El-P at Middle East Downstairs, May 1 (sshhhh, better late than never!)

w/ Hangar 18
Middle East Downstairs
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

In a period where the Village Voice and the New York Times are constantly putting hip hop under the microscope with little irony or attempts to draw new demographics, lyricists who wail louder than their beats are a necessity. Hip hop was born through solidarity and rebellion against crime and poverty, but now it's unavoidable that the post-9/11 world that urban cities live in can't go more than a few days or weeks without being reminded of the constant state of panoptic fear that we all deal with. Darker corners of hip hop are shedding light with an aggressive sincerity. In the center of this outcry is Jamie Meline, better known by his Def Jux moniker of El Producto or El-P. 

Since his solo debut release, Fantastic Damage, the co-founder of label Definitive Jux has been leading a parade of musicians that want to fuse intelligence, social consciousness, and dramatic music with a modern edge to a jaded audience. Though the crowded show at the Middle East Downstairs on Tuesday didn't include all of the collaborations from his most recent LP, I'll Sleep When You're Dead, the mixture of influence was evident in both El's setlist and the variety of the audience. Between songs, he and The Mighty Quin - a Brooklyn MC who often joins him on stage - speak out against all forms of apathy, mostly through common twenty-somethings' vices that are slowly becoming socially acceptable (i.e. binge drinking, cocaine use, etc.) to try and shake anyone that came from the call of the music. What El-P proves, over and over in his live show is that he uses his mic as a podium to try and send a message without a soapbox or holier-than-thou attitude. "I may have been born yesterday / but I stayed up all night" is probably one of the heaviest pairing of lines in the midst of an over-blung out genre. And even in Cambridge, with both bars on either side of the venue were deserted during the set, it's really something to see the crust punk standing next to the prep standing next to the bike messenger standing next to the yuppie standing next to the thug standing next to the hippie; all nodding to the rhythm and throwing up their hands in a concentrated unison. 

In all honesty, El-P shows are not about fun. His albums, lyrics and beats are all dark and tinged with burnt humor of seeing too much pain and not enough healing to achieve an internal balance. Often taking the stage, and again on Tuesday, covered in fake blood, the live shows are carried out with the intention of brining a dramatic swell to the pieces of his studio recordings that drew the listeners to the venue in the first place. It's a sight to see, and even more of an experience to be in complete absorption.

Audio: Prefuse 73 feat. Ghostface Killah "Hideyaface (El-P Remix)"
Website: http://www.myspace.com/elproducto

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