El-P Enjoying Life Post Definitive Jux

Posted by Billyjam, July 18, 2012 05:05am | Post a Comment
Few hip-hop artists have the luxury of enjoying a fan-base dedicated enough to patiently wait around five full years for a new album to drop. Aesop Rock, who two days ago had an incredible turnout for his Amoeba SF in-store in support of his first album in five years - the incredible new album Skelethon on Rhymesayers, is one of these lucky artists. So too is his colleague & indie hip-hop contemporary El-P who has similarly returned after five years with an awesome new album -  Cancer4Cure released recently on Fat Possum.
The Brooklyn, NY producer, emcee, label owner & CEO, who has put his record company Definitive Jux on hiatus, also fully produced the, equally stellar, new Killer Mike album R.A.P. Music released by William Street. And it is because he has more time to focus on making music and not overseeing his iconic indie hip-hop record label, he told me, that he had the time and energy required to properly focus on both of these meticulously produced new albums.

El-P "The Jig Is Up" from his new album Cancer4Cure 
Beyond focusing more on his art and musically fine-tuning his sound in the half decade since his last album (2007's I'll Sleep When You're Dead) El-P has also matured significantly on a personal level - although, ever the artist, El-P rarely differentiates between his music life and his personal life. "Not to sound corny but really your greatest artistic endeavor is how you shape your life," he told me recently before performing at the Regency in San Francisco as part of the national Into The Wild Tour also featuring Killer Mike, plus Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire and Despot.  Been free of the record label responsibilities El-P said has, "been a great stress off of my back" and that by not doing the label (which is why his new album came out on Fat Possum) has freed him up immensely as an artist. He has also had time to reflect on the passing - four years ago from lung cancer - of his friend/collaborator Camu Tao to whom the album is inspired and named for. Like Aesop Rock, Camu Tao was also on the Definitive Jux label and was also a member of The Weathermen along with Tame One, Yak Ballz, and Breeze Brewin.

El-P's music history dates back two decades and includes his not-too-happy record business dealings with Rawkus Records (to whom his legendary NYC crew Company Flow was once signed to) followed by him setting up Def Jux (later known as Definitive Jux due to Def Jam suing over name similarity). He says that he may one day reignite his label but for now he is happy not having to deal with all the headaches that accompany running a company. As for how the music industry itself has shifted so radically in the two decades he has been in it I asked El-P if he ever thought it would be the way it is now in the Digital Age? "It was inevitable and no one could have predicted exactly how it would have happened but for me, in my mind, I always felt like it would in some way," he said. "It's a cultural shift that hasn't completely formed yet and there is a lot of leftover structure that still exists and that people are still trying to keep alive. It's not an easy thing to shut down an entire infrastructure and erect a completely new one. There's a lot of blood that happens in that kind of thing. But really I'm not too concerned with it all."

El-P "Oh Hail No (ft. Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire & Danny Brown)" from Cancer4Cure 

I asked El-P what have been the biggest struggles he's faced over the years? "I don't really think of my career as a string of struggles. I feel very lucky to even have had any type of success and it's [his life] been sort of difficult to navigate at times," he admitted. "I think I came out of been like an angry kid who didn't have a lot of control in his life at a young age. So that kind of translated into someone who didn't want shit from anybody, who didn't want to deal with anybody telling them that they couldn't do what they wanted to do," he said adding that, "But my greatest struggle was really coming out of that and kind of coming to some peace about how I dealt with what I wanted and how my relationship to doing this shit is. You know it took me a long time to get to a place where I realized I couldn't control it and that it was dangerous and destructive to try."

El-P "The Full Retard" from his new album Cancer4Cure 

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