Tuesday, May 22, 2012

El-P: "Cancer For Cure" (album review)

It's been five years since we last heard from Brooklyn rapper/producer El-P, well, in his capacity as a solo artist anyway.  Now he's back with a highly-anticipated new album Cancer for Cure.

El-P pulls out all the stops on this record.  It's an intense experience that hardly lets up from beginning to end.

The in-your-face "The Full Retard" reaches way way down for a deep groove.  One can't help but feel almost physically threatened by "The Jig Is Up", while "Oh Hail No" is a simple smashmouth 'fuck you'.

The music is far from the homogeneous pap most hip hop artists offer up.  A flurry of drums is the only constant on "Request Denied", pounding away underneath a constantly shifting arrangement.  A marching band drum gives way to a progressive blues rock guitar outtro on "Drones Over BKLYN".  A stutter step in the delivery of the refrain on "True Story" multiplies its impact.

With Killer Mike and Despot guesting on "Tougher Colder Killer" the track suffers from too many cooks (or emcees in this case).  It becomes a confusing, muddled mess.

A guest appearance that goes right comes from Nick Diamond of Islands on "Stay Down".  The clash-of-styles makes for a track that swings back-and-forth between the conflicting qualities of menacing and danceable.

If one were to listen to commercial radio, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that hip hop has fallen into a rut so deep that it may never climb out.  Cancer for Cure is one of those records that offers a glimmer of hope.

El-P plays The Hoxton in Toronto on July 9th.

Best tracks: "Oh Hail No", "True Story"

Track listing for Cancer for Cure:
  • Request Denied
  • The Full Retard
  • Works Every Time
  • Drones Over BKLYN
  • Oh Hail No
  • Tougher Colder Killer
  • True Story
  • The Jig Is Up
  • Sign Here
  • For My Upstairs Neighbor (Mums the Word)
  • Stay Down
  • $ Vic/FTL (Me and You)

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