If you have yet to hear Black EL x Durkin's first project, you've probably never read a hip-hop blog. The free mixtape has been picked up by more sites than Paris Hilton's sex tape, and it's been touted on everything from Jump the Turnstyle to the Hype Machine. A Google search yields pages of obscure and well-known links, in large thanks to the duo's manager, Jeremy Karelis, who drove a tireless online marketing campaign. But good promotion isn't the only reason for the group's buzz. Durkin's heavy-hitting beats make for a complex, layered sound even as EL's rhymes stay on the lighter and more accessible side. Although he often falls into stereotypical subject matter in his songs, EL has moments of honest self-awareness in "The Jam," where he raps about being a black kid in a white world. It may not be gangster, but EL's upbeat and sometimes ironic approach has appeal for the duo's fan base, a mostly college-age crowd. It's Durkin, however, who stands out here: on his 10 relentlessly well-mastered tracks with distorted synth sounds, he pounds energy into the complicated beats. And note that it's their live shows that most people mention when talking about the hip-hop duo. Good thing there's one coming up.
BLACK EL X DURKIN + CURREN$Y + BIG K.R.I.T. + MORE | Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge | October 4 at 9 pm | All ages | $17 advance/$20 doors | 617.864.EAST or mideastclub.com