Friday, May 30, 2014

Milwaukee Rapper E.L Offers an Immersive Vision on his 'Retrospective 2' Mixtape

By Evan Rytlewski
e.l milwaukee rap
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Young Milwaukee rappers are coming up all the time, so it shouldn’t be news that there’s a fresh crop of up and comers looking to make a name for themselves. That’s always the case. Still it’s hard not to look at the burgeoning talent in the scene right now and come away with the sense that there’s something truly exciting going on. This year has already seen the mind-blowing debut mixtape from beat poet/rapper Bliss & Alice—one of the best releases, rap or otherwise, the city is likely to produce in 2014—and the introduction of IshDARR, a shit-hot rapper who, for a few more weeks at least, is still in high school. And now comes the latest release from another rapper very much informed by the anything-goes, post-Internet aesthetic of Top Dawg Entertainment: E.L’s Retrospective 2: Freeworld.

A confession: I’d heard the first single from this project some months ago without thinking much of it. “Everything” was an opulent spiral of jazzy soul featuring Klassik, whose credit made it too easy to dismiss E.L as just the latest local rapper leaning on Klassik’s gifts. I was wrong to write off the 20-year-old rapper based on that association, though—in part because, despite my initial assumptions, the song wasn't produced by Klassik, but rather by Derelle Rideout, another producer making just about everybody in his orbit sound mighty good right now, but mostly because Retrospective 2 reveals an artist with his own vision. It’s a rich, shifty listen—a surround-sound experience designed with headphones in mind—and it resists easy pigeonholing. Even when E.L teams with another established local rapper, Yo-Dot, for a couple of standout tracks, Retrospective 2 feels like its own experience, not an attempt to piggy back on somebody else’s act.

You can stream the mixtape below, via Soundcloud, or direct download the tape through this link.

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