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Definitive Jux "on hiatus"; label's top releases

El-POf his hip-hop label label, Definitive Jux, El-P says: "We are not closing, but we are changing.”

The seminal indie hip-hop label Definitive Jux is being placed "on hiatus," according to a statement released last night by founder El-P.

“Of course we'll still have our website, we will still sell our catalog, merch and more as well as bring you news and updates on all our projects and artists,” he wrote, adding that he is stepping down as the label’s creative director to focus on being a full-time artist and producer.

The label will still release "King of Hearts,” from rapper Camu Tao, who died in 2008, as well as a Def Jux compilation and a 10-year anniversary retrospective, among other projects, “[b]ut then as a traditional record label DEF JUX will effectively be put on hiatus," El-P wrote. "We are not closing, but we are changing.”

What exactly lies ahead for Def Jux is unclear, but it certainly feels like the end of an era. So, it seems appropriate to pour out a little micro-brew for the Jukies and look back at a few of the label's most important releases, after the jump.

El-P, “Fantastic Damage” (2002)
The rapper-producer's full-length solo debut on the label he founded is filled with meaty rhymes, but, above all else, it is a study in innovative hip-hop production. From the screams throughout “Tuned Mass Damper” to the vibrating, distorted title track, "Fantastic Damage" should be required listening for all budding outré beatmakers.

Mr. Lif, “I Phantom” (2002)
The Boston MC released his debut LP the same year that St. Louis rapper Nelly unleashed “Nellyville” - a work considered by many to be the ultimate in mindless club rap. The critically acclaimed “I Phantom” offered a respite from the party rhymes of the times, with its exquisite golden-era hip-hop lyricism and grown-up themes. “Success” is a standout - a wrenching look at work, marriage and fatherhood. It's a rare hip-hop tear-jerker.

Cannibal Ox, “The Cold Vein” (2001)
The label's first LP release is still one of its finest. On tracks such as "The F-Word" and "Stress Rap," rappers Vast Aire and Vordul Mega's drop nimble wordplay over El-P's production - it's a shining example of the sort of groundbreaking, intelligent, focused hip-hop that Def Jux's legacy.

Aesop Rock, “Labor Days” (2001)
Aesop is an encyclopedia rapper to his core, but the obscure-reference-heavy “Labor Days” is always accessible--even car-stereo appropriate.

By Sarah Godfrey  |  February 3, 2010; 1:16 PM ET
Categories:  News , Riffs  | Tags: Aesop Rock, Camu Tao, Cannibal Ox, Def Jux, Definitive Jux, El-P, Mr. Lif  
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Yeah, Def Jux has released a tremendous amount of terrific material. For my money, El-P is unquestionably the most visionary underground hip hop producer of the past 10-15 years, and maybe straight up the best producer during that period. His sound is instantly recognizable, and still so far ahead of its time. Too bad he'll never get the recognition he really deserves.

When it comes to the best Def Jux releases, for me it comes down to two: The Cold Vein and El-P's second solo, I'll Sleep When You're Dead. Fan Dam is great, but I think ISWYD pushes even further. All three of these albums are so clustered with ideas that I'm still unpacking them years later. If I had to pick just one to remember Def Jux by, I guess I'd take The Cold Vein.

Another great one that you didn't mention is RJD2's first, Deadringer. That one never gets old, despite many, many listens.

Posted by: agl132 | February 4, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

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