May 27, 2012
Awol One, The War of Art (April 11, 2006)
The War of Art features “Casting Call,” one of Awol One’s funniest and most stylized songs to date, switching between multiple perspectives within a single verse: “It’s a casting call in a Hollywood cattle battle/From Southern Cali to Seattle/And back up to New York/She’s a model-slash-actress, don’t eat pork/slash-waitress-slash-addicted to coffee/Who’s the director/Back up off me/This production is costly/While I’m reading the script/You’re not the boss of me/Losing weight, shedding all the vanity pounds/Hollywood diet/Snort it, come on and try it/Casting call, the wild market of the bee stings.” He ends the song by repeating the phrase, “You gotta turn off the TV.” The album’s 13 tracks feature multiple producers – including Pigeon John, J-Zone, and Jizzm — most of who are unknown outside of underground circles. Its sound is evenly split between hazy electro reminiscent of Anti-Pop Consortium and El-P, and murky, moody beats more typical of Awol One’s recordings. Of the former, “Knowbody Cares” is the best, a track that skitters and lopes beside rhymes like Awol One’s “Nobody’s home/‘Cause nobody cares/I’ll just sit right here today and get drunk by the stairs.” Cornerstone R.A.S.
March 11, 2012
Awol One & Factor, Only Death Can Kill You (April 24, 2007)
Only Death Can Kill You, a pairing between Awol One and Canadian producer Factor, carries a depressive tone, and is marked by bleak and bitter numbers such as “Old Babies” and “Sunday Mourning.” “Sunday I’m a sleep away the pain/And Monday I’m a face it again/Standing alone on the road/Just like the crossroad fork,” says Awol One on the latter. But he cuts through the darkness with his irrepressible humor. Bizarrely (and hilariously), he even begins to moan like a sad old dog. Awol One is part of a crew of Los Angeles MCs whose talents are only outmatched by their prolificacy. Only Death Can Kill You isn’t his best work, due to Factor’s uneven production. For every “Sunrise Sandwich” or “Alpha Omegatron,” the latter a yearning percussive groove reminiscent of DJ Shadow, there’s “Sunday Mourning,” a plain, repetitive backing track. The best thing that can be said of Only Death Can Kill You is that it feels smoked-out and casual, like a bunch of cats sitting around the living room, blowing reefer and tossing out non sequiturs. Cornerstone R.A.S.
February 28, 2012
Awol One and Mike Nardone, Speakerface (September 17, 2002)
Slightly less laconic than Madlib’s Quasimoto character but considerably more wry and self-deprecating, Awol One rhymes when he wants to, which is about half the time. His voice resembles a wheezing yawn, perfect for uttering choruses like “Kiss Yourself Destruction’s” “It’s not a waste of time if you spend your time getting wasted,” a sentiment preceded by guest rapper 2MEX’s praise for amphetamines on “NME.” Most will write Speakerface off as pure comedy, though some will notice a few disturbing themes such as the misogyny (a useless accusation considering how completely male-dominated rap music is) undercutting tracks like the “Abortion Theme Song” and Awol One’s allegation, “I know this girl, she gave herself a pregnancy test in a public bathroom.” He doesn’t stint on the less savory aspects of his personality. The final track on Speakerface is a minute-long recording of him pissing in a toilet. At the very least, he’s good for lines like “God blesses me, I can tell by his tears,” and “I know my enemies like I know my own nuts/They’re like a sheep in wolf’s clothing.” Mike Nardone produced. Mean Street.