Awol One Needs A Hug

Awol One Needs A Hug
"I need to hear a song that recognises the pain I feel inside," raps Awol One on "Sun Day Bloody Someday," one of the songs from his new album, Speakerface, a two-year-old collaboration with Mike Nardone and Kut Master Kurt. With few rappers willing to go beyond the typical hip-hop subject matter, this MC from planet California digs into the depths of his dark side to create songs that would put Morrisey to shame. And he does it all in a unique colloquial style that means you don't have to be an Anticon "art fag" to appreciate his message for the downtrodden masses.

"We're just trying to innovate," says Awol One of his work with left-of-centre sci-fi obsessed crew the Shapeshifters. Also a member of Fat Jack's Mass Men collective, Awol One's need for innovation comes from his roots that are firmly planted in the Good Life Café and Project Blowed, open mic events that helped mold the young MC. "I had a lot more to prove since I wasn't black," he explains. "I would just get on stage and battle." The result? Freestyle and written rhymes melded together by Awol's gruff, sing-song voice with an asthmatic flow. "Sometimes it's very planned," he says of his lyrics, "and sometimes I just use a paragraph from my book and the rest will be freestyle."

Although he usually writes in spurts and sometimes goes days without writing anything, he admits that writing is cathartic. That the lyrics often end up depressing is best explained by his outlook on life. "I guess I'm a pessimist," he says. However, he does stress that there is an upside, laughing when he hears his music described as depressing. "It's not all depressing," he replies. "Some of it's humorous. I try to cover all areas." He succeeds, but it's hard to avoid the feeling of despair that runs throughout his work when choruses on Speakerface proclaim, "my father wasted sperm when he made me" ("Sleepin' All Day") and the album contains a song about a self-inflicted abortion ("The Abortion Soundtrack"). The previously-released Souldoubt (with Daddy Kev on production) and the limited-edition Rebirth collection are just as dark, and having been recorded after Speakerface, they show an MC that won't lighten up any time soon.

"I'm not saying everyone should sound like us," he says. "That's just our contribution." And the increasing success of Awol One proves there are others out there who share the pain he feels inside.