When Ridley Scott gets around to making his rumoured Blade Runner prequel a reality, someone close to him needs to pass him a copy of Cancer For Cure – or at least the instrumentals. Seriously, no one does tripped out sci-fi urban doom soundscapes like El-P. It’s been a while since El-P has been in the game. His last album, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, came out back in 2007. However, this year he’s come back in a big way, first with producing the entirety of Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, and then following up that with his own solo release, Cancer For Cure.
One of El-P’s strengths has always been how he’s worked outside the box that is mainstream rap. Production wise, his work sounds like no other, especially in hip-hop. Its cold, paranoid, chaotic, and in this case almost more electro sounding that what one normally associate with hiphop. If Trent Reznor had decided to produce a Public Enemy album, it might sound like what El-P has been doing since 2001. For Killer Mike’s album, El-P was able to take his sound and adapt it to his distinctive southern stylings, but on Cancer For Cure, it’s all about the urban chaos.
Take the opening track, “Request Denied”. Opening with the distant sounds of an air raid siren, then dropping low-frequency bass bombs accompanied by a sinister snare loop. It’s a warning of the damage to come because in this 5 year absence, El-P hasn’t missed a beat and his delivery is as sharp as ever. “I’m a holy-fuck-what-did-he-just-utter marksman” he states from the beginning, which is quite a boast, but damn if it’s not the truth. He ends this opening salvo by stating “This is our time and we are not dying. Not for you.”, repeating that last line over and over again as if he were stepping to every recipient of this statement and addressing it to them individually. The attack continues with “The Full Retard”, as a sampled voice commands us to “Pump this shit like they do in the future!”. “Drones Over Brooklyn” is just as it sounds, as he creates a chaotic beat layered with dark synths and a militant drum line, broken up a lone piano playing along in the background and haunting echoes of what could be drones, buzzing a futuristic NYC skyline.
It’s not just the El-P show, as there are a few guest spots handed out. It takes a special breed of emcee to sound good on an El-P beat, and as to be expected, he makes right choices. On “Oh Hail No” he shares the mic with younguns’ Mr. Muthafukin Esquire, and Danny Brown who both fit their verses easily within the chaotic framework of El-P’s production. eXquire rides the beat perfectly with his scene-stealing verse, while Brown drops his manic flow over the slightly slowed down outro. And as if to return the favor for El-P’s production, Killer Mike shows up to trade verses on the aggressive “Tougher Colder Killer”.
It’s a single-minded vision that El-P has on Cancer For Cure. He's said in interviews that this is his "fight album" – just listen to any track on the album for proof of that. Sure, it’s probably not going to do much to get him out of the underground, but that’s never been a concern for El-P. But for those already in the know. and for those that are willing, Cancer For Cure is a must hear, and definietly one of this year's best.