As Definitive Jux finally re-releases Funcrusher Plus, I can’t help but think it’s a weird thing to revisit albums like this. An album that is historically regarded as a turning point in underground hip hop, it’s tough to listen to this album objectively. It’s easy to look at this album and say, “This is the album that gave us El-P, Mr. Len and Bigg Juss and El-P’s falling out with Rawkus gave us Def Jux. Therefore, this album is brilliant.” Not that I’m setting you up to bash this album. I’m just trying to explain that re-releasing a significant album like this makes it tough to listen to with fresh ears.

After spending some time with it, I can say it’s not necessarily a home run, but there’s certainly plenty to like. The production is really interesting, and there wasn’t much in 1997 that sounded like it. There are interesting beats and rhymes, but not a lot of songs that work as a whole. In many ways, it plays more like a mixtape, and at 19 tracks, it could definitely stand some editing. In a world with Fantastic Damage and I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, though, going back and listening to this album sounds like a rough draft.

There is a lot to like also, and it’s nice to be able to get this album on Definitive Jux now, which seems fitting, since it always seemed like it was the first Jux album. Even back then, El-P has a well-defined style to his production, with his harsh post-apocalyptic funk. And while I criticize this album for lacking a lot of complete songs, it does give us “Vital Nerve,” one of the greatest battle raps and songs that they recorded. All in all, it stands up as a good record, but I think it benefits from historical placement.