New Music | Friday Roll Out: Codefendants

To say there’s a buzz around this group would probably be an understatement. Now, what is more than just a couple of years in the making, Sam King (Get Dead), Fat Mike (NOFX), and Ceschi Ramos have convened with one another for the outfit’s first album as a band. The band released a group of conceptual videos, episodes 1-5, directed by Indecline that follow a disturbingly gritty storyline from one single to the next. As Codefendants, it seems the band is taking risks with its debut full-length offering This Is Crime Wave (Bottles To The Ground). But let’s rewind a bit and start from the beginning.

Sam King and his Get Dead crew began giving tattoos and making flash art to raise money to help rapper Ceschi Ramos when he was in prison, locked up on bogus drug charges. Months later the two met over at the punk’s holy church at the Gilman Street Project in Berkeley, California. Like minds think alike and the two bonded over their love of Hip-Hop and Punk. The seed was planted for the start of Codefendants. A couple of years later the two began recording music with Fat Mike at the helm as producer. Mike later ended up joining the two in the hopes of creating something so unique, others would have to stand and take notice. It seems they’ve gotten everyone’s attention. Both King and Ramos share lead vocal duties while the album sports an assortment of guest appearances but it may not always be what you might think. While punk and Hip-Hop may be prevalent throughout the album, the band does make an effort to include ghostly imagery of folk & reggae within the mix. Codefendants seem to be derivative unto itself.

“Def Cons” opens with reggae-inspired guitars and rhythms with King’s raspy growl offset by Ramos’ quick-tongued lyricism. Keyboards hum in the background as the dual vocals are inspirational, while “Absessed with Get Dead and featuring Onry Osborn” is what follows, thrusting with anger and disdain. Everyone and everything seems to be pushed to their brink and you feel it within the music and lyrics. But it’s “Fast Ones featuring the D.O.C.” which is completely unexpected. Literally 19 years since releasing any vocal material, it’s the D.O.C.?????? Yes, that same D.O.C. we all know from his association with Erikah Badu and Dr. Dre. That D.O.C. At this point, it’s difficult to disassociate the video from the song but it’s the same disdain for law enforcement spewed here and it’s clear everyone here has similar views, popping off around a thick, sprawling bottom end with its hypnotic rhythm. It’s as alluring as it is entrancing.

It’s easy to be drawn to just about any track here for any number of reasons but it’s “Disaster Scenes” that draws listeners in on its directness alone. Both Ceschi & Sam offer up poignant storied imagery through their words. Their words. It’s what they’ve seen and dealt with. The track also features Stacey Dee (Bad Cop/Bad Cop) who cuts through flesh with her sharp lyrics! She lays it all out but refuses to be a victim in the end, taking her own power back. All three do this over a backdrop of an infectious rhythm that’s relentless. For some reason, it is difficult to get past this song because it’s emotional and I’m sure most listeners will feel the same.

There’s so much to take in with This Is Crime Wave and Codefendants expands its own sound on “Suckers” as a piano, keys, and horns become precedent here, leading the way as if shadowy Jimbo Mathus instrumentation has found his way into the mix. He hasn’t but it gives another look into the band’s musical prowess. The ironically enticing “Brutiful” is a quick look at its own juxtaposition, with sweet guitars, and shifting dynamics, as the band tells us we could all be assholes. In a manner of speaking that is.

This Is Crime Wave offers a lot more than we probably initially think it will. Strings, horns, piano, and the standard instruments we’re always here for, and the closing “Coda-Fendants” seems to include most, if not all, of the guests on its closing number. Of course, we should all be in with this debut LP, but it should be for the brisk new feel of it, the challenges it offers, and yeah, for the musicianship. Finally, something to make this year worth living for.

(Note: Not found on the album is the stellar single “Bad Business,” which features N8NOFACE. The track is abrasive in all the best ways possible with a video companion that captures the grittiness of prison life.)