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28 June, 2004@12:00 am

    The raspy voice of AWOL One is unmistakable–once you hear it, you’re not likely to forget it. But it’s not just the hoarse resonance of this L.A. MC’s vocals that catches ears–it’s his internal conflict that is channeled through this voice. On his new self-titled album, AWOL continues to treat his raps like self-help therapy sessions, which results in an unpredictable bipolar hip-hop experience.

    While AWOL is known to rock over gloomy soundscapes, he usually takes a stab at an upbeat song or two. Here, optimistic joints dominate the entire first quarter of the album. For the most part they hit their mark, most notably the Evidence-produced banger “Make” in which AWOL affirms, “We make money/ money doesn’t make us.” As the album begins to creep into its darker side with “S.O.T.F.” (That’s “Start Of The Finish”) featuring 2Mex and Circus, this Shapeshifter sounds more like himself alongside his crewmates. But AWOL may have taken too deep a plunge into the pit of despair on tracks like “Fatalove.” Produced by Tranducer, this number utilizes a haunting, synth-driven instrumental that sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack of an ’80s horror flick. “Realeyes” repeats the trend as AWOL lazily croons and raps over another low-tech Transducer production. By the albums’ climax, “Gagbuster”, a handful of L.A.’s Shapeshifters and Mass Men are summoned for this quirky posse cut that ends this album in yet another direction.

    While he’s known for his irregular nature on the mic, AWOL has never had this many mood swings on wax. When he says, “Some people treat me like my raps are scriptures because I capture the moment like a picture,” he isn’t lying. The thing is, the snapshots of his life and humanity that develop on this album are almost too varied. Regardless, this album definitely has its standouts (“Make”, “S.O.T.F.,” “Matters”, etc.). For a better overall representation of this raspy-voiced lyricist you may want to take a look back at his discography, which is one of the vastest in the L.A. underground.?

  Mixtape D.L.
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