El-P
(Copyright © 2004 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )

Company Flow: Funcrusher Plus (1997), 6.5/10
Company Flow: Little Johnny From The Hospital (1999), 7/10
Cannibal Ox: The Cold Vein (2001), 7.5/10
Fantastic Damage (2002), 6.5/10
High Water (2004), 6/10
I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007) , 6.5/10
Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 (2010), 5/10
Cancer for Cure (2012), 6/10
Run The Jewels (2013), 6.5/10
Run The Jewels 2 (2014), 6/10
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One of the most influential hip-hop figures at the turn of the millennium was white producer and rapper El-P, aka El Producto, born Jaime Meline in New York.

El-P founded Company Flow with dj Lenny "Mr Len" Smythe and rapper Justin "Bigg Jus" Ingleton. They debuted with Juvenile Technique (1993). Their first album, Funcrusher Plus (Rawkus, 1997), an augmented version of a 1996 namesake EP, featured a second rapper and already displayed the off-kilter, abrasive production skills of the founding duo. But it was the instrumental Little Johnny From The Hospital: Breaks and Instrumentals Vol.1 (1999) that definitely broke with the past, introducing the most bombastic, ebullient and explosive style of the time, the apolitical successor to Public Enemy.

El-P also crafted the schizoid soundscape of Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein (2001), a project risen from the ashes of Company Flow (Vast Aire and Vordul Megilah). El-P probably achieved his artistic zenith in tracks such as Iron Galaxy. OXtrumentals is an instrumental version (i.e., a solo El-P album) of the Cannibal Ox album.

His first solo album, the sci-fi concept Fantastic Damage (2002), is a disjointed, neurotic affair. The double-disc Fandamplus: Instrumentals is the instrumental version of El-P's solo debut. High Water (2004) is an instrumental collaboration with Matthew Shipp's jazz crew (and belongs more to Shipp than to El-P). To El-P's credit, his stew of samples and beats blends seamlessly with the improvisation of the jazzists. Get Modal is the peak of their osmosis, with Shipp introducing a memorable theme, William Parker's drums dancing around it and entwining the saxophone, and El-P's vocals treated to the point of being just another form of beat. Intrigue in the House of India boasts another irresistible melodic pattern mauled by Shipp's piano, decaying into a liquid jam led by guitar, trumpet and electronic noise. El-P leaves a lot of space to Shipp and his comrades, refraining from invading the most romantic portions of the ten-minute Sunrise Over Brlyn (with the trombone acting as the main counterpart of the piano). Shipp's combo concocts a great adaptation of cool jazz to the age of sampling, but it is not clear what contributions El-P made to this album that justified his name on the cover.

Mr Len has released the solo album Pity the Fool (2001).

Relocating to Atlanta, Justin "Bigg Jus" Ingleton released two collaborations with rapper Orko Elohiem under the moniker Nephlim Modulation Sessions, Woe To Thee O Land Whose King Is A Child (Big Dada) (2003) and Imperial Letters of Protection (2005), as well as his solo debut, Black Mamba Serums (Big Dada, 2004), recorded in 2001.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Andrea)

Una delle figure piu' influenti alla fine del millenio fu il rapper e produttore bianco El-P, aka El Producto, nato a New York sotto il nome di Jaime Meline.

El-P fondo' i Company Flow con il dj Lenny "Mr Len" Smythe e il rapper Justin "Bigg Jus" Ingleton. Debuttarono con Juvenile Technique(1993). Il loro primo album, Funcrusher Plus(Rawkus, 1997), una versione espansa di un omonimo EP del 1996, introduce un secondo rapper e gia' esprime le obliqui ed abrasive capacita' di produttori del duo fondatore. Ma fu lo strumentale Little Johnny From The Hospital: Breaks and Instrumentals Vol.1 (1999) che ruppe definitivamente con il passato, introducendo il piu' magniloquente, esaltante ed esplosivo stile dei tempi, l'apocalittico successore dei Public Enemy.

El-P diede vita anche agli schizoidi ambienti sonori di The Cold Vein(2001), sotto la sigla Cannibal Ox, un progetto nato dalle ceneri dei Company Flow(Vast Aire e Vordul Megilah). El-P probabilmente raggiunse i suoi massimi livelli in tracce come Iron Galaxy. Oxtrumentals e' una versione strumentale(in altre parole un disco solista di El-P) dello stesso album.

Il suo primo album solista, il fantascientifico concept Fantastic Damage(2002), e' un album sconnesso e neurotico mentre Fandamplus: Instrumentals e' la sua versione strumentale.

High Water(2004) e' un album strumentale fatto in collaborazione con il gruppo jazz di Matthew Shipp ( difatti appartiene maggiormente a Shipp che a El-P).

Nel 2001 Mr Len si ripropone come solista con il disco Pity the Fool.

Trasferitosi ad Atlanta, Justin "Bigg Jus" Ingleton realizza due collaborazioni con il rapper Orko Elohiem, The Nephlim Modulation Sessions, e successivamente il suo debutto come solista, Black Mamba Serums (Big Dada, 2004), registrato nel 2001.

I'll Sleep When You're Dead (Definitive Jux, 2007), featuring cameos by Cat Power's Chan Marshall, Nine Inch Nails's Trent Reznor, Aesop Rock, Mars Volta, is another subtle moral soliloquy wrapped in dense layers of estranging sounds. The seven-minute Tasmanian Pain Coaster (with Mars Volta) is a "message" for the new century and its anxieties. El-P's pessimistic vision is counterbalanced by the lightweight music of The League Of Extraordinary Nobodies and by the poignant noises of Smithereens. In the meantime the radio-friendly The Overly Dramatic Truth, Poisenville Kids No Wins, Run the Numbers, Habeas Corpses and Flyentology keep El-P centerfront in the arena of mainstream rap.

The all-instrumental mixtape Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 (2010) tried to secrete a digital symphony out of a bunch of leftovers, bridging old-school hip-hop beats and trivial dubstep bass lines.

Too cold and surgical, the production on Cancer for Cure (Fat Possum, 2012) often fails to connect with the listener the way his visceral productions used to. The album seems neatly divided between music in which production prevails over lyrics, namely the operatic and symphonic Tougher Colder Killer, the cosmic funk shuffle Request Denied (almost entirely instrumental) and tortured multilayered Drones Over BKLYN (basically a concentrate of sound effects); and music in which rapping prevails over sound, namely The Full Retard and The Jig Is Up, but especially the psychological bomb Stay Down, a concentrate of suspense and anxiety. The two camps mix and match, with the former displaying what El-P is unique for.

EL-P produced Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music (2012), one of the most vitriolic agit-prop rap albums of the new century. Then EL-P and Killer Mike formed Run The Jewels, a project that debuted with Run The Jewels (Fool's Gold, 2013) and de facto continued Killer Mike's political mission. From the beginning the brooding electronic soundscape and lashing sound effects of Run The Jewels provide Killer Mike's energetic vernacular with the ideal backing. Another peak of the collaboration comes with the abrasive and pounding Get It, where the rap dissolves in vocal effects that are even more tense. Not many songs maintain that standard of musical violence, and EL-P mostly prefers to invest in unnerving atmospheres of 36" Chain EL-P's tricks span a huge range, and he can even indulge in peppering Banana Clipper, a collaboration with Big Boi, with a bubbling synth that gives it a comic flavor, or injecting a cuckoo clock in the melodic ethereal coda of Job Well Done, or scattering a chaotic fistful of found sounds and dissonance throughout Twin Hype Back, a collaboration with Prince Paul.
That is not to diminish the contribution to the sound (not only to the message) by Killer Mike's in-your-face soulful rapping, as Sea Legs and No Come Down prove. When Killer Mike is at his best, one feels that the beats are weak because EL-P tend towards sophistication, not barbaric emotion, preferring sci-fi synths, subsonic bass lines and acid guitars instead of booming blasting noise.
It is still a far cry from the explosive agit-prop hip-hop music of Public Enemy or even of Company Flow's Little Johnny From The Hospital.

If Run the Jewels 1 was mostly an El-P album, with Killer Mike guesting as a rapper, Run The Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal, 2014) was truly Killer Mike's album. The difference is immediately obvious in the opener, a tense but slow Jeopardy, with the intended lyrical explosion further diluted by a plaintive saxophone melody. It is Killer Mike's show, and he shines in the singalong Lie Cheat Steal as well as in the visceral All Due Respect (boasting the best percussive effects, that range from techno pulses to African-style propulsion). EL-P hijacks Early with a plethora of production detours (and perhaps a Beatles-ian or ELO-ian obsession), triggers the panzer-grade thumping beat of Blockbuster Night Part01, hides a melodic refrain inside the snoring basslines and hyper-dub reverbs of All My Life (like a Radiohead remix of a vintage Mersey-beat hit) and probably pens the structure of the vulgar cabaret skit of Love Again. The rare cases in which the dialogue between two voices truly works are memorable: Close Your Eyes ((the second voice being a stuttering Zach de la Rocha), and Crown, drenched in a mood of alienation (sculpted by Hendrix-ian guitar, sci-fi electronics, angelic backing vocals and a relentless alien pulsation). Overall, this album lost much of the magic balance of the previous album, while, of course, still being an impressive display of punk-ish elegance.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2004 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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