El-P has had a loyal audience since mixtape culture still consisted of actual audio cassettes. His sharp-witted, intensely complex, and never compromised lyricism has influenced listeners through three administrations. As the founder and label head of the now-defunct Def Jux record, El-P defined brainy, underground hip-hop for an entire generation. This spring, the New York native is back with his Cancer for Cure, his first full-length in five years, and he was just in Austin for SXSW, to begin the first wave of publicity. Check him out.
What’s the oldest thing you own?
Haha. These shorts.
What is your most important piece of equipment?
At this point, I would say my computer, to be honest. That’s the brain that everything travels through. So if I didn’t have that it would be a different thing for me right now.
Describe the last sunrise you saw.
That’s an interesting question. I don’t even remember the last sunrise I saw. It was probably like three or four years ago on some sketchy after-hours bullshit with a bunch of assholes, all wired, seeing the sun coming up, and you realize that you are the worst person ever.
What is the first piece of visual art that pops into your head.
Definitely this piece that Alexander Calder drew for me when I was a little kid. He drew on this toy airplane for me, my mother had met him, and it ended sort of working its way into my album artwork over the years. It’s probably the oldest thing I own from my childhood.
Who was your hero at age 5?
What were your obsessions at 17 and what are your obsessions now?
Age 17 vaginas and rap music. And now, it’s probably rap music and vaginas.