Say what? Label manifests El-P's vision

Label review

Def Jux may just be the 'prog-rap' label

A while back, I had the privilege of watching the DVD documentary Revenge of the Robots, put out by independent label Definitive Juxtaposition (or Def Jux for short). The documentary includes an in depth interview with label founder/producer/emcee El-P.

El-P is asked how he feels about the media labeling his music prog-rap. His response: "What's prog-rap?"

The media is obligated to label everything. That's its job. Def Jux may be a prog-rap label, but it's also much more. In 1995, the underground hip hop world was turned on its head by the release of Funcrusher Plus by Company Flow, which introduced the world to the accelerated, hyper-intelligent lyricism and dark brooding music of El-P and Big Jus.

The group quickly disbanded because of creative differences and label woes, leaving each member to go his own way. El-P wasted no time creating Def Jux. By 1998 he had a full-blown label and an expanded roster which included a host of the most creative and complex lyricists in NYC.

Musically, Def Jux is to hip hop what Radiohead was to rock music. They represent the antithesis of mainstream. You will seldom hear a song by any of their artists played on the radio. You most definitely will not see their videos being played on MTV, VH1, BET, or MuchMusic.

However, you will see them packing in heads at 2,000-5,000 person venues all over the world, literally. The label boasts just as much success in England, Japan, Australia, and France as it does in the United States. Thus, every release since El-P's solo opus Fantastic Damage has sold no less than 20,000 units.

Soundscan or no soundscan, El-P's vision has done more for hip hop culture than most mainstream rappers could ever dream. His epic, multi-layered instrumentals have been the canvas for his own verbal sketches as well as those of critically acclaimed Cannibal Ox on their debut Cold Vein.

Def Jux is also responsible for bringing Aesop Rock's raspy voice to world renown, propelling Mr. Lif out of east coast obscurity, and doing the same for Murs on the west coast.

Def Jux is hip hop without compromise. It's shocking, poetic, educational, and difficult. It's as ugly as it is beautiful. It's human. El-P told Spin magazine, "This label is the egotistical, physical manifestation of everything I believe in."

If that's prog-rap, then so be it.