Company Flow: Little Johnny From the Hospital

Company Flow
Little Johnny From the Hospital

CRAMMED FULL OF high-caliber rhymes and fueled by a grudge against "fashion MCs," Company Flow's Funcrusher Plus was set to broadside the Bad Boy company Bentley and redistribute Puffy's Rollies to the poor. Two years after that debut, 1999 found CoFlow stumbling onto a Top 40 album (Rawkus's Soundbombing II compilation) and beating a dead pop culture horse into winning the Preakness on DJ Vadim's "Viagra." Meanwhile, firebrand MC/producer El Producto gunned for the Q-Tip Award for Guest-Spot Excellence, hooking up with everyone from the Quannum Collective and Handsome Boy Modeling School to British MC sensation Roots Manuva. Now, the crowning achievement--their official second full-length album.

Or so it would seem, until you peer beneath the murderous, bag-clad kid on the cover and find the words "breaks end instrumentuls vol. 1" scrawled in a Korn-style sans-serif font. CoFlow's decision to let the breaks do the talking may seem disappointing given their rhymes' knack for simultaneously evoking Kurt Vonnegut and the Ultramagnetic MCs. But it was the presence of beats creepily ethereal enough to make the RZA sleep with a night light that lent a third dimension to CoFlow's anti-commercial persona. Little Johnny From the Hospital (co-produced by El P and Mr. Len) uses such dis-concertos to plumb even deeper into hip-hop surrealism.

Full of the sinister Seventies Moog sweeps and off-kilter horns that gnashed on Funcrusher Plus, the album bristles with new touches. In "Bee Aware," live bass and a brief but heady guitar riff resurrect P-Funk's Eddie Hazel. And "BMS Digital" freaks electronics like a malevolent Close Encounters mothership.

Even without lyrics, the album sports a kind of resonant language. Mellifluous non sequiturs like "Gigapet Epiphany," "Indelible Hybrid," and "Shadows Drown" make for unforgettable song titles, and De La Soul gets a nod of sorts on "Suzy Pulled a Pistol on Henry," which spins a sparse narrative from a child-abuse-awareness record. A leering pervert promises sexual goodies to a little girl, who opts not to run, yell, and tell but run, yell, and blow the bastard's head off.

Welcome to the world of Company Flow: The kids aren't all right, nobody sleeps tight, and multiplatinum sucker MCs and their empty party rhymes are locked in the root cellar, left to starve.