Awol One & Factor Owl Hours

How Cali Shapeshifter Awol One and Saskatoon, SK producer Factor convinced Pimp My Ride rapper Xzibit to executive producer their second collaborative effort may forever remain a mystery, but it's certainly clear that the two are going for broke on Owl Hours. Awol doesn't shy away from the "lyrical conundrum music" his fans love him for but on this self-professed party album he almost always delivers it in a more energetic rap-style inspired by Factor's upbeat, groovy production. He only offers his smoker's sing-song on a trio of love songs: the cryptic "Celebrate," the Leave It To Beaver-referencing posse cut "Back Then," with Gregory Pepper and Ceschi, and the Caribbean-flavoured "Destination," as well as a handful of choruses. But the biggest selling point ― Xzibit ― contributes a fun shout-along chorus and wicked sing-song closing verse, plus an appearance from crew-mates Tha Liks on ode to alcohol "Waste The Wine," Factor's beat perfectly matching their drunken style. But as good as those guest appearances are, underground heads will be more impressed with the appearances of Myka 9 and Aesop Rock on the smooth, catchy funk of "Stand Up," an inspired combination of MCs that follows through on its potential. While the mainstream might not be ready for Awol One, Owl Hours is evidence that he's more than ready for them, and getting impatient. (Fake Four Inc.)