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El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

Posted by Joe Lazar on April 6, 2007

El-P // I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead // Definitive Jux // Release Date: March 20, 2007

To say El-P is different from the rest of the hip hop population is the same as saying Straight Outta Compton had some raw lyrics. The Def Jux label head has always stood out from the rest of the pack beginning with Company Flow’s Funcrusher Plus all the way to his debut solo album, Fantastic Damage. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is no different.

 The record is overflowing with noise, which is most likely influenced by El-P’s native land — NYC. El-P loves to fill in every crook and cranny with any sort of sound. Song after song, you have spacey synthesizers, quick hi-hats, El-P’s barbaric deliveries, and whatever else El-P wants to throw at the kitchen sink. Sometimes this style work, such as on the thrilling opener “Tasmanian Pain Coaster.” A woman’s voice asks ‘Do you think that if you were falling in space that you would slow down after a while, or go faster and faster?’ What sounds like a nightmare begins to lure in the background. El-P enters calmly, yet intense for just a bit, before bringing the song to the next level.  ‘This is the sound of what you don’t know killing you,’ states El-P as hands claps, guitar plucks, synth beeps, and lasers are surrounding him. “TPC” is one of El-P’s better tracks due to its tempered charge. It brings the heat, but not to the point where your head begins to hurt. “Up All Night,” is another highlight track because of it’s ability to bring the noise, but in a more collected fashion – for El-P. 

Like I said before, sometimes this style works. But sometimes it doesn’t. “Run The Numbers,” which features Aesop Rock just sounds like pure noise, with no sense of direction. “Habeas Corpses (Draconian Love),” is one of the more interesting songs lyrically. El-P and Cage are soldiers/murders of some sort on a futuristic spaceship, who are asked to kill prisoners. But El-P beings to have feelings for one of the them, and tries to keep them alive. El-P shows emotion in such a creative fashion, but unfortunately the music does nothing but make me want aspirin. The tracks on the later half of the record have better lyrical content (The Overly Dramatic Truth, Poisenville Kids No Wins), but the soundscapes that El-P paints begin to overbear your mind by this point and really drill into your head, distracting you from the lyrics. It is hard to go the distance and listen to the whole album at times. But I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is too creative and unique for you to give it the complete cold shoulder.

6/10

— Joe Lazar

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One Response to “El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead”

  1. heaps dope said

    This album takes a while to get into, but after a few listens it’s extrememly interesting as well as having pure lyrical quality. Yes, I agree sometimes the production takes away all your attention just trying to listen to all those instruments el-p uses in the background… But that just shoes the detail, time and effort the man has put into such a project and I think it turns out brilliantly when you really sit down and give it a solid listen. In the end one realises it’s unique as fuck and for this reason alone should be applauded. The song “Dear Sirs” has got to be one of the best politcal hip hop songs of the 21st Century thus far and I don’t know why the reviewer has failed to leave this one out, even if it is one of the more ‘simplistic’ tracks along with Habeas Corpses etc.

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