I think it’s about time I reviewed an album hot off the press, so what better than the new instrumental hip hop mix from one of my favourite artists of all time, El-P. For those of you not familiar with his style, punishing hardcore gangster beats is all I have to say.
Getting his start as the lead member of Company Flow along with Bigg Jus in the mid-1990’s, El-P has been a mainstay on the underground scene for the better part of 15 years. Spring boarding his initial group success into a fruitful solo career as a rapper and producer, and more importantly head of the Definitive Jux record label, El-P has always had a keen ear for all things dirty and nasty enough to make people take notice of the music he puts out. The guy definitely has his issues, which ring loud and clear on some of his best and most disturbed tracks from the past (The Fire In Which You Burn, Stepfather Factory), but the tortured genius is part of what makes El-P great.
So now that I’ve scared everybody off by telling you that El-P’s style is definitely not one for the masses (or the faint of heart), it turns out Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 is one of his most “fun” albums to date. Can’t you tell from the title? This is the work of a seasoned veteran approaching 40 who’s already laid all his views on the line and released his anger on wax countless times over. Now he’s just giving the decks a “this is how it’s done” workout, birthing 15 tracks of…well…punishing hardcore gangster beats.
El-P’s production style has always been incredibly stripped down and slightly spastic, nothing’s changed there. High hat, kick drum and snare are the only necessary ingredients. These pieces are often assembled with an off-beat accent providing the syncopated bounce, until an unexpected rapid-fire tom sample breakdown pushes the existing groove into murk while a new direction emerges all in the span of about 2 bars. Previous dedicated instrumental outings from El-P such as Company Flow’s Little Johnny From The Hospital had the feeling they were proposed full hip hop songs with the lyrics removed, whereas this megamixxx is one of the first times I’ve heard El-P write beats that are clearly meant to stand on their own.
There is an immediately obvious sense that the tracks on this record were written to be big and attention grabbing and standouts such as Meanstreak, I Got This and How To Serve Man succeed flawlessly. The album as a whole does an excellent job taking you on a miniature journey through the well thought out approach to beat making El-P is trying to illustrate. Stylistically this album wouldn’t sound out of place next to something 20 years old (Criminal Minded by Boogie Down Productions comes to mind) but the intentional mixture of layered, subtle sample selection and off-puttingly crushing arrangements definitely propels the sound well into the 21st century.
The final track Eat My Garbage 2 is so well executed it’s worthy of specific mention. As a tongue-in-cheek nod to a move that’s existed since hip hop’s infancy, El-P uses the album’s last 8 minutes to craft what is a true Mega Mix inside an album bearing the same title. The song is nothing more than every slick beat and spare part from the whole album fused together back-to-back for an overview of everything that happened in the last 40 minutes. And it really works, perhaps better than any other time I’ve seen it attempted. Partly because of the style El-P crafted the beat snippets in, but even more so due to his willingness to make slight adjustments to each and every one of them to keep Eat My Garbage original, I must say I’m genuinely impressed by the result, especially from a guy not known for the art of the mix.
A lot of people find the combination of El-P’s dense hardcore production sound with his aggressive, staccato delivery too much to take, so while I may be in the minority saying I miss his verbal insights, in the context of this album the lyrics were never meant to be there in the first place, so it works perfectly without them. I’ve heard El-P declare himself “the triple felon MC, minus the melanin” and having “more presence than attendance in a class of schizophrenics, here here” before, so I’m more than satiated letting his fingers do the talking this time around.
To sum it all up, if you feel like your diet is a little short on boom-bap, you certainly won’t go hungry with El-P’s Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3.
You can pick up this album at Amazon
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