Headphones are strongly recommended to fully enjoy this album
With ‘I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead’ El-P proves once again he is at the forefront of experimental hip hop production. Aided with guest verses by many of his Def Jux colleagues… And others (like the famous Trent Reznor appearance) El-P delivers an album that is at least on the same level as Fantastic Damage, if not better.
Many of the albums released from the Def Jux label are very dense lyrically and difficult to pierce on the first listen, this album is no exception… But, like most Def Jux albums, after a few listens the album and with a bit of thinking, you should find yourself immersed in it.
The first major draw of this album is obviously it’s top tier production, El-P has really earned his title as one of the best producers out there. The production on ‘I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead’ is a bit more dense than his earlier work, with much more layering work… But what would El-P be if he wasn’t taking risks with his music and creating something new? Regardless, El-P’s take on production here comes off perfectly, winning him an easy ten out of ten for the production.
Though El-P’s production is the first and most obvious draw… He doesn’t disappoint when it comes to lyricism. While El-P’s lyricism might take a bit more work to fully appreciate, it is well worth the effort. Some might blast El-P’s newer work as softer, confusing a more mature approach for a weak one… Make no mistake, El-P is still just as angry and just as misanthropic as you might remember in his early work. In fact, it could be said this album is too bleak at times. No one expects good times and kittens from a Def Jux record, but the sheer wall of sarcastic insults and angry rants might come off as too much to some listeners. One more problem that I feel has plagued El-P all through his career, is his tendency to try to rap against a beat at times; it can become a bit distracting if you’re trying to follow his lyrics.
All in all I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is a great album, the few flaws are overshadowed by the amazing production and how downright interesting the album is. Be it the experimental production layered over the track Tasmanian Pain Coaster, or the tragic love story El-P and Cage share with the listener on ‘Habeas Corpses’ and it’s amazing use of negative space. If you’re like me, you might have grown tired of the same thing over and over again in hip hop… Well, this is far from the same old, same old, and that’s its biggest strength as an album.
Best Tracks: Tasmanian Pain Coaster, Habeas Corpses, League of Extraordinary Nobodies