Review Summary: Warning: Massive amounts of hyperbole and nostalgia herein
It's no secret to the Sputnikmusic community that El-P's music means a lot to me; Fantastic Damage
and Funcrusher Plus
were the first hip-hop records besides Deltron 3030
that truly changed my expectations of what hip-hop as a genre could be. If I wasn't a hip-hop addict then, I'll Sleep When You're Dead
and The Cold Vein
pushed me over the edge. After last week's genre redefining collaboration with Killer Mike a-la R.A.P. Music
, El's first solo record in 5 years is here with Cancer for Cure
. And it was well worth the wait.
I'm sure every review of C4C
on the planet will pontificate on El-P's emulation of future-earth and all characteristics therein via his unmistakeable syncopated, synth driven boom-bap - robot soldiers, spaceships, aliens, dystopia, or all of the above. And they're right to do so; describing the breadth of ideas brought to the table here is difficult to do in relateable modern day terms without dipping into science fiction or Bladerunner
references. As with previous efforts, Cancer for Cure
pushes the sonic envelope of hip-hop beyond its contemporaries from the very start with the electro-cinematics of "Request Denied" and its transition into the distorted, reimagined near-eastern melodies of pre-release single "The Full Retard". As is customary with previous releases, El pulls together an eclectic selection of guest artists: Paul Banks from Interpol, Mr. Mutha***in' eXquire and Danny Brown (it's difficult to choose which verse on "Oh Hail No" is better), Killer Mike, Despot, and Nick Diamonds (who is featured on the brilliantly Letterman Show-reprised "Stay Down").
But at center stage throughout Cancer for Cure
is the humanity of an existential dilemma in dealing with death (and life). There's no paranoia, positivity, or negativity here - just introspection on life and what it's worth. And ultimately, it's a message said just as clearly on the Camu Tao-dedicated closer "$4 Vic/FTL" through El's always underrated rapping as it is through the almost painfully beautiful production. You're fucking alive.