Fantastic Damage (Definitive Jux)

El-P 

Fantastic Damage (Definitive Jux)

Rumbles from hip-hop's future grumble through the Anti-Pop Consortium's Arrhythmia, disrupt balance on Prefuse 73's Vocal Studies & Uprock Narratives and buckle knees in Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein. It's the sound of the steady bump-thwack-bump-thwack backdrop being fucked with. In the same way Ornette Coleman challenged jazz's steadiness, an important movement in hip-hop is questioning the notion of the standard beat. Rhythms wobble, then stumble. They're drunk and, in a brilliant role reversal, the only thing supporting the beats is the MC. At the forefront of the new sound is El-P, who nails it on his debut full-length, Fantastic Damage.

El-P used to be in Company Flow, a New York City group that earned respect in the late-'90s before dissolving. These days, he's an entrepreneur and producer: His label, Definitive Jux, consistently churns out shockers, and he's made beats for some of hip-hop's most adventurous acts. El-P's out there, and he's got company.

On Fantastic Damage, El-P spits paragraphs, not stanzas. Yes, he rhymes; but he's got a peculiar internal clock. Seldom does he squeeze to fit his lyrics into the obvious rhythm; rather, he balances lyrical needs and beat flow -- if he needs space to finish a thought, he finds it -- so his tracks roll at their own strange pace.

But El-P's better at producing than rapping. His tracks are uniformly insane. Dungeon drones battle with synthetic beeps. He inserts ear-splittingly high frequencies just to fuck with heads, couples them with deep bass and adds human moans to beats. His rhythms jump and reorganize nearly every four measures. El-P hates stasis, so while the Diddys of the world take the interstate to the end of a song, El-P cruises the winding thoroughfares.

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