Last year I did a round-up of some of my favourite insults from jewel runner and indie rap pioneer, El-P. Not content with ending it there, I have now tackled the larger and perhaps more rewarding task of selecting my favourite guest verses that he’s blessed us with over the last two decades or so. Before I started actually writing this, I had a pretty good idea in my head of how this Top 5 would end up looking, but it’s not until you start researching this sort of thing that you realise just how many tracks El-P has guested on across his career. So here we go with MY five favourite guest verses from the man himself (capitals on the ‘MY’, don’t @ me!).
1. The Last Huzzah (Remix): Mr Muthafuckin eXquire brought in a whole cavalcade of talent for the remix of his Necro-produced Last Huzzah track, lifted from his Lost in Translation project. El-P joined the likes of Despot, Danny Brown and Himansu (as well as a heavily armed yet silent pre-RTJ Killer Mike) on Huzzah, with each rapper dropping a great verse, but they left it to El to steal the show with the song’s final instalment. He delivers his 16, while working in a reference to the number of each bar throughout the verse – “Tend (10) to mop up these muttering zombies talker pieces/El’ll vent (11) on you harder than Fukushima breezes”.
2. Butane (Champion’s Anthem): One of my favourite tracks from an album full of high points, and also the starting point for Run The Jewels. El-P produced the entirety of Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music album back in 2012, an album which paved the way for the partnership that followed. It also gave us Butane – a track that also made its way into my previous piece about El-P’s insults, thanks to the opening line – “Yo, I’m a Grinch with a grin, I will shit on your kids/Get a life, get a grip, get a hold on my dick, bitch, make a wish”. The verse carries on with a fine mix of bravado and doubt, something El is very good at, ending with the line – “Getting closer now, maybe our society’s supposed to drown/Middle fingers up on the Titanic as it’s going down”.
3. Rickety Rackety: I’m going to cheat a bit here because this is more like a few short bursts, as opposed to a whole verse, but it remains one of my favourite appearances from El. I think it’s a favourite in part due to fact that it features him alongside two of his fellow Weathermen, including the late, great Camu Tao who always seemed to bring out the best in El-P, whenever they appeared on a track together. This particular line always stuck in my head the most – “I’m irrational, paranoid, tragic and the button on my chest says ‘panic’/Punch it, hold up, don’t touch me. I’m a savage from a rabid ass country”. It’s one of two appearances in this list taken from an Aesop Rock song too, but for some reason this EP doesn’t seem to get as much shine as Aesop’s other releases, despite it being an almost faultless project.
4. Homecoming: The final and hidden track on Atmosphere’s Lucy Ford release was a very El-P affair. Not only does he deliver a killer verse on Homecoming, he also lends his production skills to the proceedings which always made me wonder if it was still technically an Atmosphere track… Regardless, El’s verse is a trip down memory lane as he recounts tales from his Brooklyn childhood, in a style which only he could ever really conjure up, as we hear from the get-go – “Sometime in NY, perhaps in the Decepticon era…”, then closing with, “Yo this kid Ivan made the trek from Rhode Island/From plastic cup of cold duck and a relaxed social environment/He jetted from his section when the meat heads started wilin’/His aesthetic wasn’t their style, so they used bats to re-design it”. Tough, in every sense.
5. We’re Famous: Never mind favourite El-P verses, this monster is up there with my favourite verses of all time from anyone. The track is taken from Aesop Rock’s Bazooka Tooth and it’s another memory lane trip of sorts for El-P, as he breaks down his rap career from 1996, back when he helped kick off the underground NY rap movement with Company Flow’s 8 Steps to Perfection. The verse turns into a four minute extravaganza, with that familiar bravado scattered throughout, including gems like – “Since they had no identity from the start, they started to resent the scene when they couldn’t become a part/They’ve been failing for years and call themselves Vets, that’s bold. Motherfucker, you’re not a Vet you’re just old”, and “That’s why I always get respect from true soldiers. While half of the critics claim it every year, ‘Hip hop’s over’/FUCK YOU, hip hop just started. It’s funny how the most nostalgic cats are the ones who were never part of it”. The verse is so long and so full of quotables, that I think I actually thought it was Aesop Rock who had earned a feature on one of El’s tracks, before I clocked that it was a part of Bazooka Tooth.