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A Work-in-Progress

It has been five years since Brooklyn rapper EL-P has released an album, but he has been far from idle. In addition to doing production work and other administrative duties at Definitive Jux, the underground hip hop record label that he founded, he has remixed tracks for a grocery list of musicians, including Beck, Nine Inch Nails, The Marsh Volta and TV on the Radio. He was also in a near catastrophic airplane journey that ended with an emergency landing after an engine blew up -- an incident that serves as fodder for the first single on Iíll Sleep When Youíre Dead. EL-P spoke with SF Station during a phone interview from New York. He performs at Mezzanine on March 25th.

SF Station (SFS): What are your thoughts on "The White Rapper Show" on Vh1?

EL-P: I think itís fuckiní hilarious.

SFS: Are you a fan of the show?

EL-P: I know the guys who write it. Iíve known the Ego Trip guys for 10 years and I think that they are brilliant. The show is hilarious, and uncomfortable and wrong. I find it amusing.

SFS: Your San Francisco performance is one of five record release concerts. Do you get nervous when you are debuting new material?

EL-P: Iím anxious and excited. I am learning new material and how to perform it, so there is always a little bit of a learning curve. That keeps me anxious because I want to put on a good show, but other than that, I donít really get nervous. I got over the whole stage fright thing a long time ago, at least when it comes to performing for my fans.

SFS: The first single on you album ďFlyentology,Ē is about the airplane you were in that almost crashed and how it made you reexamine your spirituality. Did you discuss theology when you collaborated with Trent Reznor on that track?

EL-P: No, I basically just told him what the song was about and I asked him if he was interested in working on it. The song was close to being completed -- the music was almost done and the verses and hooks were basically done. I ran it by him to see if he thought it was an interesting idea and something that he wanted to get down with, and it was.

SFS: Have you been in an airplane since that incident?

EL-P: Yeah, of courses, dozens and dozens of times.

SFS: Youíve talked about how you found god while you were on that planeÖ

EL-P: Well, I donít know if I found him, but I certainly did reach out to him.

SFS: Have you reached out to him since?

EL-P: Yeah, pretty much every time I get on a plane.

SFS: Do you do anything else to calm yourself?

EL-P: Drinking helps, and muscle relaxers if you can get your hands on them. Basically, Iím a fucking nervous wreck. Itís taking off that I donít like. I donít mind the flying part; itís the 'lifting the giant piece of metal into the air' part that I donít like.

SFS: Cat Power is also on your new album. How did you hook up with her?

EL-P: Iíve known Chan for three or four years now, just being around New York. We have mutual friends and we always talked about possibly doing something together. It kind of panned out for this.

SFS: Is there someone you would like to work with that you havenít worked with yet?

EL-P: Of course, there are millions of people that I would love to work with. Iím a big fan of music in general and there are a lot of people that I think are great that I would love to work with: David Bowie, Prince, Mary J. Blige, Devo.

SFS: Itís been five years since your last album. How have you changed?

EL-P: Everyone is a different person than they were five years ago. Itís hard to really describe what has changed, except for five years of life experiences. Essentially, Iím a work in progress and I always will be. I donít really know what has changed, and to some degree that is really up to the listener to figure out.

EL-P performs at Mezzanine on March 25th with Lateef the Truth Speaker, Zeph and Azeem and Aesop Rock. Tickets are $20 and doors open at 9pm.