Artist: El-PTitle: Collecting The KidRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone
Coming up as part of the seminal New York City underground crew Company Flow, avant-garde producer extraordinaire El-P has carved a comfortable niche for himself courtesy of his successful label Definitive Jux. Crafting mind-bending backdrops on Cannibal Ox’s incredible exercise in atmospheric B-boy music, 2001’s Cold Vein, and pushing the limits of conventional hip-hop again with his 2002 solo debut Fantastic Damage, all releases coming after these and boasting El-P’s seal of approval have been justifiably met with anticipation. Rather than service fans with his long-awaited follow-up to Fantastic Damage, though, he has issued a half-hearted disc of previously available selections and instrumentals to some of his past creations, titled Collecting The Kid (Definitive Jux). While showcasing his skills nicely at times, Collecting The Kid is ultimately lazy in both execution and intent.
At his best, El-P is blessed with doses of beat-making innovation rivaled by few producers currently employed behind soundboards, and Collecting The Kid highlights a few of his standout concoctions from over the years. “Leaving This Place” is the same beat heard on Mr. Lif’s apocalyptic masterpiece “Post Mortem,” off of his slept-on 2002 opus I, Phantom, maintaining its string and percussion-driven aura of dread despite lacking the powerful verses from Lif, Jean Grae, and El-P himself. The spastic bass of Murs’ “The Dance” instrumental is found here as well, sounding like Timbaland on an entertaining acid trip, while pounding guitar riffs and robotic sound bytes power the moody “The Day After Yesterday.” Collecting The Kid also provides a slight glimpse into El-P’s production future, including the hypnotic rattling drums of “Telemundo,” from his upcoming movie score for his feature-length film, Bomb The System.
The remainder of Collecting The Kid does little justice to El-P’s real abilities. Irritating and musically deficient crew Central Services raise annoyance levels on two cuts, the plodding “Jukie Skate Rock” and the pointless exhibition of forced mood, “Oxycontin.” “Intrigue In The House of India” completely abandons El-P’s Hip-hop roots and ventures off into uncharted jazz territory, a move that would be commendable if done properly, while the pseudo R&B sounds of “Constellation Remix” beg El-P to stick strictly to rap.
Collecting The Kid doesn’t tarnish the strong reputation this producer has rightfully earned, but the laziness of this project makes this disc rather disposable. His past releases felt like months of thought and preparation had gone into their respective conceptions, but Collecting The Kid feels like no more than a few studio hours of effort were involved. Seemingly intended as a temporary holdover for his upcoming brand new material, Collecting The Kid is worth a quick listen, but for fitting displays of El-P’s talent, engage in some crate digging to unearth underground classics like Cold Vein and Company Flow’s Funcrusher Plus.