El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead


Back in the late 1990’s, El-P was producer in chief for a trio called Company Flow, a critically acclaimed underground hip-hop group. In 2001, he founded the Definitive Jux label which continued to release his works. Plenty of collaborations and side projects meant that there’s been a five year wait between the release of his 2002 debut album, Fantastic Damage, and this year’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (I fuckin’ love that title).

The thing that will grab you straight off the bat, is how oppressive everything sounds: this is dark, dark stuff. Straight off the bat, “Tasmanian Pain Coaster”, has an uneasy atmosphere and a doom laden piano break. That’s even before Cedric and Omar from the Mars Volta kick in with some great vocals and guitar work. It’s urgent and is a perfect intro to the album. The rumbling beats of “Up All Night” and the cowbell-tastic “EMG”.

Considering El-P is best known as a producer, he’s a pretty damm fine rapper and lyricist. The album dips in between the political, (“el you’re too preachy/you don’t reach me/right and wrong’s hard/you say easy?”) and the personal. Maybe the best track is the almost-stream- of-consciousness “Dear Sirs”, the shortest track on the album. An enraged, open letter to the powers that be, El-P spits out the lyrics with barely contained fury (“and the desert comes to Brooklyn/and the president goes to school!”)

El-P talks about his new album:


  1. Hi Ali, random question – any thoughts on the new Bjork album Volta? Or on Bjork generally. I just downloaded the album and I was thinking to myself that Bjork is one of the few artists whose music I’d by purely on the strength of her name, without listening to a single second……
    Good luck with the wedding day!

  2. Yeah, I realised I went CD shopping and didn’t pick up her album. Don’t know what I was thinking. Homogenic was my favourite album that she’s done, but I’ll probably pick up Volta in the next few weeks. When I do, you’ll read about it here.

  1. 1 My favourite albums of the year: EL-P - I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead « A Heart Full of Hornets

    […] December 29, 2007 in Me EL-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead: “The thing that will grab you straight off the bat, is how oppressive everything sounds: this is dark…“ […]

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