Hip Hop music is supposed to be the most unique communal result. A collective effort to approach music unapproachable – no instruments, no composition skills, no studio access, etc., for all them gutter Pelan BX peoples. Young and rebellious yet united in a respectful find of history’s crates mixed with verses of an original style you had to work for. A music that made money for you but you didn’t do it just to make money from. Who my A-Alikes with that? Cuz it’s Us Against Them!
Ness and K of A-Alikes make anthemic scores that draft the moving pictures of real brothers and sisters living in the savage society. Their work is not escapist but we can escape with it. From their first hand to hand crate Live or Die through the 2006 official debut LP, I Eat, You Eat, they have passionately revealed oppression with some of the toughest direct non-preachy builds on wax. With Us Against Them they return to remind us they have improved.
Us Against Them, an EP of 7 tracks was expected to be a full length due to their long hiatus. Since then A-Alikes have worked on side projects (i.e. Ness’ Weekend Money group) and released the intriguing The Bullet or the Bullet documentary chronicling their experiences during the 2008 election campaign of President Obama. Many of these tracks have floated for a year or two prior and all of them are of a superior quality and immediate relevance. For the collection, there is a basic protocol the 7 tracks promote. “Eat Right” chronicles the mentality of the diet giving a quality of life where Ness builds, “…If food is fuel, it’s like Kool Aid instead of gasoline/the Sun shines—now that’s energy, man/Now get some Sun in your life and start loving them plants/you fucking up that engine…” And while Edward Snowden is whistleblowing and the NSA watches us as we question them, “They Watchin’” rings with scissored violin strings noting that Black and Brown continue to suffer under the Big Brother eye (“The same shit happens often/ the best defense is offense/we in they nest like crawfish/fam, I got two words, ‘be cautious’/ they want you leaking like a faucet/one false move and you might get shot/suicide by cop..” – K). The cleverness mixed with truth is the real gift in A-Alikes’ verses as K continues, “While white boys is making pipe bombs we making fight songs/while grinding at night to keep the lights on/cuz these days wrong is right and right is wrong/am I right or wrong?/I thought so/moving right along…” Then it’s all put together on “Person of Interest” placing us in the context of the oppression’s daily effects.
Today, the music is a yeezus heist of sad sorts. Sold with the genre label, Rap, it isn’t a music of interest and a slew of popular genres from techno, trance to dance pop are the mask. In contrast, the work on Us Against Them is raw quotable relatables, the beautiful illness that makes you contort your face. When the “Currency” is up the change is evident. A-Alikes anthem secrets are their chorus mastery versing “The birds got the flu/the cows is mad/the fish is full of mercury/the pigs, they wanna murder me/we in a state of emergency/but currently/still grindin’/to move a movement takes currency.” Merge that with their slow flow punctuation always on the right thoughts, K and Ness’ bars usher a powerful verse by Divine of the D.E.Y. that stomps, stutters, pauses and speeds up dynamically. The diversity of topic is also matched by the track stylings as “Slingin’ in the Rain” has a long note horn swaying through showers and Raye 6’s harmonizing. One of their greatest influences is their understanding of vocal pitch changes and drawing the hook out of every word’s sound. Ness’ entire verse is rhymed as pure conversation to the listener that lives the effects of every setback (“..trap, trap, trap, I’m trying to breath/suffocating/we make money!..Not really, yo/they making money/we just living yo/trying to make a living/but this ain’t living no/paying bills/ducking jake/e’ryday sellin’ dope/ when I woke up it was raining outside/but this the first/ain’t no staying inside/get up out the house..”). “Song For You” is a soulful mid tempo cut that dedicates itself with positive portraits of the impoverished people while “Whole Life” is another anthem that catalogs the negative hells of mental illusions. These songs are an ideal capsule of their entire catalog prior and clearly are distinct best of selections of the past five years.
Ultimately, this Hip Hop music of creative substance is a rarity and now A-Alikes’ themes are more of a treasure. Via all angles the reality is Us Against Them and when the weaponry are soldiering anthems to listen to then them crazy soldheads won’t be heard in waste.