Monday, July 2, 2007

El-P: Overrated or Genius?

Today, I was reading the blog over at XXL. When not being dumb, they actually do make some decent comments about music. Bol, one of the bloggers over there, was doing a mid-year recap. He was talking about how El-P's I'll Sleep When You're Dead is one of the best rap albums to come out this year. With everyone pretty much roundly loving it and sicing it, I figured that I would give it a listen.

After listening to the album through, this album's good, but it's not album of the year material. I want to like this album. As much as I really don't like El-P, I'll Sleep When You're Dead is really close to being a classic album. El-P sharpened his form, started rhyming on the beat, and opened up his overall sound. But, there, of course, are problems keeping if from being classic.

Primarily, the album doesn't thump. The beats are menacing, and that's whatever to me. I grew up listening to Autechre, a band that scares people with the manic nature of their beats. So, chaotic beats are the last concern in my life. But, as a hip-hop head and someone who lives on quality production, I want a thump, especially from a hip-hop album. All of the tracks are very trebly and midrange, which doesn't attract my attention to the music as it should. Hip-hop commands attention from the listener due to its beats and their heaviness. El-P's beats do not require, or ask, for such attention. And this is one of the weaknesses of the album.

The second, and last, weakness is that the album is not memorable to me. I've listened through the album twice and there are no lines that pop out to me, nothing that sears in my mind as a classic punchline or a classic hip-hop quotable. If there were a few of these on this album, I think that it would more successful.

To really only do two things wrong is something that more hip-hop artists could only wish for on their albums. But, these are two fairly large problems for an album to have, especially a hip-hop release. I would expect baseless lyrics from post-punk, but post-punk is about sound and not lyrics like hip-hop. These two problems are what keeps this otherwise good, if not by the numbers, El-P release from being the class of 2007. Don't worry: this album will appear on a lot of best of lists at the end of the year, especially the Pitchfork list. But, it won't appear on mine.

If I had to quantify how I felt about this album, it would be a 7/10.