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A Magazine for Sheffield

Cancer 4 Cure

Cancer For Cure is the newest effort by Brooklyn-based rapper and producer El-P, the follow-up to his much lauded I'll Sleep When You're Dead. Formerly a member of seminal hip hop collective Company Flow - whose trailblazing 1997 record Funcrusher Plus is an undeniable cornerstone of underground hip hop - El-P has always been a man of many talents and many influences, and once again he puts the ears to the test with an album that only he could have created.

For the unacquainted, El-P's music is not adequately covered by the term 'hip hop'. His productions have as much in common with rock, metal, electronica and industrial, as evidenced by the sheer variety of his samples, the rage his voice harnesses, and by his 2007 collaborations with Nine Inch Nails and The Mars Volta. Classic hip hop stabs are merged with fuzzy distortion and meaty drums to create a volatile, experimental backing for his anarchic rapping. As with other El-P albums, this one takes a bit of work on the part of the listener, but once it gets its teeth in it won't let you go.

'Request Denied' kicks in with a rolling drum break, layers of analogue synth and a distorted guitar. It's over three minutes before the rapping begins, but when it does it keeps pace stunningly, showing that this is a rapper who still has plenty to say and the attitude to carry it. Fans will recognise his trademark dystopian bile on every track, but in particular on the fantastic 'Drones Over Bklyn' and the angular 'Oh Hail No'. First single 'The Full Retard' is hard hitting, built around a compulsive vocal hook and a catchy lead. Closing track '$ Vic/FTL (Me and You)' is probably the best example on this album of how far El-P strays from the hip hop template while still keeping the same syncopated swagger.

My only real criticism of Cancer For Cure is that while it is consistent, it isn't hugely different from his previous albums in terms of lyrical content and musical thrust. That's not to say there aren't loads of pleasant (and not so pleasant) surprises; just that fans could feel like he hasn't stepped out of the comfort zone as much as he might have.

Despite his obvious love of conspiracy theories, on this album El-P manages to stay just the right side of paranoid, and in a world that is coming ever closee to some of the dystopias he describes, Cancer For Cure could be more at home on this planet than any of his previous efforts.