El-P, Cancer 4 Cure

Nate Patrin

By Nate Patrin

on 05.22.12 in Reviews
Sneaking classic hip-hop signifiers into an otherwise dystopian-tomorrow sound

El-P’s music has always been a mix of sci-fi futurist grandiosity and old-school rap grime, like watching a chromed-out chromed-out, mile-long spaceship reenact the Licensed to Ill cover. Cancer 4 Cure has some familiar hallmarks: El still pushes analog synth distortion until it growls like a ’70s stoner-metal guitar; he still sneaks classic hip-hop signifiers into an otherwise dystopian-tomorrow sound (Billy Squier and the J.B.’s always seem to survive the apocalypse), his drums still break bones, and he still spits verbiage like he’s letting loose internal-rhyme-twisting panic attacks. (His words, in opener “Request Denied”: “I’m a ‘holy fuck, what did he just utter’ marksman”.) But he’s rarely sounded this full-throttle start to finish — the sounds aren’t just pushed to the red but knifepoint immediate. And for all the hints of space-age debris on the margins, El recognizes that 2012 NYC is its own kind of Ridley Scott future. So he stays a master of reality, from the domestic-victim solidarity story of “For My Upstairs Neighbor” (the indelible sing-song chorus: “if you kill him I won’t tell”) to the police-state-ducking “Drones Over BKLYN” to the con-artist psyche-out “The Jig Is Up.”