Mr. Lif’s congested, sandpapery voice and El-P’s cataclysmic production both commit aggravated assault on the eardrums, and on Lif’s new Mo’ Mega (Def Jux) they make an intimidating pair. This time El-P backs off from his customary otherworldly density, trying sparser, more industrial textures–steely electric guitars, jittery percussion, corroded keyboard sounds–that if anything make his earth-shaking drums feel even bigger. Lif stands astride this next-level grit-hop making his trademark agitprop accusations, his grainy flow a perfect match for his prickly sentiments. “Fact one: America don’t give a fuck about you so get off it,” he raps on “Brothaz,” but even with teeth like that his lyrics are no match for the track’s nervous, driving rhythm, which trips over a kick-drum blastbeat every four bars–El-P is this album’s star, if only by a hair. Lif sometimes ventures outside his firebrand role and gets personal, which results in a couple missteps–the allegedly sexy tunes “Washitup!” and “Long Distance” are about as convincing as Nick Lachey shouting “Fuck tha police!”–but also gives us the surprisingly touching “Looking In,” where he laments his father’s absence from his life. Cage, Camu Tao, Yak Ballz, and the Aristacats open. This show is part of MOBfest; for a complete schedule see page 30. Sat 6/24, 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $13 in advance, $15 at the door, 18+.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jason Messer.