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Old 03-14-2009, 07:21 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default EL-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead



Released 2007, Definitive Jux

EL-P is the closest thing to a superstar in the world of underground hip hop, in 1992 he co-founded the seminal group Company Flow, their first full-length Funcrusher Plus is a universally acknowledged classic. After breaking with Rawkus Records he founded the Def Jux label in 1999 which has been home to other brilliant acts Cannibal Ox and Aesop Rock. His solo debut, Fantastic Damage was also lauded and further refined his signature sound, injecting complexity and intelligence as mainstream hip hop was slipping further into the clutches of gangsta rap.

One of the best indicators of EL-P's brilliance is how often he is compared in reviews to novelists, most commonly Phillip K Dick, William Gibson and occasionally Orwell - science fiction imagery and themes have been rampant in his dense verses, and his creations shares in their bleakness, paranoia and anger at the world, "The whole design got my mind cryin', if I'm lyin' I'm dyin'..shit".

Underneath this bitterness runs a rich vein of comedy, gallows humour helps everyone cope with the inevitable defeat. 'The League of Extraordinary Nobodies' takes it to a natural conclusion with mindless canned laughter after his punchlines,I get surrounded by the friendliest of strangers, who would sooner kill themselves than give a fuck if I were dead
'Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love)' is a scarier example, sketching a love story between a guard and his prisoner with the mechanical refrain, 'I found love on a prison ship', it ends with the protagonist's haunting laughter as he kills her rather than break with tradition.

Like any good science fiction I'll Sleep When You're Dead is a comment on the present day, without the need to tie himself down in specifics, creating a timelessness to a lot of his songs. Tellingly, when he commits himself solidly to the present the statement can be a little flat. Such as in Dear Sirs, where after detailing an escalating series of absurdities and miracles he finishes with the emphatic, Me fighting in your war is still, by a large margin, the least likely thing that will ever fucking happen...ever.
It's a good song but his message isn't particularly strong, especially when it is delivered with such sincerity instead of the caustic humour and detached cynicism that pervades the rest of the album.

The production follows the futuristic themes, it's hard to imagine more forward thinking hip hop than this. The density of EL-P's sonic collages is staggering, towering synths, horns, guitar and piano lines are smashed together, skittering over the top of the spastic, schizophrenic beats that made Company Flow such a great group. It's also probably the most accessible record he has produced, less abrasive and with more extensive use of melody.

'I'll Sleep When You're Dead' is remarkable in it's consistency, there isn't a weak point in fifty five minutes, and it closes with arguably its strongest track, 'Poisenville Kids, No Wins'. A flourishing trumpet grabs you immediately, over the top of a pulsing mass of electronics and a mournful vocal sample from Cat Power. EL-P starts with sketching a mesmerising scene of a New York morning before lapsing into two equally brilliant verses contemplating suicide.

But we were children of poisenville and saw the seduction less repugnant
And reserved the right as the triggerman with the back up plan of self destruction
And I touched the type of chemicals that could pull me towards that function
It's the stuff I find hard for discussion
How the fuck do you explain your own self destruction and still remain trusted?


I'll Sleep When You're Dead is a brilliant album and in my opinion the best thing EL-P has ever done throughout his entire career, displaying an artist continuing to grow despite the accolades he is already showered with.

Last edited by Fruitonica; 06-14-2009 at 05:53 AM.
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Old 03-16-2009, 12:48 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I've always liked El-P more as a producer than an MC, and this album is no exception. Overall, the whole records is pretty enjoyable. I just think the man has been overhyped to the point that it makes me dislike anything he puts out.
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Old 03-16-2009, 02:29 AM   #3 (permalink)
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As an MC he is harder to appreciate because his lyrics often avoid a nice rhythmic flow, and I think there are plenty of times he could cut down on the verbiage, along with Aesop.

I know I wasn't a huge fan until I heard this, Funcrusher Plus never impressed me as much as I was hoping. I love The Cold Vein, but didn't even realise he was the sole producer until I was looking up a couple of dates about this.

Last edited by Fruitonica; 03-16-2009 at 02:35 AM.
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Old 03-16-2009, 02:50 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fruitonica View Post
As an MC he is harder to appreciate because his lyrics often avoid a nice rhythmic flow,
Yeah but that is HUGE. Wtf do white people think they're doing when this just becomes a small thing in hip-hop.
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Old 03-16-2009, 06:36 AM   #5 (permalink)
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There is a rhythm or rhyme scheme to almost all his raps, sometimes it's just a bit subtle or sounds skewed under the weight of so many syllables. I like it.
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Old 03-16-2009, 07:17 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bane of your existence View Post
Yeah but that is HUGE. Wtf do white people think they're doing when this just becomes a small thing in hip-hop.
Yea, silly white people.

Anyways, I love I'll Sleep When You're Dead. Almost every song has those awesome hip-hoppy IDM beats that I can't get enough of. Good review, good album.
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Old 03-16-2009, 01:37 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Up with Funcrusher Plus as the best work El-P has produced.

Personally I love his delivery too, especially on this album. I love this thing; Tasmanian Pain Coaster is just nasty and one of the best intros ever.
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