Review Summary: words that describe Cancer for Cure but are not used in this review: Dystopian, sci-fi, apocalyptic, and futuristic.
El-P is a force to be reckoned with in the hip-hop field these days. Even when he drops an album every five years (in this case two) he brings a game-changer or tends to remind us that he still ***s on many other producers in the game right now. Think about it; Fantastic Damage
changed the indie-rap game in 2002 and challenged others to meet his level, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
reaffirmed his existence as a juggernaut while updating his style to modern standards, and even in a changing industry, Cancer for Cure
and R.A.P. Music
prove he can still keep up with the times. C4C
is the affirmation that even in the always-evolving world of non-commercial hip-hop, El-P still outdoes much of the game’s rappers and producers many times over.
Rap blogger Andrew Nosnitsky (of CocaineBlunts and Tumblinerb fame) challenged any and all reviewers to review this album without mentioning a select group of words that usually pertain to an EL-P review. Well, as hard as it may be, challenge accepted. Anyways, EL-P’s work is usually comprised of two parts: jarring, atonal production and rhythmically-inclined, “conspiracy” raps. His work has always kept these basic elements, even in his Rawkus-signed, battle-rap heavy days. C4C
continues his work in these fields but it adds a modern aesthetic to his sound. Everything about this record is fairly modern. Ever since Def Jux disbanded as a label, EL-P has expanded his group of peers from indie-rappers like Aesop Rock and Cage to rappers without a singular defined sound, such as Danny Brown and Mr. Mutha***in’ exQuire. Production-wise it still sounds like the same industrial-chaos-with-lasers but it has been made to be more aggressive, danceable even. “The Full Retard” is a perfect example of this. Opening with a Camu-Tao sample, the layers on the production essentially build from there. Drums are added, low-key buzzing mixes with high-end synths, stabbing keyboards syncopate with cuss words , and large bells ring in the background. This is Bomb-Squad abrasive production on meth mixed with Hunter S. Thompson-ready craziness. This is EL-P on full assault, fed up with only getting releases out every 5 years and unleashing that anger through the production. Songs like “Oh Hail No” and “Tougher Colder” mix passive-aggressive synth-work with highly-danceable rhythms and percussive force. Even for his guest rappers he’ll slap together another beat entirely and combine it with the main beat of the song the guests are featured on. As said before, C4C
is a highly aggressive update to his typical production style. Every 5 years he seems to reinvent himself slightly and change the hip-hop game on certain levels. El-P is a titan in the production field, and this serves only to prove that once again, no one can touch EL-P’s work.
The last thing I forgot to mention is the other part of the record; the vocal force that EL-P uses to drive the record apart from the production. C4C
would certainly have been fine as an instrumental album; the production is layered and unique enough to warrant many listens. The rapping feels like an added bonus, with EL-P talking about the usual same subjects here. Basically he raps about stuff like robot destruction and government-paranoia and such. Yet he tries (and mostly succeeds) at attempting new things. On “Tougher Colder” he plays the part of a soldier who just killed his enemy writing a letter to the mother of his enemy for the first verse, and for the next 3 or 4 verses with Killer Mike and Despot (both in excellent form here), they trade off the part of the soldier trapped up in the heat of war, slaying their enemies with no remorse or feeling. It’s an effective attempt at doing something different, and the juxtaposition between the feelings portrayed on the first verse and the feelings portrayed on later verses is highly memorable.
I feel like I should give this a 5 but something just doesn’t feel right. Maybe it just doesn’t sound like the typical EL-P record that was expected, even though it kind of does. There are just enough changes to label it as “different” but it still sounds the same as past records. EL-P has never gone for a complete reinvention before, and that’s probably what keeps this from receiving a 5. The formula just hasn’t changed enough. C4C
may be one of the finest examples of hip-hop in today’s era but a large part of it still feels like it’s stuck in the past. Other than that, the record is on a whole other level of great. Calling it now; this will be in the top ten, no, top five rap records of the year. Not even Kanye’s new material can inhibit Cancer for Cure
and R.A.P. Music’s
assault on the rap game. EL-P has brought himself to a larger level of greatness this year, and we welcome it with open arms.