“Request Denied” – Review Of El-P’s “Cancer 4 Cure”

07.05.12 6 years ago 6 Comments

Words By Jesse H. | @JHagen34

If it weren’t for a boy named Marshall, no other white Hip-Hop artist would have a more intriguing career than El Producto. Though never a household name, Hip-Hop historians know El’s contributions to the game have been many: he was one-third of Company Flow, who dropped the depressed-grunt of a classic Funcrusher Plus in 1997, co-founded the independent record label Def Jux (altered to Definitive Juxtapositions when Scrooge McDuck Simmons threatened a suit), and became a Pitchfork darling with his intermittent solo releases Fantastic Damage (2002) and I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (2007).

El’s greatest talent lies in his ability to generate immersive textural atmospheres in the form of well-thought out, well-sequenced records that unfold like gonzo vignettes. He’s demonstrated this on numerous occasions throughout his career (“Deep Space 9mm,” “Tasmanian Pain Coaster,” Cannibal Ox’s “Scream Phoenix”), and this ability is critical in establishing the sonic consistency of Cancer 4 Cure.

What makes this particularly impressive is that El should seemingly be hindered by his clunky delivery, which flows like a tractor-trailer over potholes. It’s a testament to his production skill and his aptitude at playing to his strengths that the album plays as well as it does. Many of the most exciting cuts here are solo offerings: the apocalyptic death march of “Request Denied,” the low-end laser bounce of “Drones Over Brooklyn,” and the galactic-pinball-machine lurch of “The Full Retard.”

When guests do drop by, the album’s vibe can be interrupted while El’s lyrical shortcomings are unflatteringly emphasized. Killer Mike, Mr. Motherfucking Exquire, Danny Brown and Despot all lyrically lap their host, diagramming flows that are much more rhythmically pleasing to the ear. That’s not to say the featured cuts are bad. Standouts include the varied BPMs on the rugged “Oh Hail No,” (featuring MME and DB), and the savage synth runs of “Tougher Colder Killer,” on which Killer Mike spits: “… if it get to shaking like jelly and the gun don’t jam, you a dead motherfucka/ N****s stay sweet like Smuckers/ peanut-butter-packing motherfuckers I’m ashamed for your mother/ How I know your mama?/ Bad motherfucker, double entendre.” Yeah, yikes.

Still, El-P sounds most comfortable when he’s doing his rap Hunter S. Thompson thing: fucking around alone in the studio after three or four double-whiskeys (an unverified, but probably-accurate account of his album making process). Though he’s not a deft enough lyricist to ever drop a universally-adored classic, El’s an honest narrator (even when he’s not likeable), and the journey is always to a place that feels very specific, making C4C one of the year’s most coherent albums.

Label: Fat Possum Records | Producers: El-P, Nick Diamonds, Little Shalimar, Wilder Zoby

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