|Beauty lies in simpicity, but only if it's done correctly. That's something a lot of hip-hop producers and lyricists have yet to learn.
It seems like the producers that go for simplicity end up producing tracks that sound like the ones Jay-Z rhymes over: simple, but pointless. Daddy Kev has gone beyond that and found a way to lay down a dope track that isn't complicated but sure as anything will get your head nodding.
Likewise for emcees: writing simple lyrics that conform to a formula of some sort is easy. Just ask anyone who claims to be from the "dirty south." But then you have writers like Awol One (of the Mass Men and the ShapeShifters crew out of California). His style is monotone and consistent, but he can rightfully claim the title of poet.
You need go no further than the first two tracks of Awol One and Daddy Kev's debut album on MeanStreet Records, Souldoubt?, to see how simple can be beautiful. Even downright gorgeous.
The album's opening track, "Ignorance," is a masterpiece that is just asking to made into a video, just for the pure cinematic quality of the production. Awol One's style rides right alongside the melody of the main sample and allows drum hits to perfectly punctuate his lyrics.
And just as the listener is done vibing to the super-ill opener, in comes "Rhythm." Maybe I'm just a sucker for vibraphones (Bags would be proud). Or maybe it's the amazing flutes and cinematic basslines. I don't know what its, but "Rhythm" is beyond off-the-hook -- it's disconnected with no call forwarding. It takes a full 40 seconds before the lyrics come in (something rare for hip-hop tracks these days), which just goes to show how the production here can even stand on it's own. But, once again, Awol One creates ill verses as well as appropriate hooks: "All these people, just wanna have fun, / All these suckers is so f'ing temporary, / Me and my crew walking down the street, / You can't beat the beat, the beat, the beat..." Damn skippy you can't.
While the remainder of the disc doesn't live up to the momentum the first two tracks set, they more than make up for it in intellectual appeal and thematic construction. Moving through one-word titles and themes like "Agony," "Greed," and "Devotion," Awol One and Daddy Kev serve up 2001's first must-have hip-hop classic-in-the-making.
"Greed" is especially lyrically poignant: "Money changes humans, / The ATMs spit out blood." "Revolution" is the album's abstract track: "I get drunk and make beautiful things fight each other." It also doesn't hurt that D-Styles from the Invisibl Skratch Piklz adds the turntablist elements.
While Souldoubt? may not be for everyone, those that are ready for hip-hop that'll make you think will welcome this album with open arms. With the amount of music I get and listen to, it's very rare that I give an album multiple spins in the span of a week, but SoulDoubt? manages to keep finding its way into my CD player.
Fans of Awol One should also check out his appearance on Fat Jack's Cater to the DJ compilation as well as the Beneath the Surface collection (both on Celestial).
Visit Mean Street Records for more info on Awol One at www.meanstreet.com. While there is no info there now, I suspect there will be soon.