Though Amän, a duet comprised of brothers Amaar and Siege, may not be a strikingly familiar name in hip hop, they have already struck a fair measure of success, having their music featured in Scary Movie 3 and CSI Miami, according to their biography. The Awakening, mostly in name, is a bit generic, especially in light of the current fad in contemporary music of slapping an overzealous, melodramatic title to a disparate collection of tracks, but Amän generally lives up to the expectations and answers the curiosities they pique with this title.
Combining raw emotion and lament with the playful, and, of course, juggling the usual temptations to wear the underground like a badge of pride, Amän constructs music that can be classified as art, and ostensibly, heartfelt. There’s no doubt the music here is honest, and subsequently, that raw honesty can reflect in the music as an Achilles heel at times. Siege and Billy Vidal handle all production tasks for The Awakening, offering a tight, distinct sound of melancholy and introspective beats featuring light guitars, chimes, strings and vocal harmonies.
Influenced by hip hop greats like 2Pac, Talib Kweli and Nas, as their biography indicates and heard in their music, Amän aspires to move its audience with the thoughtful, rather than the thoughtless, and the meaningful, rather than the meaningless. What those artists achieve so brilliantly is the delivery of their respective messages with the use of their moving, vivid, imagist poetry. That is, 2Pac, Kweli and Nas allow their poetry to speak for itself, without straining to deliver a message through generic words. At their best, like on the second verse of “When I’m Gone,” Amän achieves this:
“I was born dying, turn to the stars looking for guidance
Warriors live’s been, documented through rhymes and
you can catch the play-by-play,
Action packed notebooks day-by-day
Record the stuggles I face, my life’s a play
I act it out, the street is my stage
People watch me amazed
Like, ‘How did he escape that unscathed?’
Easy, I didn’t
Some scars are on the flesh for you to see
While others manifest themselves internally
Capture your dreams, we’re moving backwards it seems
My potential is caged, a slave trapped in a beat
My life’s a mini-series, every 16 bars
I bring to light another 16 scars
Me and my people ride in 16 cars
Amplifying my pain
Life captured on CD, bang it loud if you relate
I’m on display, no inhibitions
Understand the sky is the limit
That’s the only way to be living”
Other highlights include the sweet vocal harmonies and soothing minor guitar strums of “In My Arms,” an honest plea for true love, and the orchestral intensity of “Gimme A Reason.” There are a few notable drawbacks despite this being an otherwise solid release. Neither rapper truly distinguishes himself on the mic with either flow, charisma or content, and, being that they’re brothers, Amaar and Siege are naturally at a disadvantage in terms of vocal individuality. Inevitably, like anyone who has tried their hand at an art form, Amän’s personal tastes pop up from time to time like “Cherish,” which sounds very similar to Nas’ “One Mic.” Fans of albums containing starkly distinct tracks will not find The Awakening appealing as the tracks usually roll smoothly into each other in tone and mood. And the more upbeat, aggressive tracks like “Urge To” and “The Game” seem a bit out of place on an otherwise introspective and somber album.
The production stands out as easily the most impressive aspect of this album, so much so that Siege and Billy Vidal should certainly consider vending their beats to other artists – beats that could likely earn them some much deserved recognition. Spurning the traditional chopped-and-looped beats for the more original sounds of originally composed music. After all the overly-critical analysis, the beats are dope and the rhyming is solid, making The Awakening worth it.