EL-P - Fantastic Damage
Fantastic Damage is the latest segment of the ongoing ordeal to create original and thought intensive hip-hop from the vital nerve of Company Flow: El-Producto. His commonly noted production on the major-label debut album for Co-Flow, Funcrusher + and later Little Johnny From The Hospital helped him, along with colleagues Big Juss and DJ Mr. Len, define a niche in the leftist extreme of Underground hip-hop. Later work with the revolution of sound The Cold Vein with Cannibal Ox made it globally acclaimed by critics, "greatest" in the underground denomination of hip-hop.
The eagerly anticipated album for numerous hip-hop heads continually expectant of El-P’s abilities does bring us with 16 tracks of intense intricate beats, detailed, dense production and an array of featured emcees to add variation in style and flow to the rhyming El-P. The production is typically Company Flow and he again delivers in his almost trade-mark style his ability to combine and manipulate sounds and vocals in a interesting and thought-provoking way. His execution of varying erratic beats ("T.O.J.") over the mix of harsh mechanised head-nodding melodies, harmonious samples ("Blood") and intertwining abstract vocal samples ("Squeege Man Shooting") in just one track alone requires more attention and several listens to fully appreciate.
DJ Abilities mans the turntables in Fan Dam, adding exceptional cuts and scratching to the production laid down evident in sneaky exerts ("Deep Space 9mm"). He manages to bring a bit more volume to the album keeping the listener intrigued almost waiting for the next original sounding scratch.
But what about El-P’s vocals? They’re good. Good, but not exceptional. His lyrics are descriptive and remain tight dispute his production taking so many turns, yet I found myself appreciating his poignant combination of virulent sounds more than his rhymes. However, all is not lost - thanks to the generous spead of featured emcees such as C Ray Walz, Ill Bill, and fellow Def Jux fellas Vast Aire ("The Nang"), and Aesop Rock ("Delorean") - their vocals being amongst the highlights of the album.
Fantastic Damage is an album that wears the Definitive Jux batch loud and proud and its addition to the shelves should be welcomed gladly. It is consistently good with the the work preceeding this release and thus is an album that you will find pleasure in listening to. Yet consistency is the preponderant description. I feel what is lacks is the surprise that graced our ears with The Cold Vein and Funcrusher +, and the redefinition of our much loved genre gained from these.
Fan Dam isn't a classic, but equally, not to be missed.
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