El-P | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Even if Jamie Meline, aka rapper El-P, had stepped away from the microphone for good following the demise of his old group, Company Flow, his behind-the-scenes work in the years since would be enough to preserve his status as one of hip-hop's most vital talents. His Definitive Jux label has released some of the best-received hip-hop albums of the past year--Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein, Aesop Rock's Daylight EP and Labor Days--and his production work on The Cold Vein has drawn nearly as many plaudits as Can Ox's rhymes. But happily the man who announced himself as "the third gunman on the grassy knoll" on Company Flow's 1997 debut hasn't retired from the mike: this week he'll release the aptly titled solo album Fantastic Damage (Definitive Jux). El-P can still boast with the best of them ("I'm the illest motherfucker since Oedipus," he crows in "Dr. Hell No vs. the Praying Mantis"), but most of the album describes a sci-fi future world like one of Philip K. Dick's dystopias, where the political infrastructure is on the brink of collapse ("Accidents Don't Happen," featuring Camu Tao and Cage) and broken homes are repaired via the latest technology (the brilliant "Stepfather Factory"--a mock ad for a father-replacement company, whose products are fueled by liquor and tend toward violence). Appropriately, the rhymes are set to an industrial nightmare funk of his own devising--grimy, buzzing, and heavily distorted, it sounds the way a neglected subway station looks. Opening are Mr. Lif, whose own Definitive Jux EP, Emergency Rations, will be released in June, and Aesop Rock. Thursday, May 16, 6:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

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