Mainstream Hip-hop is plagued with conspiracy theories. If you haven’t heard and need to be filled in, head to your local hood barber shop, ask for a fade, and casually bring up a Jay-Z video you checked out online. If you’re like me, you’ll throw a little fuel on the fire: “I’m not convinced. Are there other examples? Can I watch a YouTube video or buy a bootleg DVD that will further explain the connection between our founding fathers and the Jigga man?” Good luck not being convinced.
What is missing from these theories, other than any clear authoritative voice or a connection between the many unsubstantiated claims, is a compelling reason to give a shit. So Kanye worships the devil and sacrificed his mother to join the Illuminati? Big deal! My iPod isn’t a mega church and I’m not some born again.
Can I get a courtesy flush with all this knowledge [shit] you’re dropping?
He dedicates this album to Camu who died of cancer in 2008. It is difficult not to make a connection between the death of his friend and the album’s title. It points to a dark theme- an overwhelming destruction of life- maybe; a wrench in the machine for better and for worse. El wrote the following in his blog on September 24, 2009:
“thinking about a friend i lost not long ago. people ask me if I’m going to write a song about it. i wonder if I’m ever gonna write a song again that’s not about that in some way. these types of things don’t compartmentalize. They just become you.”
Cancer 4 Cure brings the conspiracy theory and the dystopia that is quickly being implemented. He presents the world from the perspective of a paranoid skeptic and/or cynic. The final line of the track “True Story” demonstrates El’s ability to both entertain and seriously distrust the powers that be in his lyrics: “Don’t let em Henson me- enter me and control how I twitch. They say the holiest shit until flames around them get lit, then Costanza the crowd of children: kick a baby to live.” Who else could make a reference to Seinfeld so relevant? There is also positivity throughout the album. The worthwhile portions of life are the small protests: refusing to cooperate with authority by rebelling through art, freshness, love, lust, sex, style, drugs, nostalgia, etc. George Orwell would be proud.
Production from El-P is always on point. Each track seamlessly connects to the next. I can’t honestly provide a thought provoking analysis of the beats; for me, music has always buried its nose in the road map while lyrics gripped the wheel. Lyrically, there is the super duty tough shit that El-P never fails to deliver. He has dubbed himself the “’Holy fuck, what did he just utter?’ marksman.” That is, each line is designed for you to rewind it; to not understand it until you see the film he saw, read the book he read, become privy to the meme, or just get your head out of your ass and listen. Gamers call it “replay value.”
A song by song breakdown would be tedious and El has already provided one via his blog. I can’t improve upon the artist’s own words. What I can do is attempt to convince you that there is something here worth checking out. Though it isn’t his best work (4/5 whatever the fucks), it murders your “Top eight at 8.” Say you hate rap. Hate it. Much of it is awful. If this is your opinion, I urge you to seek out the serious writers. Find the emcees that can turn a phrase. Find the ones with something to say. Learn the language. Skip the trip to the beach on a star ship, skip the strip club, leave Jay-Z to tend his pile of money, leave Rick Ross to his imaginary coke sells, just plain fuck Drake and Lil’ Wayne. Instead, pick up El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure and pump that shit.