Tuesday, 4 February 2003

Album Review: Funcrusher Plus

Appearing like a bolt from the blue in 1997, Funcrusher Plus single-handedly reignited my passion for hip hop music. Shying away from the gunz, girlz and dollaz style of gangsta rap and the pop / rap crossover disaster that the likes of Will Smith bring to the table, Company Flow managed to create something entirely new with their debut album.

The LP begins with the promo recording of Bad Touch Example, which was recorded in 1995. To think that the track is nearly ten years old is bewildering, because it sounds like it could be released in a thousand years time. The track highlights the confident wit that Company Flow would exhibit for an all-too-short time, "I practice exposing perfection like Rikki Lake expose white trash." and later, "You wanna battle, it's better to look in the mirror and say Candyman five times." The fact that there are another eighteen tracks following this remarkable opener is a mouth-watering prospect.

For the run-of-mill MC, wit involves some kind of 'hilarious' skit dissing one or more of his peers. Not so for Company Flow, EL-P and Big Juss are genuinely amusing, "Got manners like Bruce Banner when he's stressed", EL-P quips on the awesome 8 Steps To Perfection. Later on Definitive, EL-P tells us, "I'm convinced future MCs are sending robots back in time as we speak / to kill my mother before I'm born."

However, it isn't just the peerless MC performances of EL-P and Big Juss that make this an outstanding album. DJ Mr Len is simply breath taking behind the decks. His cuts on Lune TNS make it one of the stand out tracks, and on an album devoid of anything close to mediocre, that is some achievement. Equally, Len's scratches on Tragedy Of War make the track a haunting piece of hip hop.

The production duties are shared, but EL-P is responsible for the lion share. Despite how good the lyrics and cuts are, it is often the production that stands out. The heavily eastern-influenced, The Fire In Which You Burn with its mangled sitar is remarkable. Meanwhile, Collude / Intrude sounds like it was produced aboard the Mir Space Station. The track is a call to overthrow major record labels, especially Time Warner and EL-P can't resist a dig at Will Smith, "Fuck Time Warner and it's affiliates for running that Big Willie shit / leave those fancy clothes up to the Pope." EL-P doesn't only pick an easy target for his barbs. On the freestyle 89.9 Detrimental he announces to any listening MCs, "I'll ignore you selling crack, killing people and keeping it real / but disrespect me and my adopted fam and die young like veal."

This album won't be for everybody, if your idea of good hip hop is, "corny beats and crowd involved hooks" (EL-P on 8 Steps To Perfection) then this probably won't be for you. If however, you like listening to something entirely innovative and intelligent then you'll find Funcrusher Plus to be a very, very special album.

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