El-P 6/28 The Echo Los Angeles Review

By Farhaad Esfandiary

My last experience at a rap show was less than stellar. The unwarranted machismo in the air, the 8 hours of local MCs opening, and hypeman’s mics just a tad bit louder than they should have been caused me to miss every single rap show in Los Angeles over the last four years. I guess until very recently I’ve been ‘over’ rap as a whole, but thanks to Killer Mike, and El-P releasing epic albums in May, I was bitten by the rap bug once again. The itch that followed made me get off my ass and see the two perform at The Echoplex in Los Angeles, but I wondered if I could be bothered to see another rap show if I didn’t enjoy the L.A. stop of The Into the Wild Tour.

Those unfamiliar with The Echoplex should know its almost always a haven for some indie band, and its hipster following. On occasion there’s few metal bands that come through, but for the most part, the place is crammed with people that don’t even acknowledge you. On this particular night, however, there was an abundance of alpha males crowding the bar, and a fairly decent number of nerd-rap groupies running around, not giving anyone the time of day. The eye candy is always nice, but the bros mad-dogging you gets lame after a millisecond. Who brought that crowd there, anyway? El-P’s krylon carrying fanbase doesn’t seem like the type to, and Killer Mike’s agenda has never really been thuggery, but, smart, sociopolitical crunk gems. I guess rap as a whole might be to blame, no matter how far removed an artist’s content may be from the gangsta shit that was relevant back in the day.

I missed Despot, and Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire do to Los Angeles traffic, and a general lack of interest in seeing these two perform. There’s no telling what kind of local opener I missed, either, but I’m sure it was awful. I made it just in time to see Killer Mike take the stage to… kill… it? I couldn’t resist. Killer Mike’s set was interesting. He was ferocious, seeming as if at any second he’d jump off the stage and maim all of us, but in between songs, the gangsta dude shouting profanities at the crowd delivered some of his ideologies the way only a college educated person could. There was a rant about Ronald Reagan that sounded intelligent, up until the “Fuck Reagan” part that made the crowd (full of people who probably don’t know anything about Reagan) go crazy. It was just one of those “Yeah, fuck White people!” moments that we all love to cheer for. We got an earful of R.A.P. Music material, as well as some cuts from the Pledge.. albums as well. I just wish he had gone way back to the Monster era, and dropped fun cuts like “Akshon.” All in all, Killer Mike’s set was pretty dope. I just hope he felt well received by the L.A. crowd.

El-P came out to close the show. I have to admit my heart was racing a little bit. I had just seen one of my personal favorites perform, but now I was about to witness someone I idolize perform for the very first time. Too bad the excitement wore off as the set went on. I have to admit, El-P’s music seems much more enjoyable if celebrated in solitude. Every emotion I’ve ever felt whilst listening to his music at my desk, or in my car was absent. It was just a performance for me. That’s not to say it was bad, because it wasn’t. It was great. Rarely does a rapper match his voice, and cadence live as he or she does on record. But El-P sounded brilliant, and his performance had a great deal of energy. However, the intimacy was gone, and that was probably my favorite part of putting on Fantastic Damage, or I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. The experiences I had by putting those records on was almost life changing, but that night at The Echoplex, they were just songs for people to have a good time to. I know, I know. That’s basically what a show is. Music + you = party. Somehow, I forgot that and stood there with my arms folded, like an ass, wondering why I wasn’t up front rhyming word for word. Thankfully, though, I have sense enough to realize that the show isn’t about any one person in general, but the crowd. Everyone was going apeshit during cuts like “The Full Retard”, and “Tougher, Colder, Killer”, in which he was joined on stage by Despot, and Killer Mike.

All in all, I’d say the show was a success. The crowd was into it, and both Killer Mike, and El-P tore up the stage with their very different styles of rap. As for me, I wish I hadn’t brought a negative mindset into this. Overall, I had a good time, but I feel like this writeup suffered because I wasn’t “all in.” Next time I hit up a rap show, I’ll make sure to imbibe in some liquor so I can Harlem shake the whole night. Party.

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