El-P

I'll Sleep When You're Dead

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With even commercial rap's fortunes on the decline during 2007 and Rjd2 going indie rock, the rap underground must have seemed like a lonely place to El-P. Perfect time for a community album featuring contributions from most of the Definitive Jux community as well as some expertly fitted outsiders (the Mars Volta, Nine Inch Nails, even Cat Power). As a producer, El-P's only gotten better since Fantastic Damage. If a Bomb Squad production made it sound like the Apocalypse was nigh, El-P's tracks come post-apocalypse -- no less heavy but dark, dusty, and brittle, marching numbly like an army of the popping and locking dead. I'll Sleep When You're Dead is definitely the best-produced and most powerful Definitive Jux record since Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein -- which makes it the best in underground rap during that time. Meanwhile, El-P's improved as a rapper as well. Although what he's trying to say or mean exactly is often in doubt, he's better than any of his past CoFlow compatriots at matching the air of doom inherent in the sound ("I might have been born yesterday, sir/But I stayed up all night"). By the time Chan Marshall of Cat Power wraps up the record -- playing a sampled soul siren -- I'll Sleep When You're Dead is revealed as one of the most powerful hip-hop albums of 2007. While Public Enemy exposed the hypocrisy and greed of the '80s, El-P reflects his era just as well; the sense of stress is palpable, an "after the end of the world" feeling that's waiting anxiously for something else to be born.

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