Published on April 19th, 2012 | by joseph goral0
Live Review: Company Flow Live at the Metro, Chicago 4/12/2012
I first heard Company Flow in 1999. Technically, it was the Indelible MCs track off of Lyricists Lounge Volume 1 but hey, who’s counting? The style that they had was something so different from anything that I had heard at that point that I became a fan almost instantly. El-P and Bigg Juss had a delivery and word choice that was far from what I was accustomed to hearing. Coupled with the El’s off-beat production, the combination made for a sound that was fresh as fuck. I was an avid listener of Wu-Tang and The Roots but mostly liked punk and ska at that particular juncture in my life. Their sound and ethic was more akin to the punk music that I listened to and was part of my indoctrination to a culture that would take me to a lot of places, both literally and figuratively.
After hearing that one track, I scoured the internet to try and find Funcrusher Plus, Company Flow’s one and only album that featured all three members: El-P, Bigg Juss and DJ Mr. Len. Funcrusher Plus was officially released July 28, 1997 on the long defunct Rawkus Records. Despite outright disses to major labels on the album and laboring under the motto, Independent as Fuck, overall sales of the album were above and beyond the 100,000 plus mark. While this might not seem impressive in 2012, this was well before the advent of widespread e-commerce and internet promotion. After short tours on both coasts and Europe, the group disbanded. Juss and Mr. Len kinda fell by the wayside, while El-P would go on to found one of the most influential indie hip-hop labels, Definitive Jux and release two critically acclaimed albums on his own. None of them would achive the same type of success that Funcrusher Plus had independent of each other however.
Funcrusher Plus has stayed on steady rotation in my car, computer, wherever I might be for over a decade. I’ve gone through two physical copies of the CD and have digital version of it on not only my external hard drive but computer as well. As cliche as it sounds, if I had one album to listen to on a desert island, it would be Funcrusher Plus, no doubt about it.
Being that I have listened to this record hundreds of times, but never had the opportunity to see Company Flow live, I got hella excited when I heard they were doing some performances in New York mid-2011. I was highly doubtful that they would make their way anywhere near Chicago but I was at least stoked that they were working together again. Maybe they would cut a new track, maybe they would make a few tracks, maybe they would start work on a new album…
Well, there was still no news of a reunion, but I heard that they would be playing Coachella. Much to my surprise, they decided to add one show, in one city on their way out to California. That show would be in Chicago.
I bought tickets the day they went on sale and so did a few of my other friends. The thing about Company Flow is that if you’ve heard the record and ever listened to any sort of off the beaten path hip-hop, you’ll dig it. It was the blueprint for Aesop Rock, most of the Anticon shit and probably a ton of stuff that I could give a fuck less about because it just isn’t the genuine article.
We arrived in Chicago around 7pm, killed some time walking around and eating at a place called Yak-zie’s which sucked. I’m pretty sure the only reason they’re still in business is because of their proximity to Wrigley Field. They put what’s call Tang sauce on their food which is basically shitty hot-sauce. The burger was meh, my Budweiser sat empty on the table for more than 10 minutes before I was even asked if I wanted another one. Here’s a tip: The bigger the bill is, the bigger the tip is as long as the service is prompt and courteous.
We put off going in to the venue for as long as possible. The Metro has adopted a No In & Out policy which makes you stay and pay six bucks a beer rather than going to your car during shitty sets and shotgunning Schlitz. When we arrived Qwel was on. Qwel is a one time member of Typical Cats and is a Jesus-loving weirdo. He looks more like a Kinko’s employee than a rapper. Don’t get me wrong, he’s got some ill shit in his catalog, it’s just few and far in between. His DJ, Maker, was the redeeming quality to the set.
The next act was 4th Pyramid. I saw this lackluster excuse for a hypeman back in 2007 when Murs came to Logan Square Auditorium. He sucked then and he sucks even worse now. How this guy hasn’t given up and got a real job is beyond me. There can’t be anyone that finds his music entertaining. He raps with a lisp, enough said.
Motherfucking finally, Company Flow came on. It was everything I hoped the show would be. They did all of my favorite tracks from Funcrusher: End To End Burners, Lune TNS, 8 Steps to Perfection, Patriotism and pretty much any track that I would’ve wanted to see live. El even did Last Good Sleep, a haunting ballad that describes the domestic abuse his mother endured at the hands of his stepfather. It doesn’t pull a single punch. The energy from both of them was dope. El’s charisma shines on stage like David Koresh with a mic. Juss had a mechanical presence that matched his flow perfectly. Mr. Len was ill as fuck. He was a consummate professional and master of his craft, executing some of the illest scratching that I’ve ever seen live and I’ve been to tons of hip-hop shows and seen a lot of different DJs. You could tell that they were having fun and a lot of it. To me that’s what making music is about, having one helluva good time. El and Juss both professed their appreciation multiple times during the set. The crowd was full of fans that knew every line to every track, no matter how obscure. After two encores and performances of new material from both El and Juss, they called it a night and left the stage.
Have I seen better performances before? Definitely. Have I had more fun at a live show? Yes. However, it was super duty tough work to the fucking max and impressive that even after a decade and a half, these two MCs and a DJ could come together for a kickass performance and rock the stage like it was 1997 all over again. I expected what most hip-hop shows are: a room full of dudes nodding their heads to a four count and like five girls looking bored. The energy was more akin to a punk or metal show for most of the performance but there were still like 5 girls total in the crowd but I’m married so I could care less.