Over a decade before El-P became one half of Run the Jewels with Killer Mike, the Brooklyn-bred producer was already a legend in the underground game. After his start with Company Flow back in ’93, El-P went on to start and run one of the most celebrated labels in indie history with Definitive Jux – which released some of my favorite albums of the ’00’s (Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein, Aesop Rock’s Labor Days, Cage’s Hell’s Winter, Mr. Lif’s Mo Mega, Murs & 9th Wonder’s 3:16, El-P’s Fantastic Damage, etc etc) and was the home to one of the best rosters in the rosters in the game.
Batting somewhere in the first half of the line-up was Boston emcee Mr. Lif, who became the first artist to release a project on the label with his debut EP, Enters the Colossus, in 2000. Two years later, Lif returned with his Emergency Rations EP, and followed that up with his debut album, I Phantom. From there, he teamed up with fellow Boston emcee Akrobatik and DJ Fakts One as The Perceptionists to release their Black Dialogue LP, and capped off his run with Def Jux in 2006 with his fantastic Mo Mega LP.
In 2009, Lif released another album, I Heard Today, through his own Bloodbot Tactical Enterprises label. Dedicated to “capturing the pulse of this tumultuous era we’re living through” (which, sadly, still remains today), the album was full of thought-provoking rhymes on politics, life, and strength of character.
It was also the last album that Lif released. And the beginning of a 5-6 year absence that left fans in the dark… scared, alone, dying from thirst – I’m going overboard, but you get the idea. Basically, if you’re like me, you’ve missed Lif’s presence in the game!
Thankfully, the good folks at Mello Music Group felt the same, and will be backing Mr. Lif with a multi-album deal for 2016 and 2017!
“I’ve been very active musically for years but I haven’t been putting records out,” Lif says. “I’ve been touring the world with Thievery Corporation and otherwise living in the studio, constantly making songs.
It was a very intentional decision to remain unsigned by any record label until I was absolutely ready. That personal journey spanned from 2007 to 2015. I needed to step back and gain perspective on a great many things. I waited the right amount of time. I grew. I recorded an abundance of new material over the years, found the right record label, and now it’s time to come back and start round two of my career.”
The first project will be released early next year, but to hold fans over, MMG will be reissuing Lif’s I Phantom on November 27th. And for those not familiar with his classic debut, the LP was “an exploration of the dynamics of everyday life, and the pursuit of our dreams, in a rapidly decaying society” – with features and production from El-P, Aesop Rock, Jean Grae, Akrobatik, Insight, Edan and more.
To help celebrate Mr. Lif’s return, we’ve included a standout from I Phantom – “Return Of The B-Boy” produced by El-P – below.