With Waka Flocka Flame's blunt force raps serving as the most influential sound in hip-hop and an underground scene currently ruled by the irreverence of acts like Odd Future and Das Racist, the market for so-called Real Hip Hop--the kind defined by boom-bap beats and exhaustingly complex lyricism--is at an all-time low. This might seem like a problem for someone like the pointedly intricate El-P, whose breakout group Company Flow and (now shuttered) label Def Jux are rallying points for a certain kind of genre purist.
But the New York rapper is arguably more relevant than ever right now, embracing collaborations with hip-hop's blog-friendly avant garde and cementing his elder statesman status by recently working on an album ("R.A.P. Music") with fellow indie legend Killer Mike. And when El-P's latest album, Cancer for Cure, brings out these friends, they fit nicely into his bleak, pounding vision.
This album functions almost as much as noise rock as it does hip-hop, and that might be its biggest strength. Even at a time when explosive noise is the new genre norm, this music is a long way from pop but works because it offers its own self-contained world. That world sounds terrifying, intimidating and pretty great.
--Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor
Album review: El-P 'Cancer for Cure'
*** (out of four)
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