El-P: Bombin’ the System

Producers are growing on trees lately. Despite a surplus of rappers in 2005, it’s still not easy to make money pushing beats. Often, bedroom producers think they can make a buck doing film-work. Producer/emcee El-P has adjusted with the times and recently scored the just-released independent film, Bomb the System.

Like the “End to End Burners” track, a song from his former group Company Flow, the film deals largely with graffiti. El reveals his thoughts on the film, based upon his own experiences as well – holding it down for the graf heads. That’s not all either, He discusses Def Jux’s recent signings, plus some more on Cage’s hot-topic album of 2005. For anybody who wanted to score a movie, bomb a freight, or start a million-dollar indie, El-P is worth the time.

AllHipHop.com: How were you approached to score Bomb the System?

El-P: They just kinda approached me. They had been editing and writing the movie to my music, anyway. That’s what they told me. Fantastic Damage was a big part of writing the s**t. When I saw the footage, and I saw what they had, a lot of my music was already in there from the album. I guess they were like, “F**k it, let’s just try and get El to do some new s**t for us.”

AllHipHop.com: Murs with Walk Like a Man said he doubted the credibility in being approached with his project. I’m sure plenty of student filmmakers hit you. How’d you know this was right?

El-P: I was aware that it was serious when I saw what they had been working on. I didn’t know what the f**k it was till I saw the footage. When I realized who was involved – the editor of the movie edited some pretty f**kin’ fantastic films.

AllHipHop.com: Word? Such as?

El-P: Such as uhhh… Requiem for a Dream and a couple other flicks. I recognized a lot of cats who were in the movie too. It just took me a minute to meet them and see what was up. But once I did, it was pretty clear that it’s a pretty beautifully shot movie.

AllHipHop.com: It’s coming full circle to see Hip-Hop score movies. RZA did Kill Bills and Lord Finesse has done stuff…

El-P: What did Finesse score?

AllHipHop.com: It’s called Off the Hook. He told us he doesn’t like to mention it ’cause the filmmakers stiffed him on the money.

El-P: That’s ill. That’s a lil’ piece of trivia, right there.

AllHipHop.com: What was your technique?

El-P: For me, I been tryin’ to get into this for a while. I don’t even think they knew that. I grew up being obsessed with music scores, and being obsessed with movies that had that tripped-out, f**ked up s**t – the 80’s. A lot of the samples I’ve used on records are from that. I have a huge collection of scores. I was kinda amped to do it. Basically, they gave me the footage, and I put music to it – I scored it. It was basically a process of me sitting there, f**kin’ around, and tryin’ to get it right. It was kinda weird. I wanted to do it the right way, and not just throw this anywhere. They would say, “I need this to happen right here.” What was crazy is that sometimes they re-cut the movie to my score. To edit around the nuance, I’m sure that’s rare. It was really cool. Dude gave me a huge load of confidence.

AllHipHop.com: Coming from a graffiti writing background, what do you think of the film?

El-P: I think the film is beautiful. I think it’s beautifully shot. I think there’s some amazing performances in it. I like the fact that it’s modern. It’s a f**kin’ graf fictional movie set in modern times. And graf is pretty much ignored now. [There are] documentaries here and there about a graf artist or two, but not an actual story set in modern day New York City, and graf now is a much different thing than it used to be. I really liked it.

AllHipHop.com: How did it compare to your experience?

El-P: My experience with graf was as a kid growing up in Brooklyn. My experience with graf was as a fan and as being down with kids who were writers. I didn’t even try, I just ran with cats who were talented. Parts of the film definitely rang true to me. Like graf often ends up starting out as fun and ends up being confusing for a lot of cats, that was definitely true. The whole idea of questioning artistic ideas and s**t – hitting walls and having them buffed the next day. Cats really get heated over that. [laughs] It’s realistic. If I didn’t think the s**t was legitimate, I wouldn’t have f**ked with it.

AllHipHop.com: Def Jux got a lot of their audience through videos. Your video for “Deep Space 9mm” messed me up. So coming from a visual background, how was it challenging to have the video before the music?

El-P: It was a challenge. It’s kinda freeing. With the “Deep Space” s**t, I developed the concept, they’ve all been co-directed by me. But like you said, you already have a song. In this way, it’s easier to make a song, than a film that represents that song. If you hook up with the right people, s**t can happy. It’s kinda like producing other cats’ albums. It’s not about me and my sound and my ideas. I’m just vibing off of theirs.

AllHipHop.com: When you were graf writing, what did you listen to get souped up?

El-P: S**t bro, this was the 80’s – f**kin’ Beastie Boys, Fat Boys.

AllHipHop.com: Cage’s Hells Winter album has been a huge turnaround story for somebody that I feel a lot of Hip-Hop fans wrote off. What’s going on with Def Jux right now?

El-P: The response has been amazing, incredible. I think people just like to see him in a new angle, and talk about s**t that they were not expecting. It’s some real s**t. He knew that. One of the reasons he did the record was because he was tired of feeding into that s**t, he had s**t he wanted to say. This is a 30 year-old man with a kid and a history. As far as Jux, I look at Cage as one of my top tier artists right now. I just look at the whole s**t as being very important. Cannibal Ox is officially just resigned with us. We’re amped about that s**t. We’re getting to work on that. A lot’s happening.

AllHipHop.com: Cage did speak a lot on the politics of the Eastern Conference departure. Company Flow and High & Mighty were together in building Rawkus. What was the confict for you in the politics of that project?

El-P: For what it’s worth, I just do music, man. Cage is my boy and s**t. That s**t is just music, it didn’t have anything to do with anything else. Also, Company Flow and High & Mighty were never really that close at Rawkus. But whatever. It’s just music. I was just chillin’. I don’t have no problem with anybody. That’s really something at the end of the day, that has to be between Cage and them.

AllHipHop.com: Last time I saw my mother, I had High Water with me, and she stole it, she loved it so much. From Co Flow, now you’re making records for moms now…

El-P: [laughs] That?s funny. I’m making music for parents.

AllHipHop.com: That was a crazy Jazz project. What else have you been up to?

El-P: I’m doing a s**tload of remix work. For some reason, the major label world has decided they like me. Obviously, I worked very closely on the Cage record. Now, basically, my main s**t is, I’m working on my follow-up to Fantastic Damage.

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