Over a decade ago El-P released his first solo album and today he still goes strong with “Run the Jewels”

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For any Hip Hop head that found themselves as fans of the most complex lyricists in the game, El-P usually comes as no stranger, if not one of the top names you come across. His entire group of emcees under his very own label Definitive Jux set their own paradigm for rapping skill that few, if any, have yet to mimic in the underground world.

Originally a member of Company Flow with fellow Def Jux artists Mr. Len and Bigg Jus, El-P released his first solo album, Fantastic Damage, on May 14, 2002 to heralding reviews. Never one to disappoint critics, El-P was regarded by several major media outlets as a godsend to the indie scene just as much as Company Flow was with their first release in 1997. Pitchfork called Fantastic Damage an “unrelenting, end-to-end burner that not only heralds the resurrection of El-P, but also provides a milestone for post-millennial underground Hip Hop.”


The album features the Definitive Jux signature styling of blending just a dabble of sampling with instrumentation that was found in few other hip hop releases at the time; distorted guitars, synth-patched leads, and quirky noise patterns – all mixed together just perfect enough to still provide a raw sound that did not come off to the ear as overproduced.  All the while, El-P weaves his lyrical tapestry over top, mostly concerning his notable political themes he became known for with Company Flow, along with fellow DefJux guests like that of Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif.

Pitchfork would later recognize the album as one of the top 50 for 2002 and Rhapsody ranked the album at number 8 on its list of “Best Hip-Hop Albums of the Decade”. The tracks “Fantastic Damage”, “Deep Space 9mm”, and “The Nang, the Front, the Bush and the Shit” were featured in the El-P-scored graffiti film Bomb the System, also released in 2002.


-Curt Cramer (@CurtisRemarc)