Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Company Flow live

| April 16, 2012

It’s baffling that Company Flow’s first-ever Chicago show happened just now in 2012. Sure this NYC-based trio disbanded years ago, but they were only one of the most influential independent hip-hop groups of the mid-to-late-’90s.
Co-Flow’s 1997 debut, Funcrusher Plus, was equal parts imaginative combative raps and heavy, boom-bap beats. And its hip-hop still holds up. When it came to touring, though, Company Flow weren’t exactly known as road warriors. To be fair, the late-’90s was a different time for indie hip-hop and acts didn’t have to tour state-to-state to sustain a solid fanbase. But whatever the reason this group (consisting of producer-on-the-mic El-P, MC Big Juss, and DJ Mr. Len) never made it to Chicago, they made up for the absence with a nostalgic Metro show on April 12th.
Performing some of the more lyrically complex tracks like “Population Control,” the beginning of their set seemed to catch some of the crowd off guard. Maybe it was the fact that alternate beats were used for some tracks, or that fans were just trying hard to relive the songs line by line. El-P and Juss’ embattled lyrics are not easy listening, even in the more comprehensible points: “I don’t try to be different, I am/so inevitably my style will survive when your now turns to then,” raps El-P on “Population Control.”
In time, everyone seemed to loosen up, especially when the group performed their uptempo graffiti-inspired anthem, “End To End Burners,” with its funky, breakbeat production and sing-along, Run-DMC-esque chorus. This track also gave a spotlight to Mr. Len, whose scratching and turntable techniques could easily be a show on its own. From this point, the trio worked more in unison even when they performed solo material — as seen when El-P rocked his politically challenging single “Patriotism” with Len on the cuts and Juss on the backup vocals. By the time the climax of the show happened with the neck-snapping single “8 Steps To Perfection,” the Co Flow nostalgia was in full effect. 
More and more El-P let it be known that he was having fun and there was no denying that. Outside of New York, Chicago has always been one of the most supportive cities of quality East Coast hip-hop. And while it took a little time for Company Flow and the crowd to warm up to each other, gradually this really felt like a revival of the hip-hop shows that used to go down at the Metro. Thus it was fitting that Chicago acts that have been around nearly as long as Company Flow, like Qwel & Maker, opened the show. This was a celebration of hip-hop 15 years ago that was ahead of its time and remains relevant.
— Max Herman 

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Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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