On the heels of Skyscraper’s relaunch, we’ll be reviewing a number of records from mid-to-late 2010 that we missed out on covering during our semi-hiatus. Sort of a “what we missed” series of reviews, emphasizing both some of the best releases of 2010 and some of the year’s most interesting but overlooked records. This is one of those.
In hip-hop music or anything hip-hop related, it’s almost expected for something to be grandiose and bigger than life. To be honest, that’s how the music used to feel. Maybe saying “used to” is an indication of not just my appreciation for the old school, but also my age.
When something’s titled Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3, though, potential listeners focus on a few things. One, the title completely misses the seven syllable rule, a rule suggesting titles be seven syllables or less in order for it to be accessible and easy to say on the radio. Two, apparently we are all going to burn in hell. That alone summons fear from people who will see those words and go, “Nope, I will not touch this. There’s too much Illuminati talk in hip-hop, and this will not suit me in the after world.” Fair enough. Three, the word “megamixx.” The word, real or imagined, doesn’t represent the music on this album or how it’s mixed or presented. If anything, Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 is an offering that sounds as futuristic as anything El-P has ever done, but remains rooted in not only hip-hop’s past but also the history of influences making early hip-hop records great.
This 15 track, all-instrumental album consists of brand new material plus a small handful of songs El-P fans will recognize. In this context, one can consider the effort a completely new album. El-P, who’s known equally for his effective lyrics and flow as much as his own abrasive productions, offers listeners a chance, once again, to enter his own world, with its stories and adventures of his musical mind. One might say, “15 tracks? All instrumental? So he just released an album of break beats for other rappers and producers to rhyme over and sample ?” Yes and no. I would actually rank this album alongside RJD2’s Deadringer (Def Jux, 2002), Nobody’s Soulmates (Nippon Crown, 2001), and DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing (Mo Wax, 2006) as a hip-hop instrumental albums done right.
Consider this disc a producer’s workshop of sorts, although those who aren’t engaged with the inner makings of music production don’t have to listen to it in a studious manner. Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 is a very cinematic set of songs, in that these works are audio movies. For me, it sounds very much like New York circa 1974, going back to when Manhattan looked like a pretzel-loving porn mecca and not a Disney mall, where failed hopes and dreams mingled with forced images of what success is meant to be. It sounds like the smell of piss in a dank subway station. Music being capable of summoning that kind of vivid imagery is pretty amazing.
But again, it’s cinematic and it’s those kind of head games that help make this album much more than just a simple collection of cool break beats. These songs are properly structured compositions sounding like obscure library music that producers and record collectors mine, because those samples were created for the sole purpose of being cinematic. There’s a recent documentary about sample-based production, and in it El-P says something to the effect of, “If you can detect what I’m doing, then I’m not doing my job.” He’s not a producer just throwing in samples and sounds to add another layer to his work. There’s an incredible amount of thought going into what he puts together. There’re definitely recognizable sounds included here, but the way EL-P cleverly inserts them makes you want to go to New York, find him, and say, “Yes, I know what you did there. Props.”
Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 is not an everyday hip-hop album, even though its influences come from the same places that made the music what it is – hinting at Superfly, Bloodsucking Freaks, and Vanessa Del Rio. It’s the blemishes on Peabo Bryson’s shiny forehead. It’s misery’s blues. To sum it up, it’s what hip-hop was, is, and always will be. It may be experimental in nature for those who are used to fitness instructor hip-hop, but the adventure lies in trying to figure out what El-P is trying to say over the course of a wordless album. You can now walk through the entrance, but watch out for the piss soaked bum in front.