It’s easy to champion hyped names in the rap game – A$AP, SpaceGhostPurrp, even lame rappers like Mac Miller – and lampoon the old heroes of rap. Maybe even justifiably so; how many of them remained relevant? Canibus made a fool of himself by attempting to insert himself into the current rap battle scene, Common made a fool of himself by beefing with Drake over f*cking Serena Williams, and we’re sorry everyone, but Pete Rock is a goddamn fool too for getting pissy over Lupe’s usage of his beat.
Vast Aire proves to be unimpressive too without El-P’s production. And that segues perfectly to whose MO we think these veterans (some only recently so) need to follow – El-P. Say what you will of how he ruined Def Jux – Def Jux was him, the creator is also the destroyer – or how he cheated Cannibal Ox off their loyalties, we will never know if any of these were true.
What we do know is that El-P, despite his BK neuroses, doesn’t whinge about the good ol’ days, nor does he talk down on the current rap game – even if A$AP doesn’t dig him, he is a-okay with those guys. Dude also just happens to feel some kind of reinvigoration due to the newer hip hop acts to have emerged. Appearing on Mr. Muthaf*ckin’ exQuire’s debut music video and showing admiration for Das Racist and Danny Brown.
He’s also developed a kindling spirit in underrated southern beast Killer Mike, he’s long known southern rap is ripe with talent. Their collabo R.A.P. Music is some of the most relevant rap music we heard from cats in their late 30s, the kind that reverberates with the reality of today the same way AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted did with the reality of early ‘90s.
Not content with that, just a week later El-P releases Cancer 4 Cure (C4C), his third solo debut. JUICE already stated a short impression of the album in last month’s issue, but we haven’t heard the full thing yet at the time of the writing. Now that it’s out, we can validly opine that he’s still got it. C4C is vintage Def Jux through and through, it’s like El-P lives in a time capsule when he recorded this. Yet there’s still vigour to him like the era never left him, El-P’s cacophony of industrial beats and righteous anger are still as fresh as it was the first time round in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.
First single off the album, ‘The Full Retard’, sounds just as exciting to our ears as any fresh faced rappers new to the scene. The dense meters, sampled vocals telling us to pump this ish up like they do it in the future, and aggro beat. This hostility is continued throughout the album, and especially transcendent in its indignation on ‘Oh Hail No’. Elevated by the presence of some of the best rappers to emerge recently, Mr. Muthaf*ckin’ exQuire (who is something like a black RA the Rugged Man) and Danny Brown (who is the best addict of a rapper ever), El-P proves that it’s always better if you work for, rather than against, the newbies.
Most resonant with us is the Camu Tao tribute end track ‘$4 Vic/Nothing but You+Me (FTL)’. When El-P declares that “nothing wrong with not being strong, nothing says we need to beat what’s wrong,” he espouses a mantra that is antithetical to everything that is wrong, and has always been wrong, with hip hop; the need to be a tough guy.
LISTEN TO: ‘The Full Retard’, ‘Oh Hail No’, ‘Stay Down’, ‘$4 Vic/Nothing but You+Me (FTL)’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Killer Mike, Cannibal Ox, Aesop Rock
1. Request Denied
2. The Full Retard
3. Works Every Time” (feat. Paul Banks)
4. Drones Over Bklyn
5. Oh Hail No (feat. Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire & Danny Brown)
6. Tougher Colder Killer (feat. Killer Mike & Despot)
7. True Story
8. The Jig Is Up
9. Sign Here
10. For My Upstairs Neighbor (Mums the Word)
11. Stay Down (feat. Nick Diamonds)
12. $4 Vic/Nothing but You+Me (FTL)