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EL-P – Cancer 4 Cure

Friday 14th September / posted by Chris Wheeldon

Review by Paul Lindsay

Fat Possum

Recently Hip Hop has undergone a much needed reinvention with the appearance of acts like Shabazz Palaces, Odd Future, A$AP Rocky, and Death Grips. Their innovative approaches to production would have been derided by the myopic so-called purists five years ago who were still choosing to stick to the bygone sound of the golden era in a vain and tired attempt to retain Hip Hop’s purity. Aided by technological advancements that have increased the ease by which production can be undertaken, this reinvention has brought a new vigour to explore the extension of production techniques and create fresh and diverse sounds.

This is not to say that their haven’t been innovators prior to the rise of the aforementioned names, ask anyone with a love for the genre and names like J-Dilla, Madlib, DJ Shadow, The Roots, RJD2, Kid Koala and this review’s muse EL-P spring to mind without a moment’s hesitation. EL-P has spent much of his career innovating, exploring, and pushing the boundaries to create newer and more diverse sounds in Hip Hop. On his current release Cancer 4 Cure it seems he is about to reap the much deserved rewards from a world that always seems to play catch up to the trendsetters.

EL-P put his record label Def Jux on hiatus in 2010. He then signed to Fat Possum – a indie rock label who in 2009 already released posthumously King of Hearts by his late friend and former Def Jux signee Camu Tao. EL-P though hasn’t changed and continues to cling quite firmly to the mantle of being one of the current leaders Hip Hop production, pick up Killer Mike’s (who features on Cancer 4 Cure) R.A.P. Music release of May this year to understand why.

Cancer 4 Cure’s production is a soundtrack that befits the lyrical content of this record. EL-P adroitly paints an ominous and intense backdrop of sound-scapes that blends bass heavy lines, dirty twisted drums, and wailing synths and guitars – think Kool Keith circa Poppa Large and increase the intensity by infinity. Cancer 4 Cure snatches the listener from the safety of their world into the protagonist’s desperate and hopeless world. Helpless, the listener is forced to be the cathartic sounding board for EL-P’s vitriolic laments of power and control, conflict, paranoia, and death.
Dark as EL-P’s world may be, you will realise just how glorious a nightmare you have been drawn into as you unwittingly release your guard to this album, giving over full control of your senses, the only fear left lingering is that this record will eventually stop spinning and life’s banal normality will ensue. Cancer 4 Cure is the benchmark for hip hop in 2012 and could well be considered a classic in years to come. Pump this ish like they do in the future.

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