The second great rap album of 2007

When I got El-P’s new album in the mail a few weeks ago and saw the tracklisting, I couldn’t help but think the worst – or the best, depending on how you look at it.

I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead has 13 tracks on it, of which 9 include guest vocals. In addition to fellow Def Jukies Aesop Rock, Cage, Camu Tao and Murs, as well as cracka-ass cracka fellow travelers such as Slug from Atmosphere, the album also includes guest appearances by the likes of Trent Reznor, two of the guys from the Mars Volta, Chan Marshall a/k/a Cat Power, and Matt Sweeney, who was in Billy Corgan’s incredible though short lived post-Smashing Pumpkins outfit Zwan. (Don’t front.)

Not to reveal too much about myself, but I’ve been a big fan (both literally and figuratively) of all of the aforementioned artists – especially Chan Marshall, who could very well be history’s greatest argument in favor of white women – at one point in time or another. But not so much in a hip-hop context. I mean, it’s one thing when El-P’s new BFF Diddy goes and recruits the likes of Keyshia Cole and homegirl from the Pussycat Dolls for his album, but I could do without all that on my El-P album, thank you very much.

And of course I couldn’t help but think that all of these guest appearances were designed to make the album that much more appealing to d-bags such as myself, who listen to just as much, if not more, rock than hip-hop these days anyway. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the case – how else to explain all of the promotional material for this album with Trent Reznor’s name all over it – but the weird thing about I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is that it’s hardly the train wreck you’d expect. More often than not, you hardly even notice the guest appearances.

As El-P himself explained in a story in this week’s Village Voice, he’s taken to “sampling” his indie rock friends the same way another hip-hop producer might work with old soul or funk records.

“I really don’t like looking at the back of a record and seeing the word featuring a million times,” says Brooklyn rapper–producer–label overlord El-P. [...]

“I’m a hip-hop producer,” [El-P] explains. “I sample. And now I can just sample people. I get to bring them in and use them and twist them to my advantage. I just wanted to do it and not be a douchebag. But I didn’t go out of my way to hide them.

The result? I wouldn’t describe the sound of I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead as being altogether different from 2002′s Fantastic Damage. There were times where I felt like the rap music was being drowned out by the layers of post-apocalyptic racket, but that’s probably what he was going for anyway. And it’s true that, like many great albums, there’s a learning curve to it in the sense that it makes a lot more sense the fifth time you listen to it than the first time you hear – which is not to say that you have to be a genius or particularly smart to like I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Hell, I enjoy it.

Most of the complaints I’ve read re: ISWYD have had to do El-P getting increasingly emo in his rappin’. You’ll recall that Fan Dam had that one song “Stepfather Father” where he worked out some of his daddy issues and this album has a few that go that song one further. Again, this is obviously be design, but I could see how the effect could be jarring. “The Overly Dramatic Truth” in particular I think crosses the line as far as what’s typically allowed as emotional content in hip-hop (i.e. daddy where have you been?). Personally, I found it refreshing (nullus), but your mileage may vary.

  • DocZeus

    I think the new El-P album is great. I didn’t like it on my first listen but I got it on my second and its just so dark and brooding. I love it. And everybody needs to check out his video for Smithereens. It re-defines gulliness.

  • thoreauly77

    *stepfather factory
    *by

    good stuff, senor bol. i am going to go out and buy the album this afternoon. finally, something new besides indie rock to listen to! oh wait, this is sorta indie rock isnt it?

  • Che

    boring post, check out bol the fat fuck giggling like a bitch and comment:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWOQRw-iHos

  • daesonesb

    zwan was gay as hell

  • yaboy

    so… is this album coppable? i copped the devin the dude.. but havent got black milk or el-p’s shit yet.

    whats the prognosis marmot?

  • stoneyisland

    Wanna see Paris Hilton sucking Cee-lo’s dick? go to http://WWW.WALKTAKEN.COM
    the skank has finally crossed over to brothers. Rappers, Ballers and shot callers beware of a skinny ass cum bucket with a mini dog in her purse

  • brooks h

    how long til you write about that New York episode last night? the countdown begins…

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    stoneyisland Says:

    March 20th, 2007 at 1:38 pm
    Wanna see Paris Hilton sucking Cee-lo’s dick?

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Um, NOOOOOO! why the fuck would I want to see a bitch suck another niggaz dick??? That shit is borderline suspect.

  • eauhellzgnaw

    Not great by a longshot…and I actually like El-P. Lyrics are cool, but his rapping and most of the beats are sub-par. But you think 7L and Esoteric are great, so this must seem like Cuban Linx to you.

    I have to say, though, that the production on the last 2 tracks is among his best. The Chan Marshall song is what I imagine his Automator collab will sound like if it ever actualy happens (it won’t).

  • http://xxlmag.com Bol

    >But you think 7L and Esoteric are great, so this must seem like Cuban Linx to you.

    One day 7L and Esoteric are gonna be dead, and you’re gonna be like, Yeah, I’ve been listening to their shit for years; they’re brilliant.

  • EReal

    Damn Jabba, you did a damn good job in explaining how this cat sounds. Ive never heard dude’s shit before, but this actually sounded like an album review. I got a sense of what the music is gonna sound like, whiny. I thought homeboy was gonna be on some hardcore anti-government apocolyptic rap shit. Instead you made dude sound like a emo-rockin, whiny, bitchmade rapper. Damn, Tara-Squad made it seem alot different in her post. I dont think I’ll be checkin for this album now. Unless im wrong.

    any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

    1 hunned.

  • Washington

    ^ Uh, he’s already worked with Automator (1st HBMS album). And your imagination couldn’t be more off.

  • Dr Flav

    2nd best? “meh, not so much.” Bol

  • honnk

    zwan is totally wack, dude. maybe another case of yr taste for crappy white-boy rock?

  • Meka Soul

    >Wanna see Paris Hilton sucking Cee-lo’s dick? go to http://WWW.WALKTAKEN.COM
    the skank has finally crossed over to brothers. Rappers, Ballers and shot callers beware of a skinny ass cum bucket with a mini dog in her purse>

    the hell?

  • EReal

    @Washington

    I know the cats he’s worked with including automator.
    The way it was described to me as far as subject matter and style, I dont think I’d be feelin it too much.
    Maybe you could explain his style a bit bettah for me.

    peas

  • DD

    7L & Eso are great. El-P on the other hand…

  • D.

    When people start enjoying El-P, we know hiphop truly is dead.

  • http://www.myspace.com/mindbendersupreme alleyeCNtower

    best Bol post ever.
    El-P’s album is what more hip hop cats need to do: something ambitious and imaginative. Actually, they just need to make AN ALBUM, not a disc that holds their 2 catchy singles and 10 bullshit filler tracks (loaded with uninspired guest appearances)

    this El-P record is the best hip hop album of the past 7 years, I swear to God.

    one love from Mindbender Supreme

  • Moe Real

    Yo Bollin. For your next special report: I just saw David Banner railing Christina Ricci from behind in Black Snake Moan…yet more evidence that is the only way rappers ever have sex. Why is a sexual position synonymous with rap music? Explain.

  • Dr Flav

    ^^^Oh you mean like Billy Bob did Halle? GTFOH!

  • eauhellzgnaw

    “One day 7L and Esoteric are gonna be dead, and you’re gonna be like, Yeah, I’ve been listening to their shit for years; they’re brilliant.”

    Come on, Bol. If I won’t declare Pac the greatest, why would I jump on the bandwagon of terrible, rhythmless geek rap just because they died?

    “^ Uh, he’s already worked with Automator (1st HBMS album). And your imagination couldn’t be more off.”

    Uhh, they’re contracted to do a full-length together (Sammy’s Romanians)–look it up, skippy. It’s not happening, though.

    “Megaton B Boy” was an abberation.

  • Fernando

    Good God Bol. So damn predictable you are. I guess since you are a sissy-bag emo listener with a lisp and a pension for crappy rock music, I shouldnt be suprised that that you dig music with beats that you cant even nod along to. I wont speak on this album because I havent heard it, but if it is anything like Fantastic Damage, no thanks. That sh*t is for people who try to hard to find music that nobody else can feel so they can feel cool about being “first” to like it. The lyrics are fine, and its experimental, but just because it is weird does not make it good. And then when people talk down on it, all you have to say is “you dont understand it, thats why you are hating”.

    Not at all, Im all for different types of music, but most company flow / El-P – ish music really just sucks. The beats sound terrible, the vocals are jumbled and I hate suffering through a crappy beat 17 times just to decipher a metaphoric message about nothing in particular.

    I give him credit for doing something new and genuinly trying to make some creative stuff, but the notion that it is good just because it is daring is stupid. I guess you can play video games or tag buildings while listening to this stuff but thats about it.

  • Fernando

    Geek Rap….exactly.

    Im glad there is geek rap, because it gives a place and a voice to people that want to rhyme about being without a girlfriend, broke, lazy, smelly gimps. Basically what emo-rock does for Bol and all the other depressed white kids.

    7L and Esoteric are not brilliant. It doesnt take genius to write metaphors about stupid crap over non-mainstream beats. Believe me, I got friends that do this and have a ton of fans and these guys are not the brightest bulbs in the box. It takes some dedication, but genius…NO.

    Bol is nothing more than a Geek-Rap listening, Emo-Rock-loving faggit……With a ghey lisp. El-P is straight Mini-van music for sure.

  • http://xxlmag.com Bol

    >Come on, Bol. If I won’t declare Pac the greatest, why would I jump on the bandwagon of terrible, rhythmless geek rap just because they died?

    It’s just a saying. No need to bring Pac into this.

  • Dr. Colossus

    “Chan Marshall, who could very well be history’s greatest argument in favor of white women – at one point in time or another.”

    What!!! Wow you really are a fucking dickless geek!! Wow some white citch who can sing, oh it’s artistic ,you wouldn’t get it. Get the fuck out of here! Learn to sing and finish a song on stage, people hat to work for that ticket money…

    And we all know Laugh-in era Goldie Hawn was the greatest argument in favor of white women! Or at least some other bitch from the 60′s/70′s. White women peaked then.

  • Onthashitterahhhhhhhh.

    I agree with dat bastid Bol.

    Good shit.

    And I don’t like most of that emo shit either. But this dude is a creative mutherfucker.

  • ukcuf

    “That sh*t is for people who try to hard to find music that nobody else can feel so they can feel cool about being “first” to like it. The lyrics are fine, and its experimental, but just because it is weird does not make it good.”

    Uh, shouldn’t you be getting crunk in a club somewhere? You obviously don’t know fuck about hip-hop, music or life.

  • NickeNitro

    El-P’s album sounded like hip-hop to me. Also, what the hell does an emo sound like? I’ve haven’t heard anyone make this complaint. Is that some sort of animal?

  • Atl’s own

    yell i’ll pass on dis shit!

  • EReal

    LOL @ Fernando

    I guess I was right. LOL.

    Bol where’s your neck homie?

  • Washington

    Haters should be feel free to list what they’ve been listening to latley so we can compare notes.

  • Yezzir

    emo rap…just what the world needs

  • http://foodmantooth.blogspot.com Sordid Puppy

    @ Fernando

    Company Flow sucks? Your taste sucks. “Fantastic Damage” was awesome. “Dead Disnee” is a straight-up BANGER and is harder than your favorite hoodlum’s latest record. I’m a little worried by your thoughts on “ISWYD,” Bol, because I don’t think I’d like an album full of “Stepfather Factory”s, but I’m hungry enough for some good music that I imagine I’ll give it a chance.

    As soon as I save up $15.

  • Washington

    ^^There’s really only 2 emo songs, and one is pretty borderline. I’m not counting the Reznor one, which is pretty skippable after a few listens. But the rest of the album is pretty tight. If you liked “Dead Disnee” then you need to check “No Kings”.

  • frank

    it is not a good album, regardless of “surprising” collabos.

  • boner jams 03

    fuck rap…i listen to indie rock these days…cold war kids are the fuckin truth

  • Cuban FUCKING Link

    Fernando Says:

    March 20th, 2007 at 5:55 pm
    Geek Rap….exactly.

    Im glad there is geek rap, because it gives a place and a voice to people that want to rhyme about being without a girlfriend, broke, lazy, smelly gimps. Basically what emo-rock does for Bol and all the other depressed white kids.

    7L and Esoteric are not brilliant. It doesnt take genius to write metaphors about stupid crap over non-mainstream beats. Believe me, I got friends that do this and have a ton of fans and these guys are not the brightest bulbs in the box. It takes some dedication, but genius…NO.

    Bol is nothing more than a Geek-Rap listening, Emo-Rock-loving faggit……With a ghey lisp. El-P is straight Mini-van music for sure.

    ^ur the reason hip hop is dead.I fucking hate you.Your problem is ur a fucking idiot and dont give a shit about nothing but dancing u little wanna be nigger.With a name like Fernando I wouldnt push the geek thing to far bitch.

  • Cuban FUCKING Link

    Atl’s own Says:

    March 21st, 2007 at 9:51 am
    yell i’ll pass on dis shit!

    ^you too, what the fuck is wrong with you?How can u like Jeezy or Weezy more than Ghostface Killah or Joe Budden or El-P.Oh thats right ur from ATL u hick.Go eat some chicken

  • Cuban FUCKING Link

    NickeNitro Says:

    March 20th, 2007 at 11:40 pm
    El-P’s album sounded like hip-hop to me. Also, what the hell does an emo sound like? I’ve haven’t heard anyone make this complaint. Is that some sort of animal?

    ^…..

  • nonamesbruh

    What a weak ass post. Come the fuck on, Jabba — you can do better than that. Why don’t you break the album down track by track like you usually do? All you are doing is essentially dickriding the album by trying to deflect what you see as the standard criticisms for it. What’s that about? If it was a “standard” hip hop album — without all the cracka-ass influences — you would have no problem ripping it apart, you little white woman ONLY lovin’, house nigga piece of shit. Put some fuckin’ effort into the post, bitch.

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