Album Review - El-P - Cancer For Cure
If Fantastic Damage was the Brooklyn-based, ex-Def Jux leader's grimy futurist-tinged introduction, and his subsequent album I'll Sleep When You're Dead a paranoiac vision of post 9/11 American culture, consider his third album a war cry made from his trademark lo-fi beats and unrelenting delivery.
The album is confrontational from top to bottom. The opening track "Request Denied" has break beats that match the speed of his verses and the fuzzed out blues combined with defiant taunts on the final track "$4 Vic/FTL (Me and You)" bring an positive vibe uncharacteristic of him. The overall mood is that of a middle finger at authority, especially in songs "The Jig Is Up" and "Drones of BKLYN", with its left-field psychedelic breakdown at the end. His true aggression comes through in the final lines of his verse on "Tough Colder Killer", where he voices a man unafraid of his impending execution so much his killer begins to fall apart.
As far as collaborations, Killer Mike (who collaborated with El on their upcoming R.A.P. Music album) goes incredibly hard on the previously mentioned song . To really see the champions on the album, however, look no further than On "Oh Hail No". If anyone is going full retard on the album, it would be Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire with is nonstop delivery. It is the best featuring on the album, with Danny Brown coming a close second with his more relaxed but equally dense verses. Interpol's Paul Banks chorus on "Works Any Time" comes off as a weak in his unison to El-P's voice, and Islands' Nick Diamonds on "Stay Down" makes one wish for Cedric Bixler-Zavala who provided vocals on the previous album.
There are still tinges of his paranoia, especially on "Sign Here", where El's verse is indistinguishable from any standard corrupt government official template.He goes on other side of the interview table immediately on "For My Upstairs Neighbor (Mums The Word)".The narrative on that song shows his ability to make as mundane an event as bumping into someone else in an apartment building sound as menacing as a drug deal.
In previous interviews El-P calls the album a "fight album". Despite the collaborations and punctuated moments of El-P's renegade verses, Cancer for Cure is not as strong a punch as expected from him. Maybe he will throw a figurative Molotov cocktail at the crowd when he goes on tour, but for now, it's lit but still in his hand.