Review Summary: Cancer 4 Cure is El-P's most consistent effort yet and one perfectly suited to the social climate of today.
EL-P’s first solo album in five years and first to not be released on his own Def Jux label (Fat Possum Records is handling this one) comes right as R.A.P. Music
, the album he produced for Killer Mike, is being hyped as hip-hop album of the year. Is that too much El-P for one month? The answer, quite simply, is no. On R.A.P. Music
, El-P’s futuristic beats serve as a counterpoint to Killer Mike’s southern flow and for the most part, stay in the background playing a support role. On Cancer 4 Cure
, El-P comfortably inhabits the post-apocalyptic sonic landscape he’s created, even if sometimes it threatens to consume him.
Like all other El-P albums, Cancer 4 Cure
seems to inhabit its own dimension, a dimension carved out by chainsaw synths, howitzer drums, and R2-D2 on acid blips. Entering this dimension can be difficult, especially for those accustomed to hip-hop that doesn’t scream in your ear and suddenly make left turns that drive the listener into a wall as on the end of leading single The Full Retard
. He’s not afraid to go into new territory and let the music stand for itself, Drones Over BKlYN
has a voice warning “don’t do it” to which he replies “I’m doing it” before the track ends with a bluesy guitar solo over haunting atmospheric synth. Not to mention closing track, $ Vic/FTL (Me and You)
, which is over eight minutes long and features long instrumental interludes. El-P’s beats are often claustrophobic and always at least mildly threatening, reflecting the paranoia running through the album. It’s no wonder that opening track Request Denied
is 3/4th’s instrumental and allows for you to acclimate yourself to the bleak world El-P calls home before you get to meet the man himself.
And when you finally do get introduced to El-P, you find he’s as abrasive as the sounds he lives in. El-P uses his mic to spit esoteric sci-fi infused lines about the present, the future and the way they interact. “It’s like a fresh start to a new world and I’d do anything, anything, to go home” he says on Works Every Time
with help from Paul Banks of Interpol, confessing his fear that the future will rob us of our humanity. As easy as it is to get lost in gadgets and technology, El-P reminds us to fear these tools that can be used against us on Drones Over BKLYN
. Not that El-P forgets who’s behind the trigger, Tougher Colder
is the haunting tale of a soldier kept up at night writing a letter to the mother of a man he killed. Murder is revisited on For My Upstairs Neighbor
where El-P tells his battered wife of a neighbor “do the thing you have to and I swear I’ll them nothing” and when the cops come asking questions, he casually tells them “good luck working it, Columbo/ I’mma bounce, you got my info/ But you’ll never get my pity and I’m out”.
El-P has created something as dark as is it noisy, reminding us the world of tomorrow may be made of shiny chrome but the people in it are as twisted as ever. We’re in the new millennium, but nothing’s changed and we should fear the powers pulling the puppet strings behind the cold eyes of the cameras watching us. You can call El-P a crazy paranoiac, but you can’t deny he has a reason for being one; the world has become a claustrophobic place. Furthermore, he won’t listen to whatever you say about him; after all he says “I’d sooner wash my dick in acid than ask what you think” (Drones Over BKLYN
) and channels Groucho Marx with “I wouldn’t want to be a part of any club that would have me” (The Jig Is Up
). One thing’s for certain, once you descend into Cancer 4 Cure
, you won’t be the same, but it’s so worth it.