May 3, 2017

Paul Thompson goes hard like Old Testament God.

I write about Elucid whenever I can, because not enough people write about Elucid.* It feels like damning the New Yorker with faint praise to call him one of rap’s most creative artists; at his best, his music is such a unique combination of gritty and avant-garde that it’s as if he’s playing a different game than most of his peers. He’s also been prolific: Earlier this year, he put out Valley of Grace, a feverish dispatch from South Africa; in the winter, he recorded a version of the famous Zoe Leonard poem, “I Want a President.” That’s on top of his work with billy woods as Armand Hammer and knotty, inspired EPs like Osage.

His definitive work, though, is his album from last year. Save Yourself. Here’s Drew Millard, writing in POTW’s Best Albums of 2016 feature:

Save Yourself is psychedelic in the same way that the Velvet Underground were psychedelic. It’s post-punk in the way that all the good post-punk bands were post-punk, and hearkens back to an era in which hip-hop, punk, disco, noise, no wave, and the like were all offshoots of the avant-garde, their styles mixing freely and informing one another. Self-producing mostly by feel, Elucid is as precise a lyrical tactician as he is freewheeling behind the boards, using imagery largely borrowed from a childhood spent in the Pentecostal church to render a morally defunct world with apocalyptic urgency.”

Today, we’re premiering the video for “Jealous God,” one of Save Yourself‘s most formally innovative and most dissonant songs, and part of its thematic spine. What flashes on screen is as warped and chaotic as what plays out of the speakers–imagine the most shamelessly fear-mongering sermons from your youth laid over a loop of what that same pastor imagined was running on MTV, all done using the crudest VHS technology.

But the thing that sticks with you is the image of Elucid, his face and form caught in profile or beneath static or dancing across the screen through digital manipulation. The crux of Save Yourself, at least to my ears, is that while all these forces (religion, the church, gentrification, monogamy, and etc.) can be picked apart in the abstract, their real effects on humans are hard to measure, because they flash across the screen in unknowable, unpredictable ways, commingling or drowning out one another with no regard for any of us. Save yourself.

*Due to the nature of Elucid’s music (and maybe to the limited availability of some of his back catalog), the writers who do track him down for interviews are usually remarkably thorough. This interview with Tiny Mix Tapes is a tremendous read.