EL-P has spent his entire career drawing a huge line between him and every other hip-hop producer in the world. His abrasive, blown-out approach to production and his management of the Definitive Jux label made him one of the shining lights of the hip-hop scene in the early to mid-2000s, and every album he had a huge part in acted as another meteor, opening the crater of his influence even further. Throughout nearly everything Jamie Meline has touched, there exist constant streams of discontent and dread, delivered as if a sinister grin is affixed to his face the entire time. The Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 is another worthy entry to his dystopian canon, yet it seems to be the most eager to cooperate with other genres, making it one of his most accessible instrumental releases to date.
Upon first listen, all of El-P’s hallmarks are present: the squiggly synths, the exploded-speaker drum parts and the open-armed embraces of odd sound effects. But El-P has absorbed a few new tricks over the years. A squelchy dubstep bass tone reigns over a chunk of the album’s middle, and the coats of slick industrial darkness that adorn a few tracks seem like a nod to his work with Trent Reznor.
Perhaps it’s the fact that Megamixxx3 is the first in the series to be actually sold in stores, as opposed to just El-P’s merch table, that led to its more streamlined nature. Despite his restraint, he never stays on one concept for too long — don’t go into this expecting him to ride the same groove for multiple tracks. This is very apparent in the aptly titled “Meanstreak (In 3 Parts),” which switches from the unreleased theme song to a malevolent alien invasion to old school hip-hop bombast, complete with G-funk bass parts and a barrage of hand claps in the time span of a breath. Elsewhere, on “Contagious Snippet,” live drums back up a vocodered voice before the whole thing dissolves into a tightly wound psych meltdown. Head-turning moments like these come fast and often throughout the mix’s tight 45-minute time span.
The first two entries in his Megamixxx series flirted with crossover appeal, the first with its classic rock tinges and the second with its thematic commitment to a brand of bloodshot bleakness, but Megamixxx3 seems to make a concerted effort to throw one leg over the fence separating hip-hop and electronic music and firmly plant a foot on each side. In press material for Megamixxx3, El-P claimed that it’s the first one of the series that he envisioned as a proper album with a full arc to it. At the same time, he has said that the late J Dilla’s Donuts was a key influence on this mix, citing its touch-and-go nature as a major reference point. That makes for an interesting paradox, and perhaps a self-issued challenge: How does one create a coherent album while still cramming as many ideas in as humanly possible? In that respect, Megamixxx3 kind of misses the mark, but as usual, El-P manages to make a great deal memorable noise along the way. It’s the kind of release that will keep longtime fans happy, and acts as a welcoming primer to new ears, inviting them to join El-P on his side of the line before exposing them to his harsher, more eye-opening material.