EL-P in Columbus Recap


Photo by Johnny Cashola

Later this week, I intend on giving a brief history of the late 90’s Hip Hop indie rap boom, EL-P’s place in it, and how all of those things relate to Columbus Hip Hop (ie RJD2, Blueprint, Camu Tao etc) in a really simplified manner.

With that said, EL-P aka Jamie Meline appearing in Columbus last Saturday was way over due. Early that afternoon, EL did an instore at Mags. It rained heavily so the turn-out wasn’t amazing. As the Hip Hop buyer at Magnolia, it is always embarrassing when an instore doesn’t work out. You always feel like you are gonna bruise the artists ego. He took it in stride. I had interviewed EL for the Alive, so his opinion that artists need to connect with fans and all people in between out of shear fact that people like music was in practice.

Watching a notoriously cynical New Yorker sincerely be nice to people once again proved to me the EL-P really gets it. The juxtiposition of nihilism that anyone living in this world should possess and a respect of the fact that anyone gives a fuck about his music was something that other malcontents could learn from.

Like… Photo-op’s are retarded, wanting someone’s autograph is silly, the whole fishbowl process of an instore is awkward. But he would take the photos and sign the cd’s. He would talk to anyone that had anything to say. This might sound basic, but a lot of artists don’t get this.

I have had notable indie rappers in the store that treated their fans like idiot followers which caused people to stop buying the artists records.

You don’t have to pander. No need to be a prick.
Just as you aren’t a moron, your fans aren’t either.


Well maybe I am a moron sometimes. But usually I don’t smile for the camera either.
Photo by Danielle Kline

The show had three openers: Slow Suicide Stimulus, Yak Balls, and Hangar 18. I missed SSS, caught part of Yak Bidalls, and all of Hangar.

Hangar 18 has been coming to Columbus and Scribble Jam since like 1999, so they get a lot of love from the local scene. Doods are really silly, and just enjoy making music. This translated on stage. Lots of energy. They ended there performance by rapping over “Welcome to the Jungle”.

Next Up was EL-P


Photo By Johnny Cashola

El had two projection screens, blue lighting that created silhouettes, and a smoke machine that set-up a familiar, lonely futuristic environment. EL-P’s touring dejay, Mr. Dibbs came out first and let “Mad World” from the Donnie Darko soundtrack play. Normally, I would think this is lightweight corny, but it fit the mood.

A feeling of some distant force destroying you, while already existing in an alienated state.

It works.

El and hits hypeman rushed the staged and performed, “TPC” which the the hook is “This is the Sound of What You Don’t Know Killing You.”. It’s chanted over a reconstruction of music Mr. Meline had Mars Volta play for him. The song is about how people have accepted all the terrible things in the world without even questioning or resisting it anymore. It’s the first song off of the new album “I Will Sleep When You Are Dead”.

This album, like much of EL-P’s work, combines a fatalistic relationship with death, a biting and sardonic social commentary about day to day life, a strong hatred for the war in Iraq, plenty admissions of personal corruptions mixed with the idea that he is on some Hip Hop shit and he is a grown ass man that will handle his..

EL was dressed as a totured prisoner at Guantanamo Bay as seen in his video for “Smithereens”.

Photo by Johnny Cashola

The bulk of the show was songs off the new album. El did perform Deep Space 9mm from his first solo album 2002’s Fantastic Damage and he rocked over the beat from Company Flow’s Vital Nerve and did the hook from the song,

The crowd didn’t seem to mind. They were going apeshit and singing every word. El noted that it took ten years for him to get to Columbus, and he was happy he finally did. The night before in Cleveland only 100 people had came out so he wasn’t taken the packed, eager room for granted.

He gave some interesting banter about cocaine usage before “League of Extraordinary Nobodies”. He mocked how coked out people talk to each other.

At the end of the night, El ended up doing like 4 encores, and eventually had to stop even though the crowd kept chanting his name.

It was nice to see that an icon go full throttle in fan relationship, performance, and concept. EL-P’s commitment to art, resistance, humor, hostility, and self-preservation resonated completely.

Smithereens Video That El’s Stage Show Was Patterened After

(El-P song Smithereens not the band)

  • toby x

    that photo is really really funny.

    also, don’t sleep on writing that indie rap post. it sounds interesting.

  • weswes

    thanks for reading it.

    i gotta put up waitain photos and this blog about me and a panel i did with kweli before i get to the indie rap thing though.

  • Dopeness, Wes.