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El-P plays hip-hop host

Wednesday, Mar 21 2007
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From the opening track of the brilliantly titled I'll Sleep When You're Dead, it's clear that El-P hasn't lost his feel for hip hop's cutting edge. The tune is an atmospheric audio collage paired with an urgent chorus of "This is the sound of what you don't know killing you." Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala (the Mars Volta) back the rapper here, with additional guitar by Matt Sweeney of Chavez — and the guests just keep arriving. More than 13 tracks, El-P is joined by everyone from Aesop Rock to Alternative Nation poster boy Trent Reznor, who handles the chorus of "Flyentology," and Chan Marshall, whose eerie vocal style feels right at home on album-closing epic "Poisonville Kids No Wins."

But this is clearly El-P's show — a show that proudly holds its own against the Brooklyn boy's earlier high watermark Fantastic Damage. The production is brilliant — a claustrophobic clusterfuck that's damn near psychedelic on occasion (while allowing time to rock some bells on "EMG"). And lyrically, the album never falters, whether El-P's talking serious trash on every rapper's favorite president or dropping lines as righteous as "I might have been born yesterday, sir, but I stayed up all night."

So what's the deal with all those guest spots? El-P admits he tends to hate that type of name-dropping, but notes it's all about the unexpected. "It's the South Park theory: When George Clooney appeared on South Park, it was as a gay dog," he says. "That's the type of shit that makes my day."

About The Author

Ed Masley

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