Though I’ve never been a huge fan of El-P, half of the pivotal group Company Flow and don of the underground via Def Jux (the label he founded), it’s always been clear that the New York native is nothing if not prolific, boundlessly talented and extra creative.
With his latest solo record I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, these traits are even more evident. A tasty crunch of an LP, the record moves relentlessly from the first track to the last, with El-P’s own brand of verbal delivery banging and crashing against the tracks, and guests brethren Mr. Lif, Cage, Aesop Rock, and even Trent Reznor offering wonderful assists.
As a producer, El-P has infused the proceeds with noise that compliment his extensive verbiage, swaying and rising with emotion in much the same way sweaty kids writhe at an all night rave. Although several of the album’s 13 songs could easily be confused for emo rock, that doesn’t diminish their immense power. The opening sequence “Tasmanian Pain Coaster,” flies closer to a space age soundtrack than a hip-hop song, then takes flight as if it were classic sci-fi, while “Habeas Corpses [Draconian Love]” sounds as if it could have been directed by the team of Tarantino and Rodriguez.
Although he continues to challenge the norms of the genre to which he is indelibly linked, El-P hasn’t forsaken his roots entirely. “Drive,” rounding corners as loud and smooth as an Indy driver, could give LL’s “Boomin’ System” a run for its money in car love, with particular attention towards the sound system. And “Run The Numbers” is straight up boom bap at its classical best; think Boogie Boys circa mid-eighties.
Whatever you think, it’s likely this album will remain with you long after you’ve listened to it. Old fans and new alike will see that taking a trip with El Producto is anything but boring and more often than not, extremely entertaining.