Artist: Main FlowTitle: Hip-HopulationRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Kenny Rodriguez

Main Flow has been in the rap game for a minute now. Debuting in 1997 alongside DJ Jahson and MC Dante (MOOD), the Cincinnati-bred trio achieved quite an underground buzz with their hypnotic anthem “Karma.” Backed by a then-unheard of DJ Hi-Tek, their oft-overlooked album DOOM was a cosmic journey characterized by mystic chants, calls for meditation, and boom-bap Hip-Hop at its purest. Seven years later, with a multimedia company under his belt (Wannabattle Enterprises), the Midwest emcee drops his first solo album, Hip-Hopulation – a musical testament to the diversity he sees in hip-hop.

And diverse it is. Main Flow breaks through on “The Wire,” reporting live from the gritty streets of the ‘Natty. Over suave guitar strums courtesy of Da Riffs, Flow details the everyday trials and tribulation of inner-city living -- showing that even the law-abiding aren’t safe: “You got kingpins out there slinging them bricks / You got pimp-type cats steady bringing them tricks / Everybody in-between? Probably hanging to slip / Watch the color that you wearing, ‘cause the banging is sick.”

Long-time Brooklyn affiliate Talib Kweli reeks havoc on the opera-inspired “Hip Hop Worth Dying For,” venting off at all pompous backpackers and holier-than-thou Hip-Hoppers alike (“You’re not a purist, you’re pure shit / You don’t preserve the culture, you disturb it”). Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Main-Flow and Planet Asia bash would-be rhymers on the charismatic “Loving The Game.” As if that weren’t enough, Black Thought and Dante of MOOD accompany Flow on “Classic,” and the three spit effortlessly over a funky batch of Roots-esque guitar twangs.

Then comes the radio-friendly “She Likes Me,” a petal-picking ballad where a pretty-young-thing professes her love for the prominent MC, leaving Flow and eLone debating whether her affection is for the man, or just for his money (“All your girls starting to ask, I thought that you was made? / El said you just like me ‘cause I’m doing things / She likes me because I put it down tight / She like me not? That don’t even sound right.”) The only thing better is the Beyonder-laced remix, which replaces the original romantic tings with a sultry stream of violin strings.

As his name suggests, Main-Flow’s main attraction is clearly his straightforward, almost monosyllabic delivery. Whether drifting over the laidback regal chimes of “Street Pay,” or jamming with the heavy bops of the J Rawls-produced “Delivery Tactics” -- Main-Flow sounds ill no matter what beat you put him on. But while Flow stays on-point, what ends up bogging down the album is its endless roster of guest MC’s. With over a dozen cameos (including Defari, Black Thought, Killah Priest, 7L & Esoteric, Mikah 9, and a whole slew of others), Hip-Hopulation ends up sounding like an overcrowded compilation rather than the solo LP it claims to be. As such, there are the inevitable slip-ups (the whiney “Never Imagine” being one of them). Fortunately the blunders are kept to a minimum, but with only 2 tracks to himself, Flow haphazardly limits himself to being merely a “collaborative MC” rather than shining as a true solo artist.

Overlooking a few stumbles here-and-there, Hip-Hopulation is a solid release from a solid MC. Already considered a vet by many, Main Flow does his best to make sure Hip-Hop fans learn his name, and that those who already know it don’t forget it.