Released with much praise yet minimal commercial attention in 1997, the Cincinnati-based crew Mood issued Karma, an avant-garde blend of pure lyricism and multi-layered instrumentals. Alongside DJ Jahson and Donte, Main Flow stood out with his obvious microphone proficiency over crisp production from a ‘pre-Reflection Eternal’ Hi-Tek. Seven years later, Main Flow is finally ready to bless the masses with his official solo debut, Hip-Hopulation, a more straightforward offering than Karma that favors a conventional method of making hip-hop: lyrical explosions backed by simplistic boom-bap.
Main Flow sports a smooth delivery that never flies over listeners’ ears, aided by a seemingly effortless knack for riding any beat perfectly. “The Wire” finds him reporting on his urban reality, flowing over steady guitar plucks with observations like, “You got kingpins out there, slanging them bricks/ You got pimp type cats steady bringing them tricks/ Everybody in between probably hangin’ in slick/ Watch the color that you wearin’ cuz the bangin’ is sick.” The spacey vocal samples supplied by Da Riffs on “Such A Fool” are serviced correctly by Flow, while Talib Kweli joins forces with Flow on the abrasive “Hip Hop Worth Dying For,” calling out those who mistreat the culture over an operatic atmosphere.
When attacking more conceptual fare, Main Flow is able to bring the goods. “She Likes Me” is a radio-friendly jam where he and guest eLone question a potential wifey’s motives for affection on top of elegant piano keys courtesy of Nace. On “Dice Role,” a rugged beat plays the back as Flow details the negative effects caused by a simple role of the popular game pieces.
Hip-Hopulation features no truly weak selections, but is held back by an overabundance of guest appearances. The end product feels more like a compilation hosted by Main Flow, rather than a real solo project. At times, inviting his associates to add to the population is welcome. Black Thought and Donte ignite the live-band feel of “Classic,” and Planet Asia sounds right at home over Reason’s bouncy arrangement on “Loving The Game.”
At other times, though, fans will be left wishing Flow showed and proved more by himself. The off-kilter accordion used on “Worldwide” needs repair as P. Killer and Defari do little to advance it. Killah Priest and Masta Foul make unnecessary turns on the sappy “Never Imagined,” a cut wasting three talented MCs by covering familiar romantic topics and using a yawn-inducing beat by Da Riffs. With Esoteric, Mikah 9, Mystro, GLK, and Soulstice rounding out the guest list, Hip-Hopulation is a bit overcrowded for both the listener’s and Main Flow’s own good.
Putting aside his reliance on features, Main Flow deserves to be heard, and Hip-Hopulation is a solid release that holds up nicely with the current crop of underground essentials. Straying away from gimmicks, Flow crafts an album that should satisfy any rap fan craving some pure music in their life.
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