Ok YouTube algorithm. I really – and I mean REALLY – didn’t want to watch a video with “white rappers in hip-hop” in the title.
But then I noticed it was Talib Kweli and Murs talking, and that said “white rapper” in question was El-P.
Murs calls El, “My Chuck D.” Kweli says El laid the blueprint for the way he approached the industry. These are facts, and I still feel like a lot of people don’t know this ½ of RTJ.
I still remember getting Company Flow’s (El-P’s group in the 90s) Funcrusher Plus at the local record store after reading a review.
The mid-90s were all about Biggie and rap’s commercialization. I was in high school, listening to a lot of punk and blues, and wanting to know where “the real stuff” was happening. If I missed the 70s CBGBs scene, and the 80s park jams, where was the non-alternative rock 90s indie movement that others would be all “I wish I was there!” in another decade?
Oh by the way, this probably explains a lot of my mentality to this day, and I’m trying to reconnect with that same excited energy all of the time (just with less teenage anxiety).
I am positive I was late to Funcrusher by at least a year or 3, but I still remember getting it, pulling the shrink rap off, popping the CD out of the tray and freezing before I dropped it in my stereo.
The picture behind the CD tray was Co Flow, giving the finger, with “Independent as f***” printed next to them.
It wasn’t the “just google it” era yet, and through magazines and other things I could find, I learned about Rawkus Records. I learned more about this underground scene that was breaking all sorts of boundaries. I started would me become a multi-decade fascination with El-P’s work.
My supersonics leave you mute like Maggie Simpson.
Man. I can still see that picture and hear the first track like it’s the first time in my brain. “Oh, I found it.” This was the wave I was looking to ride on.
Maybe it doesn’t hold up or make so much sense now. But at the time, it had to be like a bedroom version of hearing the Sex Pistols at “the gig that changed the world.”
That brings it back to Kweli and Murs talking about him.
When they say he’s legendary, it’s because he really was bigger than life in that moment. It wasn’t about El as a white rapper. It was about El as I guy who was making things happen, and how if you got pulled into his orbit, things started happening for you too.
If this era is at all familiar to you too, you’ll want to check out the video too. There’s so many funny little relatable bits too.
On that note, who wants to go Denny’s?
Ps. I have plenty of El-p and RTJ notes here if you’re interested in more.