Friday, May 19, 2017
The Original Co-Defendants
There's a Boston duo called the Co-Defendants, consisting of Carlito Cream & Don P who had an album out called Book ov Life and were part of a larger clique called the Messiah Fam. Those are different guys.
Killarmy did an entire album with a French group called The Co-Defendants (possibly named after that Killer Bees Swarm song?), who also did some other overseas stuff I never kept track of. But those are also different guys.
There's a duo from San Francisco who I never heard of until I googled them just now, comprised of two solo artists: Beneficial and S. Kush, who came together as The Co-Defendants to record a couple singles in the late 2000s, called "Big Boy Shit" and "Just Like Me." Those are different guys, too.
Similarly, when California gangsta rappers 12 Gauge Shotie and Lil B-Stone teamed up to record an album together, they called themselves The Co-Defendants, and they're very different guys.
Tragedy's mix-tape/ album Thug Matrix had a track featuring some guests called The Co-Defendants, but that was just his regular guys Killa Sha and Napoleon; and I think that's the only time they went by that name. They definitely didn't make this record.
There's a group called The Co-Defendants from Lansing, Michigan, consisting of J-Holla and 3rd Deggree[sic.] who released an album called The Patdown in 2009 or thereabouts. Not the same guys.
And Big Noyd released a compilation album of his crew a few years ago, called Co-Defendants Vol. 1. No relation there either.
Nah, these Co-Defendants predate all those other Co-Defendants, forming in 1993 to release a tight record called "Get Cha Weight Up" on Bon Ami Records, which is one of those Sugarhill spawn labels. It got a lot of underground play on Stretch & Bobbito, The Wake Up Show, and mixtapes by DJ Red Alert, DJ Enuff, etc. It was basically just one guy, Bain D. Robinson, who did all the vocals and the production, though his DJ/ hypeman Craig Brown rounded out the group. They even had a guest verse by Rob Base, giving him a much needed injection of underground credibility again. It was hot, but pretty much their only record.
Except trust Echo International to dig out one more obscure 12" out of an artist's discography you thought was finished. That's their specialty, and sure enough, they did it again. In 1994, they put out "Just When You Thought" by Co-Defendants featuring Omar Chandler and C.E.O. Who are they? Well, I think C.E.O. is just an alias for Bain. Because nobody's rapping here except for him, and C.E.O. also gets production credit on the liner notes for a song that Bain had credit for on their last 12". So I'm pretty sure they're one and the same. And Omar Chandler? Well, he's an R&B singer who had an album out on MCA Records, and previously worked with Teddy Riley. But he's probably best known as the guy who sung the hook on "Joy and Pain."
So yes, that means an R&B hook. Chandler has a great voice, but it definitely drags the proceedings down. The beat, produced by D. Moet (presumably the D. Moet, who used to be with King Sun), is decent but feels slow and feels cheap. Like, it's got some simple drums and a piano loop, mixed with some more g-funk style bass and whistle. It's well crafted, just a little under-cooked. Maybe it just needed a better engineer. And the chorus detracts from the rapping, which is a shame, because lyrically, it's actually a serious, compelling song. C.E.O. has a definite Grand Puba style and sound to his voice, but he's a little less playful as he talks about the grind of life wearing you down, "just when you thought you had it all figured out, each and every day something new pops out. Inside the city, everybody's gettin' high; white people knock every thing that you try. But when you succeed, they suck 'till you bleed, each and every drop 'till they get what they need. If they're so smart, why's the world so sick?" Heavy shit. I wish there was a remix of this.
Flip this record over, though, and happily we're back to Bain's more rugged production. Actually, the first song on the B-side is "Get Your Weight Up" again, with the instrumental. If you're a completist, you'll still want the original Bon Ami Record, because that had some exclusive remixes, but the classic version with the ultra-smooth sample that got all the play in the 90s is conveniently on both. This is the essential cut.
But then there's one more B-side, another new song called "Who Are We," where Robinson shares production credit with Brown. It's not as great as "Get Your Weight Up," and the hook's a little limp; but it's another cool, raw indie NY record with a chunky beat. The whole thing feels inspired by early Just-Ice records, but with Bain still flowing in his distinct style. With the exception of Killa Sha (can't front on him), this guy clearly has way more talent than all those guys who took up the Co-Defendants mantle over the years after him. It's a shame he didn't have more of a career, because sure, he never would've blown up to be the next Jay-Z; but I'm sure this Co-Defendant had some more slick indie 12"s in him.