Flow Season

Artist: Main Flow & 7LTitle: Flow SeasonRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Bill Zimmerman

His name is Main Flow and his latest album is called Flow Season, but his skills go beyond just lyrically riding a track. On the follow up to his 2004 solo debut, Hip-Hopulation, Main Flow joins with producer 7L to reiterate what many in the underground already know, he's a beast on the mic. Hip-Hopulation had a long guest list of MCs and producers, but the Cincinnati-born rapper keeps his approach simple on Flow Season. He rhymes exclusively on 7L beats and only shares the mic on three tracks, leaving himself plenty of opportunities to shine.

The first single, "Where I'm From," shows Main Flow and 7L at their best. Flow shows nice verbal gymnastics with lines such as "We on that street sh*t/Constant cash flow to eat with/My heat spit/Next to the ground that's where my feet sit." The he drops a few references to disgraced athletes to get his point across, spitting "Some players never ball again like Rae Carruth" and "When I was in the studio getting my demo liver/ J. Williams was shootin' up his limo driver.” It's the first batch of many creative nods to the wide world of sports.

Main Flow is entertaining as he maintains a cocky swagger throughout whether it's speaking street talk on "Hustle Flow," discussing the transition from illegal life to rap life on "Permission to Speak" or chasing girls on "She Like the Way I Talk" where he declares, "They holler still/Girls think I'm single like a dollar bill/Problems with wifey part of my life see/Jumpin' out of windows with threats to knife me."

When Main Flow does opt for some assistance, the quality stays high, especially on "Forever" with Cormega and "Top Scholars" with 7L's partner Esoteric. Though 7L gives Main Flow a varied selection of beats to showcase his talent, the Boston producer falters on the annoying instrumental "7L Says Nope" and the snoozer "Hold Lines."

Already a heavyweight on the independent scene, Main Flow doesn’t compromise on Flow Season, but still makes an album that could appeal to more overground listeners. Just likes his associates Hi-Tek and Talib Kweli, Main Flow could be next to blow up while maintaining his cred, and after underground producing success, 7L may gain some bigger name clients just like Hi-Tek did.

Whether or not Main Flow and 7L get the mainstream success they deserve, Flow Season shows two men who should have plenty of winning seasons ahead.