AWOL One is not for everybody. To get it out of the way as quickly as possible, he's one of the most unique rappers around. His slow, depressed flow is easily distinguishable not only from his mainstream contemporaries, but also his underground peers. Depending on who you are as a listener, he can either instantly relate to you or bore you to tears. With a deep voice that attempts to quietly command your attention, and slightly abstract, brooding lyrics, AWOL One is a rapper you almost have to either love or hate.
Factor, on the other hand, is infinitely more accessible, especially to underground Hip Hop fans. The sole producer on "Only Death Can Kill," Factor's beats are effortlessly smooth, standing on their own as well constructed productions while putting the focus on the lyrics. Straight from "Sunshine Sandwich," the album's first track, Factor's productions are perfectly suited for AWOL One, and yet retain their own personality. He operates in the background of this album, but like a good background, he creates the ideal setting for the star of the show to shine.
With that in mind, whether or not you like this album largely depends on whether or not you like AWOL One. There are plenty of reasons to like him: he's a good, if vague lyricist, and his vocal delivery is, at least, very different. Vocally, he's something like a very relaxed version of Young Jeezy, and though he differs greatly in topic choice, his style of lyricism is similar as well. He won't blow you away with what he says, but he delivers simple, abstract one-liners that contain as many meanings and implications as are seen in many MC's whole verses.
On the other hand, for many rap fans, he will simply be impossible to fully enjoy. For many, his abstract lyrics, and delivery, will simply be too vague. There are many times throughout the album where his verses fail to be consistent, trailing off into different topics. "Only Death" finds him moaning "Only Death Can Kill You" for an agonizing 2:46. Meanwhile, on songs like "Smokin' Coffee," even an unusually hard beat from Factor can't save him from sounding ridiculous, going off on unrelated tangents:
"I got nerves of steel
C. Walrus I didn't invent the radio
I came close to it
I know how to do it
I got the fluid (fluid)
It's like the cassette (deck)
I didn't invent beer, but that's what I'm known for
But I did invent hard times... to twist your views
Well, that's what I'm known for
And that's why me and my audience relate to each other"
This problem plagues much of the album; AWOL just doesn't seem focused at all in his delivery. He's gloomy, but the listener doesn't really know why, and his abstract lyrics don't particularly help. Many of his songs seem to be trying to make observations on or about life, but don't go anywhere. "Old Babies" is particularly odd, with a chorus of him moaning about how we all "used to be babies." Yes, but so? Too often, his writing descends too much into laziness, using his vagueness as a crutch to avoid writing about real topics.
Factor's beats help him come across in his own distinguished manner, but they're too laid back to make the album a success on their own. Ultimately, AWOL One is the draw here. If you're a fan of his, you'll like the album, and Factor's beat will be nothing to complain about. If you don't enjoy AWOL One, and few people will, stay far away from "Only Death Can Kill." It has nothing to offer those who are not already converted.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10
Originally posted: June 5, 2007