El-P Announces Solo-Album Reissue Series

Daniel Medhurst

El-P Announces Solo-Album Reissue Series

Daniel Medhurst

In recent years, skronk-rap mastermind El-P has been plenty busy with Run The Jewels. And by now, his late-’90s work with his Company Flow crew are an established part of the indie-rap canon. But for a long time, we haven’t been able to hear El-P’s ’00s work unless we dug out our dusty old CDs.

In the last decade, El-P was probably the most important person in American indie-rap. He was the man behind the Definitive Jux label, which was a huge deal. Their whole sound, built from El-P’s own discordant sci-fi lurches, was massively influential, but that wasn’t the whole of it. They also had beautifully designed CD booklets, and they all hit the road together in package tours. When they came to your town, it felt like an event.

During this period, El-P released two pretty amazing solo albums, 2002’s Fantastic Damage and 2007’s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. But Definitive Jux went inactive in 2010, and both albums have been out of print for years. Today, though, El has announced a series of reissues; he’ll put out his old solo music again through Fat Possum. And today, for the first time ever, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is streaming.

I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead wasn’t the howling personal statement that Fantastic Damage had been, but it’s a huge, overwhelming album that sounds like absolutely nobody else. The album includes collaborations with Def Jux labelmates like Aesop Rock and Cage, but it also features people from outside El’s usual circle, including Trent Reznor, Cat Power, and At The Drive-In/Mars Volta co-leaders Omar Rodríguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Stream the whole thing below.

In a statement, El-P says:

this record means a lot to me. really, it’s a collection of short stories written from multiple perspectives… different characters living in the same confused, askew city of “Poisenville.” no one is right in these stories and no one has the moral high ground but everyone is trying to keep themselves from suffocating under the weight of their own reality and faults. a guy on a train asks a question he doesn’t really want answered… a concentration camp guard flirts with morality and ultimately chooses obedience… an older, pessimistic man thinks he’s doing the right thing by ending his relationship with a younger, optimistic woman but cant help but self aggrandize…a young man responds angrily to a draft letter… a lost soul is trying to find connections in a party scene only to realize he’s more alone than ever… an atheist makes an emergency plea to god on a plane that he knows he hasn’t earned… a man sits on a brooklyn stoop at dawn fully realizing his own bullshit self justifications and rejects them… it’s littered with darkness and doubt but ultimately it’s about redemption. it’s about the decision not to succumb to the darkest ideas we have about what we are. i’ll sleep when you’re dead began as what i imagined the city of “Poisenville” was saying to its inhabitants as a retort to being called a “city that never sleeps,” but it ends with the discovery of something bigger than the maze of inner turmoil these characters feel: a resolve to fight for life, even if it’s someone else’s.

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