Riverside

Exact Opposites' Desert Hip Hop Radiates From Arid Blythe

Exact Opposites | Photo: Courtesy of Exact Opposites.

In the past decade, April has become the season of music festivals in the California desert, particularly the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, an annual three-day music and arts festival headlining some of the world's most famous musicians and bands that takes place each spring in the City of Indio at the lushly landscaped Empire Polo Fields. However, the most ardent fans of music might want to take a drive a little farther into the easternmost stretches of Riverside County, along Interstate 10, into the land that Southern California almost forgot, to the tiny town of Blythe (population 21,000), situated at our state's border with Arizona at the Colorado River.

For those of us who have passed through with barely a nod (except to get gas in the long, six-hour journey across the desert from L.A. to Phoenix and back, and stagger from extremely hot temperatures that often reach 120 degrees in the summer,) it might come as a surprise to learn that fertile artistic roots have flourished here, 100 miles in each east/west direction from the nearest small town, and much farther than that from an urban center -- but they can, and do. The hip-hop, genre-bending music group, Exact Opposites, comprised of three Blythe natives and one member from Coachella Valley, not only celebrates the remotest nuances of their hometown, but create original, transformational music with a style all their own, drawn from their lives in this unlikely desert mecca.

I-Fit-The-Description, Meccanism, and Jae Rawkwell.| Photo: Courtesy of Exact Opposites.

Exact Opposites is a collective of musical talent drawn together to create quality music with a unique style. The band currently consists of Daddy Fat Strings (bassist), Jae Rawkwell (turntablist), Meccanism (vocalist & drummer), and I-Fit-The-Description (vocalist). And, in a somewhat unusual mix, members of the group are African American, Mexican American, and Anglo American. According to co-founding member Taurean Wright, who grew up in Blythe, "Positive music is a community effort; we strive to be grounded and concerned with today's topics. Our music forms our response to our community's concerns -- such as racial tensions and a high rate of crime and violence, as well as drug abuse and poverty -- and our community has reciprocated with a respectful appreciation for our music."

Wright, along with best friend and Blythe native Marx Moxon, emphasize they are proud of their roots in Blythe, and work to celebrate the strengths of life in their small hometown. For example, their first single and video, "Fertile Roots," from "Manufactured," is their ode to Blythe, and pays tribute to the small town that gave them their strong roots and celebrating a spirit of racial unity. Citing musical influences such as the Roots, an American Grammy Award-winning hip hop/neo soul band, and Mos'Def, aka, Dante Terrell, an American actor and MC, Exact Opposites is distinguished by a strong stage presence and a soul sound, along with poetically-driven lyrics and, as they say, they "make an intention to produce positive, boundless music" that both embraces and defies some of the basic musical tenets of hip hop, soul, and rap.

Starting in 2006 and with just two microphones and a turntable, I.Fit.The.Description, Meccanism and D.J. Rawkwell toured Coachella Valley and Los Angeles as they structured their vision and foundation. They cut their teeth in the rough-and-tumble realms of underground hip hop, and emerged wiser, more balanced, and with a destination in sight. Like so many hip hop acts before them, they decided to go it alone. In the DIY ethic that spawned punk and early rap, they got to work on their own. Since 2008, the group has released four albums on their own label, Sonata Orchestration: "Manufactured" (2008); "Sonata Average Mixtape" (2008) "The Amazing Adventures of Quick Draw McGraw and Huckleberry Hound" (2010), which serves as somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek jab at the sharp contrast between the Wild West typified by Blythe and the urbanity of its closest Southern California metropolis connection, Los Angeles. "The Learning Experience" (2012), the group's first live LP, catches their spitfire lyrics and flow at their most raw.

Since that time, Exact Opposites has played dozens of shows throughout Southern California, from Blythe to Coachella Valley to L.A., and has earned high praise from various music critics, who have compared them to musicians and groups such as J. Cole, Mac Miller, Atmosphere, Wale, Macklemore. Music critic Blackmilk of Soulified.com says, "The more I listen to Exact Opposites, the more their music gets reminiscent of a classic Wu Tang album with a west coast twist." The group has firmly planted their foundation in today's music scene by opening up for Blackalicious at the Key Club in Hollywood to performing at the legendary Whiskey A Go Go and each show in between with names like Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Planet Asia, The People Under the Stairs, Yelawolf, and the late GURU of Gangstar.

"Staying true to our roots, and trying to give back to our community; we want to build community and send a positive message through our music" says Wright, who recently organized a student aid fundraiser show that the group played at Cal State, Long Beach, as well as a show benefiting students at his and Moxon's alma mater, Palo Verde High School in Blythe. For them, Blythe isn't just a place you pass through; it's home. Stark and otherworldly as it may be, their hometown is the center of their world. It's the magnetic North by which they orient their path ahead. "You've got to know where you come from in order to know where you are going," he says. "It's our goal to embrace what many people perceive as the dead-endness of Blythe, and to find the strength of people, community, and ordinary lives, and build on that, and share that, through our music, and that is what Exact Opposites is about."

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Top Image: Exact Opposites | Photo: Courtesy of Exact Opposites.

About the Author

Ruth Nolan, M.A, a lifelong resident of the California desert and southern California's Inland Empire, is professor of creative writing and desert literature at College of the Desert in Palm Desert. She is also editor of the criti...
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I find it more than a little odd when groups like this talk about "positive messages," yet employ a mode of expression derived from a criminal subculture. "Hip hop" is not art; it is vapid, mindless, uncreative pop culture.

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Very impressed with exact opposites. They ARE a positive group and I have been to a few of their shows and have listened to ALL their music. It sucks that people like Roberto might not know too much about hip hop culture yet find himself talking about what he thinks it is through what he probably hears on the radio and see on television. Elevate your mind. You might learn some stuff:)

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