underground rap, hip hop, jazz/hip-hop fusion
Company Flow, Definitive Jux, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Guru's Jazzmatazz

High Water (with The Blue Series Continuum)
Thirsty Ear, 2004
rating: 4/5
reviewer: chadwicked

When used in musical terms, the word "producer" can mean a variety of things. The responsibility of a producer can range anywhere from pressing "record" to composing a brilliant piece of music from scratch. Some producers will be hired to gloss up recordings, while others direct musicians in their playing techniques and overall song structures. The role and importance of the producer can vary depending on the style of music. Hip-hop producers are extremely vital to their genre, for they (in most cases) create the entire musical backdrop. El-P has long been a revered hip-hop producer for his innovation and daring manipulation of samples. With High Water, El-P finds his role as producer is slightly changed.

High Water is the collaboration between El-P and the Blue Series Continuum, a group of highly skilled free jazz musicians. El-P's new job consists of arranging, organizing, and restructuring the parts of these six musicians. The piano, horns, and hard drums are familiar sounds for El-P, for he's employed such samples throughout his career. This experience proves to provide a different type of authenticity to his work. He adds phasers, reverbs, delays, and other El-P signature effects to these compositions to make them his own.

The entire album has a loose feel, reminiscent of the stereotypical jazz jam session. This vibe is pushed to the forefront by the random dialogue scattered throughout. It has a very laidback, late night, smoky loft vibe going on. It's sometimes hard to delineate where El-P's magic starts and ends. There are times where you can clearly see his signature trademarks, but there are many long stretches that seem unaffected by his studio mastery. One place he clearly comes in is during "Intrigue In The House of India." Juxtaposed keys and fuzzed drums reek of that "El-Producto" sound.

The epic "Sunrise Over Bklyn" provides a stunning climax, complete with whirlwind horns and frantic drumming. "Get Your Hand Off My Shoulder, Pig" sounds like a "NY State of Mind Pt. XXII." These tracks, along with the rest, make for one of the most successful hip-hop/jazz experiments yet. It's a difficult task to consciously meld genres together like these musicians have. Many have failed in the past, but this project seems to be the most fruitful effort, all the while showcasing El-P's versatility as a producer.

1. Please Stay (Yesterday)
2. Sunrise Over Bklyn
3. Get Your Hand Off My Shoulder, Pig
4. Get Modal
5. Intrigue In The House of India
6. Something Is Wrong
7. When The Moon Was Blue
8. Please Leave (Yesterday)

Collecting The Kid
Definitive Jux, 2004
rating: 4/5
reviewer: wolfman

Who really needs another El-P instrumental album? After a whirlwind of success with his two previous instrumental offerings, El-P has embarked on another journey of spine-tingling noise and hair-raising beat creation. Overall, El-P has been able to reach his audience and create instrumental albums that are exceptionally captivating, but will another reaffirm his fans' love for his musical achievements? Collecting The Kid is the third installment of El-P's glorious groundbreaking, mind-boggling, and unique sound that has distinguished him as one of the most successful hip-hop figures of the 21st Century.

Back in 2001, Cannibal Ox released The Cold Vein, the year's most accomplished record in hip-hop. The entire musical production was arranged and performed by El-P himself and accompanied with the eccentric and clever rhymes of Vast Aire and Vordul. The record became an underground classic. Shortly, Oxtrumentals, the accompanying instrumental soundtrack was released to expose fans to the absolute beauty of El-P's musical creativity. In 2002, he released Fantastic Damage, another critically-acclaimed hip-hop record of phenomenal supremacy. As El-P's career flourished, he released the accompanying soundtrack, titled FanDam Plus, another collection of instrumentals from the record. So, why would he release another instrumental album without an accompanying album with lyrics and rhymes?

Collecting The Kid is a compilation of beats and palpitations from several collaborations with other Definitive Jux artists. The collection compiles some of the best production from El-P, highlighting a number of fantastic collaborations with a variety of Jukies. Tracks like "The Dance" by Murs and "Post Mortem" by Mr. Lif are standouts on the various records. But beneath the party-anthem of Murs or the social commentary of Mr. Lif lay the exquisiteness and attractiveness of each individual song. Crafted with passion and zeal, El-P throws down some innovative beats, adding elements that are obscure and complicated, unique and original. That is the true magnificence of El-P and his virtuosic music realizations. Even though they are redistributed beats from previously released material, each song experience is new and invigorating.

Collecting The Kid will be available as an import only, but rest-assured, the album will be a tremendous success. For any fan of El-P, this compilation is another chance to recognize his tremendous dent on the hip-hop game. For anyone else, it is an opportunity to listen to one of the best music originators in today's modern hip-hop world.

1. Death of buck 50
2. Jukie skate rock
3. Post Mortem
4. Ghost final
5. Time is running
6. Bombing pt. 2
7. Love theme
8. Constellation Recall
9. The dance
10. Day after the day after extracted
11. Oxycotin
12. Sunrise over Brooklyn

Fantastic Damage
Definitive Jux, 2002
rating: 5/5
reviewer: jean-pierre

I think this is the best album of the year. There’s no point in hiding it in a bunch of paragraphs (though we’d all like for you to read a little bit more). Fantastic Damage has done what a billion other hip-hop albums have promised but never could deliver. I can run down the list (and might make some enemies in the process): Black Star, Jurassic 5, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Public Enemy…fuck it, El-P’s first group, Company Flow…they all had the potential to take hip-hop into the album age. They had the talent, the skills, the production but never had the ability to really turn hip-hop into album-format.

In a recent interview, El-P stated that one of the goals of Definitive Jux, his genre-smashing label, was to put out full-length releases. If it wasn’t good from beginning to end, he wouldn’t put it out. At that point, I knew this was a rapper I could hug. El-P’s solo debut album puts his money right where his mouth is. Fantastic Damage is the finest hip-hop album on Definitive Jux, the finest hip-hop album I’ve ever heard in ages and one of the best albums I’ve heard in years. It has everything hip-hop always wanted to be. It’s confrontational ("Squeegee Man Shooting"), political ("The Nang, The Bush and The Shit"), melodic ("Stepfather Factory") and chaotic ("Lazerfaces' Warning")…and usually all on the same track.

The lyrics are clear and in your face with just the right flow and experimental verses for you to enjoy today and for years to come. The production is gritty and futuristic but still has tons of soul and funk. Everything about this album is forward-thinking. It takes cues from the past, grinds them up in a blender and gives you something you never expected but will grow to love.

I’m up to track 15 ("Constellation Funk") and still in awe. I hear traces of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, Eminem and of course Company Flow. This album and most of Definitive Jux attracts an indie rock following to some degree but I see crossover all over this album. Every hip-hop fan will love Fantastic Damage…from Master P fans to Outkast fans. And that kind of appeal may not have been what El-P went after but with his talent on the mic and on production, it’s just something he’ll have to deal with.

1. Fantastic Damage
2. Squeegee Man Shooting
3. Deep Space 9mm
4. Tuned Mass Damper
5. Dead Disnee
6. Delorean
7. Truancy
8. The Nang, the Front, the Bush and the Shit
9. Accidents Don't Happen
10. Stepfather Factory
11. T.O.J. (El-P) - 4:32
12. Dr. Hellno and the Praying Mantus
13. Lazerfaces' Warning
14. Innocent Leader
15. Constellation Funk
16. Blood