Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cymbal #2::Transmitting Paranoia with Company Flow

I came across Company Flow's "Funcrusher Plus" by way of mentions of its reissue this year. Now, I suppose its hard to understand how instrumental the production values were back when it released in 1994, before GZA's "Liquid Swords" and Dr. Octagon's "Octagonecologyst". This is the stutter step of vintage underground hip hop. The menacing floating synth, the stepping beats, the rapid ascent to the first crack of the album, the opening shot "Rugged like Rwanda/Don't wind up far/Or get chopped up".

Company Flow - 8 Steps to Perfection - 1994

This is the hip hop of the lonely examination of the ego, of the man as urban hero, street samurai, gritty and cheap by circumstance, none of which serves to hold him back from the destiny his talent serves him. The structure is too basic for storytelling; but manufactures atmosphere. The hyping is surreal at times, El-P sending us into orbit "Color me Maxmillian/ cause I'm that crazy robot/Teetering on the edge of outer space/Spitting buckshots till black holes surround me" and bringing it all back again.

The video is remarkable for how spare it is; how monomaniacal about the only thing that matters, the flow. Nothing about the city or the sea matters; the surroundings fade out appropriately. It's hard to imagine this video ever getting play on any music channel - it's unwatchable except by a student of hip hop with the album memorized.

Funcrusher Plus is dense as black matter, so dense that it takes half a dozen listens to figure out how the tracks work. But some of the menace, the attitude, transmit instantaneously. The production is paranoid, schizophrenic, drives a man to reach for something to protect himself; the environment is dangerous, filled with hate. Anything might come out of the night that contains the stinging sitar work on my favorite track.

Company Flow - The Fire in Which you Burn- 1994

And with the swagger that runs through the spine of the dystopian masterpiece that is Funcrusher Plus:

"Not the type of nigga to steal any scene too long, son,
I might lace you, leave the EP evidence and then I'm gone

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