El-P has plenty of hip-hop cred, but he’s never been the kind of guy to cash in on it. That’s how one accumulates cred in the first place. Hence the five-year wait for his new record, Cancer 4 Cure, an album that finds the MC as agitated as ever but so fully in control of his paranoid, propulsive milieu that the results are frequently as staggering as they are thrilling.
A go through the world of El-P may not be a relaxing ride, but the energy and audacity of his gruff but unfailingly intelligent delivery is invigorating. Part of El-P’s secret is his production, which proves that “sympathetic” does not always mean “nice,” which partly explains why Killer Mike lobbied El-P so hard to produce his undeniable new R.A.P. Music. The disc finds the Atlanta rapper unwilling to go quietly in an age when a decent mix-tape is all it takes. A fully formed vision such as his packs all the more power for its focus and outrage, which spans from the personal to the unapologetically political on the instant-classic “Reagan,” a track so incensed even Obama doesn’t escape the range of its ire.
Two of the best MCs working today, in symbiosis, on the same tour, behind two of the best hip-hop albums not just of the year but in recent memory? Plus, a rising force of the NYC underground, six-foot-four Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, the rhyme beast behind 2011’s dark and brilliant Lost in Translation? Don’t take it for granted that bills like this come together all the time, because they don’t.