Low End Theory Brings Youthful Rebellion Full Circle

Last time El-P graced the Low End stage, via West Coast Sound

Everyone has that rebellious phase. Some last longer than others and they all manifest themselves in drastically different forms. No point in getting into all the musical genres rebellion manifests itself in as different people indulge differently, but whether it’s bumping K in some dark basement or running off from your family in a grungy van, the results are generally the same. My rebellious stage started around Freshman year of high school. After several years of listening to mainstream hip hop (Chicken & Beer was a personal fave), I decided I wanted more from my musical preferences. I don’t know whether it was my late introduction into skate culture, or the move from a quirky residential neighborhood to one of Seattle’s “cool” neighborhoods, but I began digging in used CD crates and scouring hip hop forums, resulting in the find of my life, Cannibal Ox’s seminal The Cold Vein.

The album warped my mind years before Warp ever had a chance. Granted, I didn’t understand the context of the majority of the lyrics, but El-P’s dark production was the driving force behind my newfound obsession. Being a pubescent teenager with trouble talking to girls and parent issues didn’t differentiate me much from the masses, but Vast Aire and Vordul Mega sure made it feel that way. As much as I love yelling “kill people, burn shit, fuck school” at the top of my lungs, OF can’t hold a torch to the tortured souls of the Def Jux back catalogue. Soon enough, Mr. Lif, Camu Tao (R.I.P.) and Aesop Rock became the guiding beacons in my life and RJD2’s Deadringer became my holy book. Eventually, I moved onto labels like Stones Throw, anticon and Delicious Vinyl, but my first love was, and always will be, Def Jux.

With that in mind, let’s bring it back to the present day. With promises of a “very special guest” from Gaslamp Killer and Daddy Kev, knowing full well that it would most likely be a Coachella holdover, as well as a scheduled performance from The Grouch and Eligh, the decision to trek to Lincoln Heights for Low End Theory last night was an easy one. After stellar opening sets from every resident (including a fair share of our man Baauer), and a sub-par half hour via Taurus Scott, Grouch and Eligh took the stage and ripped through tracks from No More Greener Grasses and Say G&E!. I should have seen it coming, knowing that Company Flow was/will be at Coachella, but halfway through the set (which also included an appearance from Luckyiam), someone shouted out that El-P was in the building.

Memories of high school quickly flashed across my mind, mostly bad, but some good, and soon enough, El Producto took the stage. He was only up there for 15 minutes, but that was plenty for me. If I could tell my 15 year old self I would witness El-P perform five feet from my face to a crowd of less than 100 people, I wouldn’t have believed it. The man hasn’t lost an ounce of charisma over the years. With the R.A.P. Music album with Killer Mike dropping May 15 and Producto’s newest solo venture, Cancer For Cure, set for a May 22 release date, it’s more than apparent he hasn’t lost the blue collar attitude that made Company Flow so great. Sure, Def Jux might be dead, but there is no doubt in mind that some 15 year old downloaded “The Full Retard” last week and is already digging into some Cool Calm Pete or Yakballz.

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