David Ma is hardcore like Kool G Rap’s music made for concert piano.
Going back to Company Flow, specifically Funcrusher, and hearing seedlings of EL-P’s later sound are fascinating. A student of Bomb Squad, his production, even early on, was dominated by textures and ominous tones. The songs later on developed into fuller, fully realized soundscapes, but cacophony and grim laughs remained enduring trademarks. Def Jux, an indie-imprint EL-P founded in 2000, captivated the underground masses and still lays claim to some of the era’s best and most beloved releases (Cannibal Ox, Labor Days, Deadringer, etc). He did all this under an independent as fuck credo with songs that weren’t always comfortable but always uncanny.
Fantastic Damage is so aptly titled, so is the paranoid I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, and the dark sci-fi of Cancer For Cure. His trio of solo joints is music for an apocalypse, what you hear as flaming buildings crumble behind you. This recent and widely successful Run The Jewels run with Killer Mike has also given him a third act, with young fans revisiting and discovering jarring beasts like Little Johnny From The Hospital or the Weallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx series. But “Juvenile Technique” was Co Flow’s first very single, an attention-demanding springboard that framed everything thereafter. I spoke with EL-P during a press window for Cancer For Cure before his career ascended even further, and here are a few of his thoughts on early Co Flow history and the making of “Juvenile Technique” circa 1993.
EL-P: I met Len and a birthday party and we just hit it off. We had the same sense of humor and just liked the same shit. I already had the name and concept for the group and everything and he was a perfect fit.
This was even before Juss was in the group?
EL-P: (Big) Juss wasn’t even in Co Flow yet and entered the picture later. We became friends when he ended up living in my apartment. He was working on his own shit so we said ‘Lets just work on a project together’ and that’s kind of how the group started. “Juvenile Technique” is Co Flow at the beginning when it was still just me and (Mr.) Len.
What do you remember about making the song?
EL-P: I remember “Juvenile Technique” being the first time I broke through and made something that I felt was presentable. I was young then. I come from an era where people still don’t get to hear the first ten years of your music. Where as now, everyone can hear the first song anyone makes. This was the first song out of about fifty tracks that I thought finally sounded cool.
What kind of stuff got you interested in making music in the first place?
EL-P: All that early stuff like Big Daddy Kane, Mantronix, and Public Enemy was it for me. I knew it was more than just some songs I liked. I remember the feeling of wanting to do it, wanting to be involved somehow.
Give us a sense of your attitude going into Funcrusher and all that was happening around that time.
EL-P: Funcrusher was ’96 and ‘97 for us. My perspective with the whole underground rap movement was that it was very homogeneous. We all listened to Bobitto’s show and the whole culture was about freestyling and simple word-of-mouth. Then, we realized people in LA and the Bay and Midwest were on the same shit. Everyone just created these scenes in their respective cities that shared the same approach and values. It was an excitement that happened in all these places at around the exact same time.
What do you hear when you think of “Juvenile Technique” nowadays?
EL-P: This is us just trying to be different. Just kids rapping our asses off and seeing what happens.
*Interview portions taken from feature for Wax Poetics issue #34