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The clattering “Drones Over BKLYN” is the first taste of the third album from NYC hip-hop iconoclast El-P. It’s a tangled jigsaw of old-school signifiers future-shocked into a violent pointillism, where Kool G Rap pianos and Rubin-style guitar stabs wage war with spasmodic Just Blaze double-drummer anarchy. And that’s just until the track collapses under its own weight and emerges with a gorgeous acid-rock coda, swirling organs and spiraling guitars making delicious cosmic slop. El says this maddening, multi-layered blusterfuck matches the energy of his upcoming record, tentatively titled Cancer For Cure (Fat Possum). This fall, you can catch him reuniting with the mighty Company Flow at this years All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Asbury Park, N.J., at the behest of curators and superfans Portishead.
What is this song about?
Fuck if I know, man. It’s just sort of a fever dream, you know? It’s supposed to be relatively psychedelic—at least the idea of the chorus. I was just laying on my roof and looking up and I had a small moment. I was looking at planes going over the sky over me and I just thought that at some point in my life I’ll probably be seeing drones… I’m trying to subversively squeeze in actual fuckin’ thought and subject matter but I can’t help but grab my dick and talk shit at the same time. So it just ends up being this fucked up thing where people have to come to me and ask me what it’s about.
The beatwork has kind of a Kool G Rap, “Road To The Riches” vibe…
Well, that’s because of the piano. Everybody caught that. I played that piano and I definitely aped that. That was in my head. I was kind of shocked at how many people immediately caught it. I always assume I’m the only one who remembers anything anymore apparently. It’s all live. There’s no samples or anything. I was just fucking around in the studio with my boy Little Shalimar [of Chin Chin] and had him play some drums, took a section and chopped it up. I thought it would be interesting to do just a shit-ton of over-the-top fills, and then throw some classic 808s and 909s under it. It just kind of happened. I’m definitely doing a lot of my record at Little Shalimar’s studio in DUMBO. That’s definitely sort of home base for any live recording.
How did you come up with this “Maggot Brain” coda?
[Laughs] I have that little thing in there—”Don’t do it”—because that’s exactly what I was thinking to myself the whole time. I’m such an asshole for doing this. God, I’m a fucking dick. The nerve that I have of not dropping a song for four years and then coming out with this thing, and just having it be five minutes long with this epic “Maggot Brain”-style thing at the end. I thing I’ve just lost my filter for what’s appropriate in music, y’know? I just do shit and hope it’s not the worst possible thing you ever heard.
Your cadence has sped up a little bit since I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead.
It’s been a while since I just wanted to shit on people. Not even specific people. I’m just feeling a little bit of that bounce and swagger again in terms of being a rapper. I kind of want people to remember that they can’t fuck with me.
You’re playing Portishead’s ATP in October. What was your favorite thing about reuniting Company Flow for their London ATP?
You know, the last tour that Company Flow did was in Europe in maybe early ’98. We broke up the day that we left for tour. So we broke up, got on a plane and went to Europe for six weeks in the dead of winter. If you’ve ever spent a few weeks in Germany in the dead of winter, you know what darkness is. We had a miserable time and performing was like pulling teeth. We hated each other. And my favorite thing about this is that we don’t hate each other. We were laughing and having fun. It was how it was supposed to be. That’s how it always should have been. We fucked ourselves out of that feeling.