"END TO END BURNERS"
"END TO END BURNERS" 12"
There are moments in everyone's musical profile that are those defining, path-changing moments. Like you don't forget the time and place. For some, it's the first time they heard "Careless Whisper" or "Eternal Flame." For me, it's the first time I heard Co Flow and "End to End Burners" was that song. To understand it fully, the popular landscape of hip hop in 1998 was dominated by the likes of DMX and No Limit. Juvenile and Cash Money were on the come-up and Big Pun was everywhere. To one who was in a constant state of reminiscence, there was very little to appreciate. Depending on what mood I'm in, I might still insist that 1997 was hip hop's last truly great year and it's been in a constant diminishing state ever since. If this is true, it was 1998 that started it. There was an almost complete exodus from LA and New York hip hop and it was largely replaced by the sparse and sometimes underwhelming sounds that would come to represent the "dirty south" sound. For all my criticisms, however, 1998 also brought us Outkast's third record--their breakthrough Aquemini--and Lauryn Hill's g'zillion-Grammy winner, Miseducation, an album she still hasn't managed to follow up.
I had just started slinging CDs at that point and my musical snobbery was beginning to develop. I broadened my scope. Began listening heavily to blues, jazz, funk, Black Sabbath, old Public Enemy records and denounced anything that was popular. And when I had all but abandoned hip hop's modern era, enter Co Flow's "End to End Burners." I remember the video blazing itself into my mind as it made it's single run on BET. I would never see it again, but that chance run-in led to a fandom that has been largely absent otherwise. I ordered everything in our system on Co Flow including the single for "End to End" and their only legitimate full length, Funcrusher Plus.
"End to End Burners" represents an almost kaleidoscopic perspective of hip hop and its affiliated cultures. An "end to end burner" is the term given to a graffiti piece that stretches from one end of a train car to the other end and, like the very composition of Co Flow's masterpiece, it stretches from one end of hip hop to the next. Echoing (or almost hailing) that signature Bomb Squad soundclashing, anchored by Rev Run's "dance to the rhythm, the rhyme of col' flow," then the head-splitting delivery of a young El-P and partner Big Juss as well as Len's phenomenal turntable work, "End to End" is like some freakish space funk or intercepted transmission from galaxy to galaxy. The best part, however, is that it's infinitely delicious. It's a ferocious composition and complicated beyond what words are capable of describing. I remember sitting and listening to it repeatedly thinking, "Geez, who makes music like this?!" Listen to the instrumental at the beat-skipping, the sequencing, the morphing of sounds. I sit marvelling at how anyone could accomplish lyric over such sounds still. Take five Tylenols and bob your head to that, fool. You should've stayed in school.
For all of those that push the boundaries of an artform so insistently beyond what it is intended to be, their careers rarely last long. And, for Co Flow as a group, this was absolutely true, however, as solo artists, both emcees have staked their claim led by El's two classics (I have no problem throwing that word around, trust me) and, of course, his continued contributions through his label Definitive Jux.
Recently, I was digging in Dallas and I found "End to End" on 12" for a buck at one of these hot spots. Dude didn't even know what he had right under him. That's when you lost, sucka.