Artist: El-PTitle: I’ll Sleep When You’re DeadRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Michelle Cavanaugh
El-P, also known as Lyrical Punisher or El-p. a.k.a. El Producto and born Jaime Meline, has deep roots in the indie Hip-Hop world. As producer and rapper of the mid-90’s group Company Flow, along with DJ Mr. Len and MC Bigg Jus, he promotes the convergence of Hip-Hop with other genres of music. When the group disbanded, El-P founded one of New York City’s most notorious indie labels, Definitive Jux; signing such innovative acts as Cannibal Ox and RJD2.
Nearly five years after his debut album, Fantastic Damage, El-P follows up with the long-awaited I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (Definitive Jux). El-P uses his narrative lyrical style to address politics, his alter-ego, and the exploitation of love. He defies the way mainstream artists have chosen to use their precious airtime to dawdle, by utilizing every word and rhyme to make intelligent statements.
The original, industrial beats are straight out of a science-fiction thriller, which cushions P’s heavy themes. “Smithereens (Stop Crying)” is the Brooklynites response to the way Mayor “Doomsbury” handled the tragedies of 9/11 in New York City. The psychological track, “Drive,” takes the listener on a cruise through the windows and mind of someone living in fear of the outside world, rapping, “Come on Ma, can I borrow the keys/My generation is car-pooling with doom and disease.”
The common issue of corruption continues in the almost romantic ballad “Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love).” A boy meets and falls in love with a prisoner and the two are forced to “live in each other’s heads.” The eerie vocals of Trent Reznor resonate over the abrasive flow of “Flyentology.” The narrator discovers religion and repents his sins in the final seconds of his crashing airplane.
The keyboard riffs of “The League of Extraordinary Nobodies” powerfully points fingers at the false images of celebrities and compare them to extraterrestrial beings, zombies. The grand finale of the album, “Poisenville Kids No Win,” carries several innuendos of drug-related addictions. Cat Powers Chan Marshall, who reportedly suffered a publicized battle with alcoholism last year, sings “Never, never, never gonna get that way again.”
El-P might already be considered a veteran, but I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead proves that he has too much to say to call it quits.