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El-P - 'Cancer 4 Cure'

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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El-P - 'Cancer 4 Cure'
© Rhymesayers
El Producto's Cancer 4 Cure is not aimed at everyone. Like 2007's I'll Sleep When You're Dead and this year's R.A.P. Music (the El-P-produced Killer Mike LP), this is mainly for nostalgia freaks whose rap tastes trend progressively vintage. It's avant-garde minus the hubris.

But there's a couple differences between C4C, El-P's first album in five years, and its predecessor. It's the first to condense all of his strengths in one pot of gumbo. It's good for lyrics that stick to your brain. Good for combustible beats aimed at your head, headed for your heart.

Plus, it isn't overbearing or infuriatingly esoteric. Clocking in at a mere 12 songs and 49 minutes, it's El-P's shortest album to date. And, as is the case with most short albums, the brevity leaves little room for fillers. Even his guests (Danny Brown, Killer Mike, eXquire, etc) ensure no beats get wasted. It's still as pensive as ISWYD, but it's fairly easier to digest. This is the album you give to new El-P fans.

Cancer 4 Cure is about a society that puts a premium on individuality, and it plays out like a series of Real Life nightmares with El-P—filling in for us—in the middle of every scene: "The Jig is Up" is Self-Esteem Nightmare; "Sign Here" is Control-Freak Nightmare. The whole thing is bleak. But it's also beautiful.

El-P knows how to take elements of familiar sounds, funnel them through his own filter, and create his own beast of a beat. This usually means slushing up a thick bale of rhythms, laying on some fizz, and then subduing the din with a spellbinding mix of confusion and paranoia.

There's an overwhelming sense of chaos throughout Cancer 4 Cure with El-P's voice in the middle of it. But he doesn't posit himself as some kind of messiah (if he did, the album would be titled Cure 4 Cancer, not vice versa) with a magic wand to solve all our problems. Instead, he offers a place for the disillusioned to convene.

The themes are as heavy as anything you'll find on El-P's other albums, but this time the music gives you something to hold onto, helps you weather the storm. You get to bob your head to these beats and really enjoy the music, even if you don't care about what El-P has to say. That's a crucial balance he's hammered out over the years. Listen to "$4 Vic/FTL (Me and You)" for a sample of C4C's theme-music counterbalance. Brooding basslines and sunny synths dance in the dark, while El-P bemoans societal apathy. Soundtrack scouts in need of a hit should give this guy a call.

Top Tracks
  • "Tougher, Colder Killer"
  • "Drones Over Brooklyn"
  • "The Full Retard"
  • "$4 Vic/FTL (Me and You)"
Release Date: May 22, 2012
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