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AWOL One – The War of Art

Awol One has been making noise on the underground since the late ‘80s. With his crew The Shapeshifters he’s achieved some notoriety. Throughout his career he’s also had the backing of many of the industries trusted beatsmiths—from Daddy Kev to Evidence (of Dilated Peoples). For his new record, he employs the talents of J zone, The Grouch (of Living Legends), and Pigeon John, as well as longtime collaborators Daddy Kev and Jizzm. The laconic and doped up sounding MC also has guest spots from legendary rap artists including KRS-One, 2Mex (of The Visionairies), and Eyedea.


The War of Art is a fan record through and through. From its oozing keys to its almost industrial sounding drums that deftly encompass the lazy drawl that Awol uses as his recognizable delivery, the album seems destined for rotation in the decks (or iPods) of his anointed. Those less knowledgeable, however, might have a hard time being drawn into these Sunday afternoon proceedings. The magic, or menace, of the cryptic and narcotic environment that the MC creates might be a little too mellow for some. Although the loping “Get You,” produced by PJ, where he recites the refrain: “music is for expression / Music is not a competition…” suggests just how deft the artist is with his wordplay, and why the fans have supported him all these years.

Likewise, the simple drunken twang of “Knowbody Cares” with Jizzm, lulls the listener with its strong hook, corner store flow and almost hypnotic synthesizer. The jazzy “Stand Before,” produced by DJ Rhettmatic, is more spoken word than rap, and works as such. When listening to this record, keep in mind that something about that L.A. water has given Awol a different perspective on his environment, and a different way to express it; but he is deceptively effective.

In the end, Awol One is an artist that needs to be listened to repeatedly to be understood. If you don’t have the time for that, then this isn’t the record for you. However, if you like your music like a good bottle of wine, you’ll notice this artist only gets better with time.


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