Underground hip-hop trio Company Flow have never been big fans of convention.
So it comes as a surprise though not a shock that despite officially disbanding in November, Co Flow will reunite for what they claim is their final show together, March 28 at New York's Bowery Ballroom. It will be the first time all three members rapper/producer El-P, rapper Bigg Jus and DJ Mr. Len have appeared onstage together in almost three years; they last played at a London show that was the finale of their second European tour in support of their 1997 manifesto, Funcrusher Plus.
"We were supposed to do a show last year around Christmastime, but it didn't go down for whatever reason," Bigg Jus said. "It's funny to have a series of shows that are supposed to be 'the last show,' but it's happening."
Company Flow formed in 1992 and rose to prominence as leaders of New York's edgy hip-hop underground with such gritty, cutting tracks as "Fire in Which You Burn" and "8 Steps to Perfection." Funcrusher Plus collected those early singles and added songs such as "Silence" and "Definitive" to form what has become a benchmark for uncompromising hip-hop. In November, the group said in a statement that it had amicably split and that its members would be pursuing solo projects.
"The reality of the situation is that when Company Flow got together, it was not under the circumstances of really forming a group," Jus explained. "We got together to kind of give the middle finger to the industry: We wanted to make a bangin' independent record and show that it could be done without being on a major label. That album kinda blew up, and we toured off of it for a year and a half, and so ... we kind of assimilated into a group for the media's sake ... rather than tell the same complicated story over and over."
Jus said that although now "everybody's friends," after the London show "it got a little bit strained, a little bit weirded out."
With each member preparing to release a solo album in 2001 Jus has just completed The Black Mamba Serum ("the antidote to the most dangerous snakes on earth," he explained, "otherwise known as the style-biters") for release this spring on his own Subverse Music imprint; El-P is finishing up Fantastic Damage for his new Def Jux label; and Mr. Len is working on a record for Matador Records is the March "final show" potentially more of a new beginning?
Bigg Jus paused before answering this question, then laughed. "I don't know, I don't wanna take away from the hype of it. There's a mystery about it. It's all up in the air, it all depends on if the stars align and what motherf---ers want to do."
Co Flow will be joined on the bill by a host of inheritors of their adamantly independent legacy, including Def Jux artist Cannibal Ox, former Bostonian rhyme specialist Mr. Lif and abstract-underground rapper Asop and the West Coast-based Living Legends crew. Fellow members of the trio's Indelible MCs crew will also perform, including the Juggaknots and rapper J-Treds.
"It should be a lovefest," Jus said. "A lotta tears, a lotta hugging. It's a whole bunch of family getting together to do something; it should be tight."