CounterParts are a multiracial crew made up of MCs T-Know, Braelan B, Otayo Dubb, and producers Fatgums, Gamma Ray, and Vesk One. The crew hails from Norwalk, California, near Long Beach, and the San Francisco Bay Area. They mix the Golden Age hip hop sound of SoCal with intelligent, positive lyrics that reflect Bay Area culture.
The beats are sample-heavy and loaded with cuts and scratches. Fatgums and Gamma Ray know how to work a dusty break, and create some classic boom bap that fans of old school hip hop will love. There are no synths here, just old funk and soul served up hot and fresh. They sample the Clash's epic "Guns of Brixton" on "Guns of Cali," using almost the entire song but changing the lyrics to reflect gang violence in California rather than gang violence in South London's notorious Brixton district. "Re:Act" samples a dirty jazz bass riff, working it into an ominous beat which the rappers use to as a call to action.
They hit their peak on "Dreams Deferred Remix," which has a bouncing beat, and deals with being a struggling musician. "What does it matter," they rap. "My wife once joked 'My husband thinks that he's a rapper'" The sampled chorus says it all: "I still feel the fire/I'm like an addict hooked on drugs." It's a recurring theme in their lyrics: they work hard, don't see any financial rewards for their labors, but love what they do too much to quit. Or as T-Know says on "To the Top," "Time we spent rapping, we coulda been doctors."
They take things down a notch on "Until," which has downtempo, subdued beat, and talks about growing up in a broken home, and not letting adversity get you down:
"Growing up I swallowed hate and government cheese
Roaches in the bath tub
Pigs in the street
Street pharmacists prescribing crack to the fiends
Crips and Bloods throwing up they C's and B's
While my momma raise us seven alone
My father left my momma alone
A rolling stone
Don't know much about him
Only what I was told
And the saddest thing about it is that momma never moved on
But regardless of the hardships
I see the beauty of it all
Cuz from all this nonsense I'm still standing tall
Now I got two of my own that I don't raise alone"
"Until" sums up the CounterParts' approach to life. They've all had to struggle to get where they are at, they've all known hardship, and yet they focus on the positive rather than wallowing in self-pity or negativity. They also use their diversity to their advantage. The members are African-American, Asian, and Caucasian, and grew up in different cities in different parts of the state. This allows them greater insight into the problems facing their respective communities. It also leads to the best song on the album, "Home In The Bay," which pays homage to the unique culture of the Bay Area, "Appreciating how all my people flourish/Their history of struggle and their legacy of courage."
CounterParts are yet another solid Golden Age crew that fans of People Under the Stairs will definitely want to check out. Their album mixes serious conscious rhymes with feel-good tracks, providing a healthy range for your listening pleasure. It's all delivered with honesty and intelligence, and backed by stellar production work from Gamma Ray and Fatgums. "The CounterParts LP" is like a blast of Cali sun, and sure to warm you on these cold autumn nights.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: December 1, 2009