Company Flow: Funcrusher Plus
IN HIP HOP, money changes everything--and keeps it that way. Five years after The Chronic ushered in the age of the blockbuster hip-hop album, rap has given up on its roots, chasing its own prescribed stylistic clichés so far into themselves that the stuff in the spotlight is as removed from the street that bore it as a penthouse suite at the Ritz-Carlton. Puff Daddy's thuggishly artless "sampling" has shown lazy producers an easy means by which to kick back and watch the money roll right in. Rote my bitches, my money, my money, my guns lyrics close minds like bank vaults. Stars kill each other. How sad it is: The new Janet Jackson has more lyrical flow than the new Gravediggaz, Mack 10, and Beatnuts combined. The shit, as it were, is not being kept all that real.
In response, the hip-hop underground grows ever more fierce. "Independent as fuck!" shout the Brooklyn hip-hop radicals Company Flow on their debut CD Funcrusher Plus, evincing a confrontational critique of "those signed, big-budget muthafuckas" like none hip hop has attempted since EPMD's Strictly Business. And their music is as sonically packed--and their lyrics as confrontational--as their rhetoric. "The niggas that don't understand/This obviously wasn't made for you," rap El-Producto and Bigg Jus as their DJ Mr. Len takes an extraordinarily thick drum track and buries it beneath a low-end, lo-fi sound collage that's murky enough to make Sebadoh seem as slick as Biggie Smalls. Yet, unlike the indie rock their style and slogan can't help but evoke, Co. Flow's music, has, ya know, flow--lyrical and otherwise. Run DMC is their VU, Wu-Tang Clan their Nirvana. Thus, the MCs finish each other's rhymes and cut through Len's dense mix like arrogant old-school reactionaries. "I must be entirely too fuckin' nice/I must be entirely too fuckin' fresh!" they rap in turn, as if their weird science is doing the genre some kind of favor by fracturing its form.
And fracture it does. The satiric "Lune Tns" offers a vision of the future in which big money interests unleash robots upon the working man; it might be the first anti-globalism/pro-union rap track ever written. "Population Control" is overtly Orwellian, and an almost brooding portrayal of life in the projects called "Last Good Sleep"--"At night I cover my ears in tears/The man downstairs must have drank too many beers/Now every night of my life he beats his wife"--is downright Marxist. A hip hop in which money equals nothing but evil is a powerful thang indeed (trust me, you're not gonna hear Snoop Dogg droppin' mad Marcuse in any future I can imagine). And while their braininess might abjure a few party people, their retro braggadocio and punkish intensity give the music an integrity that's frankly nonexistent in the platinum sheen of most big-money hip hop. This shit ain't just real; it's realized. No, I don't really expect the walls of Time Warner to come crumbling down any time soon--but we can dream, can't we?
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