“Mos Def, I’ll have a n*gga bury ya carcass, for a Kool G and I’m not from Rawkus…”
There was a point in time when I, along with many other rap fans, thought that Rawkus Records was an indomitable force to reckon with within this volatile music industry. A powerhouse of a record label that soared over the terrain of both indie and majors, and to think, Rawkus was also an indie label in it’s early years. Established by childhood friends Brian Brater and Jarret Myer in 1995, with $10K from their combined savings account, the two Brown University graduates struggled with brand identity, putting out a variety of music genres that ranged from drum-n-bass / jungle to rock and other forms of electronica. Luckily for the two, they were friends with creepy media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s son, James. Brater and Myer drew up a business plan that eventually landed them some financial stability with the help of James Murdoch, and the label would go on to sign their first Hip-Hop act, Company Flow, despite slight uncertainty from the group.
Co-Flow (El-P, Mr. Len & Bigg Jus) had already recorded an EP which would later become the full-length album, Funcrusher Plus. The former EP (Funcrusher) was released on indie label Official founded by El-P himself, with 8 Steps to Perfection already getting steady burn on the streets of underground NYC. With “Murdoch money” now on the tables, Co-Flow signed to Rawkus and recorded a few more tracks to officially lengthen Funcrusher Plus from an EP to a 19-track-deep LP. Graff heads welcomed End To End Burners as an anthem of sorts, and the streets immediately embraced Rawkus & Co-Flow and cosigned the rawness of the album which was as cold as the steel blade of a loose box cutter sliding across skin. Ah, I can still recall hearing the unorthodox flows and screwing up my face and nodding to the idiosyncratic beat of The Fire In Which You Burn, like “What?!”