Few labels reflect the sensibility of their founders as completely as Definitive Jux, whose stable of hip-hop artists tend toward a dense, dark sound and a dystopian vision best represented by the work of producer-rapper-company president Jamie “El Producto” Meline. On his second solo album, El-P revisits the paranoid post-911 themes that made 2002’s “Fantastic Damage” such a terrifying record, but with sharper poetry and a more coherent musical vision.
Every cut stands alone as songcraft; some even have verse-chorus structures that throw down a challenge to El-P’s rant-style lyric writing. On “Smithereens” he flows like a burst fire hydrant about his inability to process the everyday pain he encounters on the street while the words “Stop cryin’ ” keep looping eerily through. El-P is under no illusion that these evils are arbitrary. “I may have been born yesterday, sir,” he insists, “But I stayed up all night.” Though drums are his weapon of choice, it’s the layered use of human voices that makes this album a hip-hop milestone. You might have to listen carefully to locate Cat Power or Trent Reznor in the thick mix, but El-P didn’t invite them simply because their names look good in the credits.
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