No Sleep for Brooklyn

Guest star day

"I really don't like looking at the back of a record and seeing the word featuring a million times," says Brooklyn rapper/producer/label overlord El-P. Incidentally, his new album, I'll Sleep When You're Dead, features cameos from members of the Mars Volta, TV on the Radio, and Yo La Tengo, not to mention Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power), Matt Sweeney, and Trent Reznor, all mingling with the standard crew of guest rappers (Cage, Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, Slug, Murs), most of those already on the payroll at El-P's label, Definitive Jux. This ain't a scene, it's a goddamn arms race. Robert Altman films have less-complicated credits.

"Let's face it," continues El-P, a.k.a. El Producto, a.k.a. Lazerface, a.k.a. 32-year-old redhead Jaime Meline. "Most rappers have the worst possible taste in rock music, and most rockers have the worst possible taste in rap music. And a lot of times, they decide that means they should get together and do a song. And then you get shit like, fuckin', whatever. Limp Bizkit."

Meline sits in a Mexican restaurant near his apartment, enjoying guacamole and margaritas as he delights in the notion that he has filled his fan base with terror. Specifically, we fear an ostentatious, Santana-esque debacle besotted with the famous pals he's accrued in the course of generating some of the most dense, apocalyptic, anxiety-ridden, deliberately nauseating underground hip-hop ever sired. Suffice it to say that people care very deeply about this shit, and about whether he now squanders such goodwill-through-sublime-ill-will on a Rolodex-humping duets album.

El-P: Now serving a sampler platter.
El-P: Now serving a sampler platter.

Details

El-P, DJ Mr. Dibbs and The Mighty Quin, Hangar 18, Yak Ballz, and Slow Suicide Stimulus are scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 23.
The Clubhouse Music Venue in Tempe

"I was sort of sitting there, grinning," he says. "I just knew exactly what everyone was thinking. You know what? I would think the same thing." And what would that be, exactly? "That this is probably a really heavy-handed attempt at making some sort of pathetic crossover record, a clumsy collaborative thing that won't work."

Rest easy, kids. Take Dead for a spin and marvel at how all Meline's famous friends are absolutely buried. They're swallowed whole by the decay, the rotting dementia. I have no idea where the Yo La Tengo guy or the TV on the Radio guy are. None. Brutally exhilarating opener "Tasmanian Pain Coaster" is five minutes in and all but over by the time the Mars Volta dudes show up for a minute or so of inconsequential falsetto wheedling. And, yes, Trent Reznor shows up for some constipated muttering on "Flyentology," but mostly he just screams "No!" as El-P invents a new religion.

"I'm a hip-hop producer," Meline says. "I sample. And now, I can just sample people. I get to bring them in and use them and twist them to my advantage. I just wanted to do it and not be a douchebag. But I didn't go out of my way to hide them. I could be accused of underusing — I did have someone tell me that they were shocked at how I squandered my resources. That's not what it was about. Whatever I hear I hear, period." — Rob Harvilla "I really don't like looking at the back of a record and seeing the word featuring a million times," says Brooklyn rapper/producer/label overlord El-P. Incidentally, his new album, I'll Sleep When You're Dead, features cameos from members of the Mars Volta, TV on the Radio, and Yo La Tengo, not to mention Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power), Matt Sweeney, and Trent Reznor, all mingling with the standard crew of guest rappers (Cage, Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, Slug, Murs), most of those already on the payroll at El-P's label, Definitive Jux. This ain't a scene, it's a goddamn arms race. Robert Altman films have less-complicated credits.

"Let's face it," continues El-P, a.k.a. El Producto, a.k.a. Lazerface, a.k.a. 32-year-old redhead Jaime Meline. "Most rappers have the worst possible taste in rock music, and most rockers have the worst possible taste in rap music. And a lot of times, they decide that means they should get together and do a song. And then you get shit like, fuckin', whatever. Limp Bizkit."

Meline sits in a Mexican restaurant near his apartment, enjoying guacamole and margaritas as he delights in the notion that he has filled his fan base with terror. Specifically, we fear an ostentatious, Santana-esque debacle besotted with the famous pals he's accrued in the course of generating some of the most dense, apocalyptic, anxiety-ridden, deliberately nauseating underground hip-hop ever sired. Suffice it to say that people care very deeply about this shit, and about whether he now squanders such goodwill-through-sublime-ill-will on a Rolodex-humping duets album.

"I was sort of sitting there, grinning," he says. "I just knew exactly what everyone was thinking. You know what? I would think the same thing." And what would that be, exactly? "That this is probably a really heavy-handed attempt at making some sort of pathetic crossover record, a clumsy collaborative thing that won't work."

Rest easy, kids. Take Dead for a spin and marvel at how all Meline's famous friends are absolutely buried. They're swallowed whole by the decay, the rotting dementia. I have no idea where the Yo La Tengo guy or the TV on the Radio guy are. None. Brutally exhilarating opener "Tasmanian Pain Coaster" is five minutes in and all but over by the time the Mars Volta dudes show up for a minute or so of inconsequential falsetto wheedling. And, yes, Trent Reznor shows up for some constipated muttering on "Flyentology," but mostly he just screams "No!" as El-P invents a new religion.

"I'm a hip-hop producer," Meline says. "I sample. And now, I can just sample people. I get to bring them in and use them and twist them to my advantage. I just wanted to do it and not be a douchebag. But I didn't go out of my way to hide them. I could be accused of underusing — I did have someone tell me that they were shocked at how I squandered my resources. That's not what it was about. Whatever I hear I hear, period."

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