Awol One Speakerface

Awol One's debut, Speakerface, has been my most anticipated album of the year ever since I first heard it was in the works. In fact, it may be my favourite album of the year. Speakerface reveals a skilled MC that is able to captivate an audience with witty stories that reach directly into one's heart and soul through depressing emotional bonding. It's not as dark as it sounds, though. Sure, Speakerface can get completely depressing, but "the world's most portable MC for damage" ("Smile of a Bruise") is constantly there with the clever juxtapositions in his lyrics, bringing smiles, if not laughs. Guest appearances by some of the best in the West Coast underground, such as Styles of Beyond, 2Mex, Kool Keith, Circus, Sole, Jizzm, Aceyalone and Abstract Rude, add another necessary dynamic to the album. Whether berating life ("Sleepin All Day," or take your pick of any song on the album), writing loving ballads ("Clammy") or lamenting another's misfortune ("The Abortion Soundtrack"), Awolrus consistently comes off - and in many cases he rips the mic. A decent part of the credit deserves to go to producer Mike Nardone, who supplied the backbone to the album: the beats are mid-tempo nodders that incorporate a lot of unique samples. With Speakerface, Mike Nardone and Awol One have combined to create an album that will need plenty of rewinds, but very few fast forwards. (Celestial)