If you missed the Q&A with Brooklyn-based rapper/producer El-P that's running in CL this week, El-P returns with two classic LPs: Producer, MC, and Def Jux mastermind talks Killer Mike and Cancer4Cure (Fat Possum), stop reading this post now. Check that out first, then come back and continue reading these outtakes.
In our conversation, El-P (ne Jaime Meline) weighs in on everything from producing the stellar new Killer Mike album, R.A.P. Music (Williams Street), while at the same time cranking out his own solo Cancer4Cure. The following cuts from our interview were too good to leave on the cutting room floor.
Chad Radford: You're 37 years old this year, and you grew up in Brooklyn, so you sort of had a front row seat for the golden era of hip-hop.
Absolutely, I grew up in New York in the '80s, and I was a little young, but I was riding graffiti covered trains, and people were walking around my neighborhood with boom boxes that had turntables on them.
Growing up in an environment like that has to leave an impression on you on a fundamental level ...
Yeah, there's no question about that - it's why I'm a rapper and it's why I'm a producer. If you lived in Brooklyn, at least where I grew up, when I was growing up there, and you weren't into hip-hop it would be kind of weird. I like to think that everyone is just as inspired by their environment as I am, and you know, people are always asking, "Why is your shit so noisy?" It's like, "Hold on, I can't talk right now because there's an explosion going off outside of my window! There's an ambulance, a cop car, and a fire truck all going by at the same time. That probably has something to with regional differences in my production technique, too.
Now that you've had a chance to reflect on Cancer4Cure, have you had an revelations about the songs?
Sometimes I can't even listen to them [laughs]! That's what happens when you make a record and listen to it over and over and over again for six months. Personally speaking, when all is said and done, and years down the line when I don't perform any of these songs any more, the final track, "$4 Vic/Nothing But You+Me (FTL)" is one that I will always come back to. It was the first song that I wrote for the record, and originally was going to be the first song that you heard on the record, but it felt better at the end. Musically, I think I really accomplished something with that song - there are a lot of different time signatures going on, and it was difficult for me to make. It's also what got me started writing the record in the first place.
Fair enough. Personally speaking, I've gravitated toward the album's singles, "Full Retard," "Drones Over BKLYN," and other songs, like "Tougher Colder Killer" and "True Story," and the intro with the William S. Burroughs sample pulls me in - "Storm the studio ...." Those are the immediately visceral songs, and you don't hear a whole lot of hip-hop artists sampling William S. Burroughs these days, huh?
No you sure don't [laughs]. Every record I've done, form Fantastic Damage to Cancer4Cure, I've always found a vocal sample that sets the stage for how the record was going to feel. It wasn't anything intentional; it's just something that happened. I am a Burroughs fan, and I heard the part that I sampled on this street poetry record that I found one day. When I first listened to it I wasn't even sure if it was really him, or just some guy trying to sound like Burroughs. But it sounded badass, and it felt like the right little piece to use at the beginning of this record.
You've often said that hip-hop isn't or at least shouldn't be made from other hip-hop records ...
Well, classically speaking, hip-hop is produced by manipulating other people's records - making something new out of them. When people try to attribute different genres to my music I say, "No, I'm making hip-hop." You can't be a hip-hop producer and not be familiar with more genres than your average producer: You collect records, you're obsessed with sound, you learn by listening to different kinds of music, and you pull it apart, whether you're literally sampling or using the music for inspiration. It's not really all that different from any other kind of music, I suppose. But if you're only recording your inspiration from other hip-hop records, after a while everyone starts making the same records.
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