El-P isn't only an underground survivor, he's also an - in my humble opinion - indisputable reference point for many modern star producers subscribing to the Californian brand of lysergic beats and British gloomy dubstep. From the days of Company Flow (our man is one of the few surviving Rawkus artists), his early episode on Definitive Jux (the now defunct label he himself founded) and up until even his most insignificant instrumental collages - all of his movements in the past two decades must, for those who are new to this game, look like visionary paintings by an oddball artist. When Lorn was still crawling around in diapers, he was already invoking evil with cosmic beats, walls of retro synths, saturated bass lines and an all-round, very apocalyptic sound.
“Cancer For Cure” is the culmination of a career spanning almost 20 years, spent in the shadows, with as many ups as downs. The definitive evolution of the El-P sound. The most consistent chapter, after the brutal “Fantastic Damage” (2002), the instrumental “Collecting The Kid” (2004) and “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” (2007). I would like to think that it's the album that will finally give the New Yorker the credit he deserves outside the most fundamental circles of independent hip-hop. Jaime Meline has always been regarded as a paranoid freak, locked inside his world of conspiracy theories, science fiction and asphyxiating sounds. But efforts like this one make it clear that there's a dark side that deserves to be explored: that of a unique creator who has survived all trends, staying true to a particular modus operandi in the rap game.
Extreme excess, an overdose of samples, distorted guitars, dizzying, Z-series keyboards, pathological cenophobia: all the usual El-P ingredients are here, but this time the virus enters the nervous system with elegance and refinement (though using the term 'refinement' in this case could be dangerous). Now, in his thirties, is when his sound reaches the perfect balance between lyrics and blood. It's his paranoia on all levels, yes, but it coherently evolves towards a version where the lyrics and the monstrous music fit together like Lego pieces.
In the beats department, the conclusion is obvious to those who've heard Killer Mike's latest album, and to those wise enough to sync the effing masterpiece that is “Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3” to their iPod: the man's in shape. Very good shape. Superimposed layers of sound, interminable echoes, crushing metallic blows, incredibly dense samples, sound effects that would make Rob Zombie well hard: this is a feast. The record starts with “Request Denied”, a banger if ever there was one; a suite of accelerated breakbeats, howls, devastating raps and guitar riffs. We're entering a spaceship with the controls set for the heart of the sun. “Full Retard” is a masterpiece, a melee of Bomb Squad-like samples, laser shots, iron fist bass lines and a hugely inspired flow. “Drones Over Brooklyn” is a cross between the rap they will make ten years from now and that of 1994; old school and future school in one and the same, a toxic mix. “Stay Down” is like Alice In Chains, Scorn and Cannibal Ox in the blender, set at 'rage' mode. “$ Vic / FTL” is an impossible ballad of space rock, dubstep and pure mescaline. “True Story” is cybernetic hip-hop, raw like sushi: obsessively repeated vocal samples in a late 80s style, menacing keyboards, beats so hard they would make Gheorghe Muresan cry like a little girl, and synths recovered from the ashes of the Roswell accident. And it goes on. And it goes on.
Untiring. Paranoid. Rhyming better than ever over his own shit. Seeking the occasional company of Mr. MuthaFuckin eXquire, Killer Mike, Despot, and Danny Brow on the mic. At times losing his guard on the most introspective (“Sign Here”) and accessible (“For My Upstairs Neighbour”) moments; but all in all signing one of the most important rap power demonstrations of 2012. “Cancer For Cure” is El-P's excuse to hit the present hip-hop scene in the face. With a glove covered in poison-dipped spikes, of course.