Awol One & Daddy Kev :: Souldoubt :: Mean Street Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Daddy Kev is a rising star in the world of hip-hop production with fresh beats with an impressive resume of artists he's done beats for: Busdriver, Dose One, Mikah 9, Sole, and others. He's definitely out there in that land of "advanced" hip-hop providing a soundscape for abstract and experimental rappers to flow over. Awol One is the latest such rapper to step up and get a piece of his production, and their collabo' resulted in the impressive "Souldoubt."

Vocally, Awol One is a little reminiscent of R.A. the Rugged Man. You get the feeling from listening to his voice that he smokes blunts and drinks whiskey all day. On the other hand, Awol couldn't have any LESS in common with R.A.'s style - a shock theatre of "hairy fat unshaven" whiteness. Awol One is more interested in exploring the depths of his own psyche and the power of words to describe his world. "Music is the weapon of the future" for Awol on the song "Demolition":

"No destination of where I'm headed to
No imagination but now I'ma get it through
Just a touch of the world's blue hands
Take me to the other place, never leavin a trace
Invitin me, leaves me an ugly aftertaste
Once I got third place in the human race
I wish doctors knew how to heal
Cause like Gargamel, I'm chillin with Azrael"

Of course, there are plenty of rappers in hip-hop today who are trying to be introspective or profound - and not all of it makes for an entertaining listening experience. As Awol One says on "Content" though, "Some people - they just play the part / but people like us devote our life to the art." And Awol's devotion is obvious. In fact to some, it might be a little too serious. This is not light music, or happy music, but it is definitely artful. And with Daddy Kev's beats and scratching assistance by D-Styles of the Invisibl Skrtach Piklz, it's mostly good. With the keys and melodies of the darkly beautiful "Revolution" and the fast and spaced out sound of "Worship" you may at times feel as though you're listening to a Del album by Dan the Automator or a Kool Keith album by Kut Masta Kurt. This album's sound and style is closely kin to both, and not in any way displeasing - even if Awol's painful soul-searching occasionally gets brutal on songs like "Solitude":

"I walk around my house in my bare feet
in dead silence, and listen to the stairs squeak
Bumpin around, the lights off, in the dark
In my silverware drawer, I'm feelin knives and forks
(ahh yeah this'll work) I get the sharpest utensil I can find
or maybe it's the pencil I'll grind
Lead poisoning in my mouth
but anything I find is to cut my tongue out
So I can stop all the stupid things I say
A mutant can probably change my wicked ways"

This album's only mistake might be the monotonous opening track "Ignorance" - a repeating dirty bassline which has Awol using a sing-song flow that quickly gets on your nerves. Most people who put this album in their discman might think Awol was overrated and uninteresting if they never got past this song to track two. If you have a chance to preview it, don't make this mistake. From the funky xylophonic and flute jazz of "Rhythm" to the dark heavy beats and lyrics of "Agony", the cuts shine throughout. Awol may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for people who like original beats and a left of center topic matter that's not about drinking Cristal or driving a Bentley, Awol and Daddy Kev got your shit right here.

Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10

Originally posted: May 10, 2001