Thankfully, everything coming out of Ohio and Cincinnati nowadays is not quite as bad as the Bengals (or the Reds or the NBA’s Cavaliers team from the “other” Ohio city, Cleveland).
Before “King James” (a.k.a. Lebron James) put the state back into national importance, DJ Hi-Tek was about all that the state, and specifically the ‘Natti, had to show for all of its hard work (at least in hip-hop terms). And with Tek out now, comes Main Flow, a slick-talking, double-timing emcee with a knack for showing off what the rest of the world is missing.
Main and Tek, in conjunction with another emcee Donte Fleming, originally formed the group Mood and dropped one full-length offering, “Doom,” back in 1997, before Tek hit gold with the likes of Common, Cormega, and Talib Kweli. Flash forward 7 long years and Main Flow finally impregnates the community with his finest offering yet, “Hip Hopulation.”
From the get-go, it’s not hard to figure out where Main Flow probably got his name from – his unbelieveably sharp precision on the microphone cuts through the speakers with an unmistakable presence and just plain sounds good. The opening “Intro” freestyle is enough to garner a listen in and of itself, as Main Flow shows off a freestyling skill that touches down just after hyping him up as the next big underground thing.
“Is hip-hop worth dying for?,” Flow asks, as Talib Kweli joins in the charades of “Hip Hop Worth Dying For,” chastising those know-it-all fans that question artists every move in music. Kweli points out the flaws in those criticizing others’ stage shows and his affiliations with Blackstar (and does one hell of hilarious chanting hook), while Main Flow simply latches on to tell where he has been and who he is down with.
The very radio friendly “She Likes Me,” sees Flow questioning whether a potential sweetheart likes him or if she is only after the almighty dollar bill that stands behind him. And he even brings his own daughter into the mix on the catchy “Toys, Games,” which doubles as an ode to the parents of whiny children and a conceptual flashback to his own childhood of Tonka trucks and Monopoly.
The Firm-inspired “The Wire” makes a splash over a Da Riffs production that, at times, sounds almost eerily close to the original Nas and AZ “Phone Tap” scenario. Still, he brings out a new life in an older concept, sending the paranoid scrambling away from things like “narcs” and “bugs.”
Not all goes well for the “Hip Hopulation” though, as tracks that look “classic” (“Classic” featuring Black Thought and Donte) fail to capitalize off the guest names. “Never Imagined” tries recreating the same “She Likes Me” commercial vibe, only to fall victim to something that sounds more equipped for his guest on the track – Killah Priest. And even the addition of Esoteric and a 7L production on “Street Pay” appears less stellar than normal on behalf of all three participants.
For a town known best for its cold weather and “Bungles,” Cincinnati needs more of the Hi-Tek’s and Main Flow’s to emerge. But for now, population by “Hip Hopulation” may be the best solution to a recurring problem. It’s no game-winning touchdown in overtime, but like his hometown team, sometimes all it takes is a field goal to get the job done - and Main Flow kicks this one right down the middle.