In 2005 Warp records gave Prefuse 73 a substantial budget to make a high-art mixtape called Surrounded By Silence. It was an awkward, but necessary phase that also included DJ Shadow's The Outsider ('06), in which he tried his hand at collaborating with the hyphy movement. For many underground hip hop enthusiasts of the time, the El-P and Ghostface Killah collaboration on “Hideyaface” felt like the rumblings of a new era, in which our celebrated heroes of the 90s would intertwine with the progressive masterminds of now to bridge the gap the millenium shift had caused. It was a ruse, as our technological advances allowed the parties to never meet, but rather email verses to be mixed and matched into the sequence. Ghostface continued to revisit the Supreme Clientele formula with less capable producers and El-P sought the rabbit hole of fusing emo/scenester aesthetic with dystopian future rap alongside Cage. Everybody lost.
Who'd of thought a Cartoon company, trying its hand at the music industry would be the glue to fuse the mainstream with the independent scene once again? As we inch closer to the release date of El-P and Killer Mike's collaborative album R.A.P. Music (it's still mind-blowing to write that), I cannot help but scratch my chin at the sight of Williams Street Records in place of Definitive Jux or Columbia. But, Adult Swim is truly not the issue here, since all that matters is that someone had some goddamn vision and let it happen organically.
Based on the two singles released thus far, “Big Beast” and “Don't Die”, this is the bridge we once envisioned. A mainstream artist meandering in the muck of the industry links up with a producer for hire that's without a label or roster for the first time in a decade. It's some story book shit that's been lingering in the realm of possibility for over five years and come mid-May that celebration of gap officially bridged might be real this go-round.
Killer Mike & El-P's R.A.P. Music is out May 15 on Williams Street Records. Preorder here.