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Music / El-P

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So you should pump this shit, like they do in the future
Pump this shit, in your floating whip system
Pump this shit, in the bread line, the prison
Pump this shit, from the chip under your wrist-skin
"The Full Retard"

El-Pnote  (born Jaime Meline, born March 2, 1975) is a rapper, songwriter and producer hailing from New York City. He's been active since 1993 and is known for being in the groups Company Flow, The Weathermen, and Run the Jewels, as well as for his solo material. He also founded the label Definitive Jux, which itself is well-known for signing artists like Aesop Rock, Cannibal Ox, and Cage.

El-P is well-known for both his rapping and production. His rapping is characterized by being dense, aggressive, and manic, while at the same time employing complex metaphor, allegory, and wordplay. He often verges into outright science fiction in his songs (Philip K. Dick is a big inspiration of his), and even when he's relatively down to Earth, his lyrics still feature dark and gritty imagery. His production is known for its bombastic, dystopian sound, with heavy use of dramatic synthesizers and lo-fi, machine-like drum samples.

His solo albums thus far:

  • Fantastic Damage (2002)
  • I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007)
  • Cancer For Cure (2012)

He's also released several instrumental collections, such as High Water (a collaboration with jazz musician Matthew Shipp), Collecting The Kid (various unreleased odds & ends), and his Weareallgoingtoburninhell mixtapes (featuring instrumental versions of the songs on his solo albums as well as a few original instrumental works).

He should not be confused with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, whose lengthy band name is often shortened to "ELP".

El-P provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The robots in "Stepfather Factory" don't always work as intended.
    And in a few unsubstantiated clinical trials, this condition has led to simulated feelings of resentment and worthlessness
    Manifested in the highly unlikely but still possible act of physical aggression towards you and your loved ones fleshy surfaces
  • Always a Bigger Fish: The titular "Tougher Colder Killer" is the biggest fish.
    There's a tougher, colder killer than you. And he will wipe us all from this place
  • Bearer of Bad News: The epistolary first verse of "Tougher Colder Killer" begins with every parent's worst nightmare.
    To the mother of my enemy, I just killed your son
  • Conspiracy Theorist: "Run the Numbers" is a 9/11 conspiracy song alleging that Bush was behind the attacks.
  • Cyberpunk: A common theme in El-P's work, as he's a fan of sci-fi author Philip K. Dick. Chip implants appear across his discography, but spy drones and even prison ships make appearances.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: Most of El-P's stuff intentionally goes for a stereotypically "futuristic" sound. Lampshaded in "The Full Retard" (see page quote).
  • Domestic Abuse: On account of having had an abusive stepfather, this is a recurring subject in his songs.
    • "The Last Good Sleep" autobiographically narrates the night his stepfather almost beat his mother to death.
    • "Stepfather Factory" reimagines abusive stepfathers as cutting-edge robots that El is hawking to the public, explaining that the alcohol-fueled stepfathers have a slight chance of malfunctioning and beating their families.
    • "For My Upstairs Neighbor (Mums the Word)" opens with El being an unhelpful police interviewee, only for its second verse to rewind the clock and reveal that that morning he had run into a neighbor who was a victim of domestic abuse and promised he'd cover for her if she killed her abuser.
  • Downer Ending: "Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love)" is set on a Prison Ship where El-P and fellow rapper Cage are executioners who spend all day shooting prisoners in the head. El-P falls in love with Prisoner 247681-Z and fantasizes about running away with her, escaping their horrible existence and living an idyllic life in a cabin far away from the metropolis... only for the song to end with El-P following orders and coldly shooting her anyway.
  • Drone of Dread:
    • Considering "Accidents Don't Happen" is heavy on Orwellian paranoia, the drone gives it more gloominess.
    • "T.O.J." is also a droning reflection on a relationship.
  • Either/Or Title:
    • I'll Sleep When You're Dead: Smithereens (Stop Cryin), Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love), Poisenville Kids No Wins/Reprise (This Must Be Our Time)
    • Cancer 4 Cure: For My Upstairs Neighbor (Mums the Word), $4 Vic/Nothing but You + Me (FTL)
  • Fake Loud: "Take You Out At The Ballgame" has what sounds like actual explosions going off in time with a drum hit. Crackling and audio distortions abound, but what is really convincing is a subtle decrease in the volume of the other sounds, as if the explosions are actually deafening.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Tasmanian Pain Coaster", the epic opener from I'll Sleep When You're Dead, is about encountering and riding a subway train with a junkie ex-friend. But if you didn't pay attention to the lyrics, it'd be easy to make the mistake of thinking El-P was riding a train through an apocalyptic war zone into Hell itself.
  • "No" Means "Yes": From the second half of "Sign Here":
    The safety word is Yes, try it ("Yes")
    I'll restrain you for your protection, now do I have your consent for this? ("Yes")
  • Nonindicative Name: "Tuned Mass Damper" has nothing to do with Tuned Mass Dampers, but instead is an anguished, bitter song against drug addiction.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The shoddily-made robots in "Stepfather Factory":
    Made from the most easily available materials and, uh, loosely inspected...
  • One-Word Title:
    • Fantastic Damage: Truancy, Blood
    • I'll Sleep When You're Dead: Drive
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: His solo albums are a rare case in hip hop, where intros and outros are an experience by themselves. For the latter, the closest comparison could go to Progressive Death Metal or Progressive Rock: Cue long tracks with everything shifting, from vocal approach to beat structures.
  • Precision F-Strike: "Dear Sirs" is a passionate, angry (if short) song that utilizes the word only once near the end to great effect.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Spelling Song: The beginning of "Squeegee Man Shooting" has El-P chanting the letters for the album title ("Fantastic Damage") in the background, in time with the beat. Also, "Tuned Mass Damper" has a section where El-P talks about refrigerator magnets spelling out G-R-O-W-N-A-S-S-M-A-N.
  • Strongly Worded Letter: "Dear Sirs" subverts this. El-P literally starts it with "Dear Sirs..." and you can hear the sound of a typewriter in the background, but the lyrics immediately take a left into surreal and apocalyptic imagery and ranting poetry, finishing with the declaration that, even if everything else in the song occurred, "...Me fighting in your war still would be the least likely thing that would ever fucking happen, EVER."
  • Take That, Critics!: Started as far back as Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamix from the receivership of Funcrusher. Fandam, the title track, lingers with "You misinterpreted that Funcrush shit/So man Funcrush this", going down to "Call it off-beat, jagged, ragged, form the pattern" in regard to his style, as rapped in "DeLorean."
  • The Unexpected: Music example: El-P himself on the remix of A-Trak's "Piss Test". Alongside names like Juicy J, Jim Jones, and the Flatbush Zombies.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: "The Full Retard" includes a rare usage of the Yiddish term oy vey in a hip-hop song. Though not religious, El had Jewish roots.