbals, and thundering kicks meet laser-focused leads and gritty pads. The whole album moves like well-maintained clockwork. It’s the sort of music you imagine soundtracking a training montage in a Jason Statham movie. The album’s opener, “Request Denied,” plays El at his most lyrically obtuse against a relentless snare-drum march and ribcage-shaking bass; “Oh Hail No” is a slinky, bell-ringing Thunderdome-cage-match between El, Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire, and the brilliant Danny Brown.
But under the mechanical sounds of the album, there’s a very real, beating human heart. It surfaces on the ragtime piano of “Drones Over Bklyn,” on the trombone-and-blissed-out-vocal chorus of “Stay Down,” and – paradoxically – the sad-robot vocoder of “Tougher Colder.” And it surfaces in smaller doses as well, like the classic hip-hop horn stabs of “Tougher Colder,” or the Flava Flav “Yeaaaaaaa, boyyyyy!”, or – obviously – the Camu Tao sample at the heart of the album’s lead single, “The Full Retard.”
So really it’s perhaps most accurate to say that C4C is an album of intersections: the intersection of future and past, mechanical and human, familiar and strange. It uses the alien to show us the human; in the end the trip of the album only really takes us home.
5 / 5 bars
El-P – “Oh Hail No”
El-P – “Tougher Colder”
El-P – “The Full Retard”