Tuesday 17 June 2014

Funcrusher Plus - Company Flow


I always meant to check this album out. It was critically acclaimed but I guess I never heard it on the radio so I never got around to it. I don't really know what I was expecting as I'd forgotten what all the fuss was about. I think I was expecting some kind of futuristic hip hop informed by Autechre. God knows why. Perhaps I had them mixed up with another group. When I first put the cd in the tray I was a little daunted at the running time of 75 minutes. That's almost twice as long as Illmatic by Nas. I knew there was a white guy on the beats (El-P) and a couple of African American dudes (Big Jus & Mr Len) in the posse. This LP is not really similar to the other 3 albums in this series (Nas, Geto Boys and DJ Paul & Lord Infamous). I don't think they say 'nigga' or 'bitch' until about halfway through the record. Bewildered would be the best word to describe how I felt when it started. Thinking "Another 75 minutes of this? F*%$! What have I got myself into? Is this the underground rap that's meant to be shite?" Persevere I have. It took about ten listens to eventually start getting it. Not listening to Funcrusher Plus in it's time of release makes it hard to pinpoint innovations and where it fits. It was recorded between 95-97. Some of it is contemporaneous with Wu-Tang Clan I guess but not really a step beyond that.

1997 was a strange year for music and for me. I got off the Hardcore Continuum and pretty much missed tech-step (well the records anyway which I later returned to and now rate highly) and speed garage (I tried but...). 1997 was the year I disengaged from the rap scene as well and perhaps there was a reason for that ie. not much good rap. Which could explain why Company Flow were seen as messiahs by some. Wu-Tang Clan released a double cd which I never listened to due to its absurd length and still haven't. The last rap albums for me were Ghostface Killah's Ironman and New Kingdom's Paradise Don't Come Cheap. R&B was in its ascendancy. Timbaland, Aaliyah and Missy Elliot had arrived with The Neptunes and Destiny's Child about to enter pop culture. Germany was still where it was at with arty electronica (Mouse On Mars, Farmers Manuel, To Rococo Rot et al.), to the mellow tech sounds of Basic Channel/Chain Reaction and then onto the more extreme music from labels like Cold Rush, PCP and anything by Marc Acardipane and his several hundred monikers. Nick Cave, Spiritualised, Daft Punk, Royal Trux, Autechre and Portishead all released great LPs. Reissues were becoming more frequent with excellent re-releases from Yoko Ono, The Monks, La Dusseldorf (who I'd never heard!), Pharaoh Sanders, Lee Scratch Perry etc.

Bad Touch Example brings the bad vibes you were expecting from an album with a title like Funcrusher Plus. Haunted beats and distant horns blaze in the background while words are thrown at you at a hundred miles an hour. The best bit is when they say candyman 5 times in the mirror. Some of the references are so 90s like Maggie Simpson, Ricky Lake and Baby Jessica (did she fall down a well?). So I was thinking this LP going to be some kind of funny horrorcore lite, wrong! 8 Steps To Perfection is next and god knows what it's about. Trying to be clever but not catchy. Is that the meaning of underground rap? It's got some nice beats though with little computer game noises and a really cool atmospheric loop that sets a strange vibe. Collude/Intrude begins with distorted commands, an unbelievably funky beat, scratching and disorientating vocal effects. This tune is about some sort of science fiction military football match against a major record company. Aren't they all? Blind's got more reverbed effects. Oh....and hang on....I think they've written a hook on this line "I wanna be payed MC Beserker/Fancy tyin to eat just living". Gee this is almost pop. I'm confused by one of the other lines "Every bloodline is tainted/Signifying malignant raps/Who with bad intentions of Boogeymen and death as a source of laughter." Are they having a go at Horrorcore and Gangsta or are they talking about themselves? More importantly do I care? No. Silence has got a fabulous deep bendy bass sample, choice beats and much scratching. This could get played out on the dancefloor I reckon. Legends is more anti-major label shit. Company Flow claim their style is bizarre (usually if you have to point this out you're not) and independent as fuck (like that's supposed to be meaningful). Sonically there's a great clanky guitar/bass line and some noisy abstract samples. In the final minute it gets into some classic cacophonous scratching. Help Wanted is a sampledelic intro to Population Control with a kind of Brave New World scenario. A classic slowed down tough def jam beat is mixed with eerie samples, aquatic sounds and an off kilter piano loop which makes Population Control a backing track that could have been put together by Moon Wiring Club. The lyrics are kinda 2000AD futuristic but place the song firmly in the 90s with mentions of Bill Gates, Ted Turner and Keyser Soze. Then I'm starting to think they're homophobic with use of the term faggot in a derogatory fashion and not for the first time. Lune TNS is a tribute to graffiti artists and b-boys in NYC with a plinky plonky backing courtesy of a sample from ambient guru Steve Roach. Definitive is more anti major label shtick amongst sci-fi ideas. You get the feeling they only became indie after having major labels slam doors in their faces. Having few hooks and clunky raps would've helped those doors slam. This route to becoming indie is hardly likely to endear you to hardcore indie followers. Anyway I quite like this track with its minimal keyboard, beat, scratching and the top line 'My style Is War & Peace/You're shit is just cliff notes.' This is only halfway through this double LP.

89.9 Detrimental sounds like one minute of a rap battle that Company Flow lost. Vital Nerve features BMS as guest rapper, whoever he may be? Now this is good and the catchiest tune so far giving Raekwon and Ghostface a run for their money, at last. El-p bragging that he's been the 'nastiest MC since birth' over a stark bassline and beat. Is it too little too late though? This is followed by a sprawling epic Tragedy of war. It references Waterworld, Storm Troopers, DEA, Drug smugglers, Jackson Pollock and Watership Down? Strange beat change ups make me like this one a lot. A difficult unfunky beat begins The Fire In Which You Burn. Sitar samples add to the mess along with incoherent raps with too many words. Chorus alert! Krazy Kings has one along with some cool synth stabs. Lyrically it follows their space age hood jams template. Last Good Sleep delves into the darkness with dystopian sounds and a creepin beat. This all adds to the tale of this urban nightmare of alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Info Kill II has another dark creepin beat with terrific synth lines and is one of the more instantly likable tunes on Funcrusher Plus. This tune does actually have a 90s IDM vibe. This is the sort of track I was expecting before I ever put the record on. Hey, it only took 18 tracks to get there. Funcrush Scratch brings proceedings to a close. This is a dark scratching jam fitting with the mid/late 90s turntablism revival and Return of the DJ etc.

All in all pretty much a disappointment. I cannot believe this was so revered. Some editing would have made this an ok single LP. It's hard to imagine kids now going back to it and digging it and using it as an influence. Usually the most dumb arse shit ends up appealing to the following generations see Black Sabbath and AC/DC over Yes and ELP, Darkside over intelligent D&B etc. So I advise you to check out early to mid 90s rap from Memphis as a tonic to get over having to listen to Company Flow.

No comments:

Post a Comment