EL-P: Fandam Plus: Instrumentals, Remixes, Lyrics & Video

Scott Hreha


Fandam Plus: Instrumentals, Remixes, Lyrics & Video

Label: Definitive Jux
US Release Date: 2002-10-01
UK Release Date: 2002-10-21

El-P's Definitive Jux label has made some serious headway over the past year, gaining enough momentum to inflate it from fledgling dream to full-blown phenomenon. After a strong run at the end of its first calendar year with the Cannibal Ox and Aesop Rock records, 2002 saw Def Jux drop Bush-worthy bombs in the form of RJD2's Dead Ringer and Mr. Lif's I Phantom. Yet the heaviest waves were reserved for the impresario himself, as El-P unleashed his first post-Company Flow work upon the hip-hop world with the jawdropping beauty that was Fantastic Damage. Picking up exactly where he had left off with that groundbreaking trio's demise, Fantastic Damage showcased both E-L-dash's incomparable production talent (particularly for anyone who slept on Can Ox's The Cold Vein) and his considerable skills as an MC. Of course, Co-Flow fans already knew and revered his gifts behind the boards and the mic, but the hype accumulated by the label's growing reputation as the Motown of indie hip-hop only increased the record's promise for impact.

These days, instrumental hip-hop albums are generally suspect. It seems like everybody and his cousin has put one out after The Instrumentalyst -- the only problem being that not every extended family member is Dan The Automator. At best, they do offer some exposure for potentially overlooked DJ's or producers; at worst, they give someone the chance for some private (or public) fun, karaoke-style. But let us not forget that El-P released an instrumental hip-hop album (Little Johnny From the Hospitul) with Company Flow that wasn't just a "vocals surgically removed" version of the already hit record, but rather a fully conceived collection of instrumental tracks created by El-P and Mr. Len specifically for that project. In other words, the man has a little more cred than DJ Average or some other producer trying to milk his record for another dollar or two, and furthermore, it made perfect sense for him to release an instrumental version of the Cannibal Ox record, especially considering that Vast Aire and Vordul are an admittedly acquired taste as far as MC's go.

Which brings us to Fandam Plus, the instrumental companion to Fantastic Damage. While it's certainly no replacement for the original -- a record justifiably present on any 2002 top-ten list that matters -- it does offer some valuable insights into El-P's production that aren't readily apparent on the vocal version. Take "DeLorean" for example, where the absence of Ill Bill's knuckleheaded guest verse about getting his dick sucked in a strip club (by a cokehead, no less!) shows how truly amazing the bridge's breakbeat is without distraction. "Truancy" provides another test case, one in which the lack of El-P's stream-of-consciousness wordflow reveals the beat as an illegitimate offspring of the Beastie Boys' "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun". And then there's "Accidents Don't Happen", which in instrumental form serves an even clearer reminder that El-P was incorporating Middle Eastern vibes into hip-hop (see Company Flow's "The Fire in Which You Burn" from Funcrusher Plus) long before Missy Elliott and Timbaland made it fashionable.

Of course, just as Newton's Law prescribes, for every bit of brilliance found on Fandam Plus there's an equal and opposite reaction. "Deep Space 9mm", one of the original record's many highlights, sounds haphazard and clunky without El-P's meticulous verse to hold it all together. Similarly, both the title cut and "TOJ" come off rather flat without the vocals that set up each track's powerful dynamic shifts. But of all the instrumental mixes, "Dr. Hellno vs. the Praying Mantis" probably disappoints the most -- it's still a mighty fine slice of robofunk, but gets awfully monotonous without El-P's hallucinatory sexcapade narrative.

As an added bonus, the second disc of Fandam Plus includes several appetite-whetting rarities that will most likely be the major selling point for Def Jukies. Of the remixed audio tracks, RJD2's deconstruction of "Lazerface's Warning" satisfies most deeply, particularly for turntable-deficient fans that missed out on the 12-inch where it originally appeared. RJD2 gives the cut a little more traditional hip-hop flavor, courtesy of a tastefully scratched intro, tightened-up beat and supremely hip vocal sample that he weaves into the very fabric of the mix. Throw in a CD-ROM component with complete lyrics to the original album (to further fuel those karaoke dreams, even though you can't actually print out the damn things), the "hip-hop Taxi Driver" video for "Deep Space 9mm", and some live performance footage (including a version of the rare Company Flow classic "Patriotism", which no one in their left or right mind should go without hearing) and you've got the makings of a real collectors' package.

Unfortunately, what relegates Fandam Plus to the status of mere curiosity piece is that it really is just a "vocals surgically removed" version of Fantastic Damage. After serving up a record like that, our man El-Producto doesn't really need to prove his skills (surgical or otherwise), but if he had made the effort to remix some elements of the backing tracks or switch up the running order, he might've achieved something closer to a kidney transplant than a tonsillectomy.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.