AWOL One & Factor Only Death Can Kill You

[Cornerstone; 2007]

Rating: 1/5

Styles:  hip-hop
Others: Atmosphere, Eyedea, Pigeon John, Grouch

As the title of his latest album indicates, Los Angeles-based emcee AWOL One is not a master of subtlety. While this is hardly the defining characteristic of a likable rapper (even good-natured whiners like Slug temper their earnestness with self-deprecation), it’s hard to win over listeners when your vocals are drowned out by the beating heart on your sleeve.

AWOL One has got a lot to say, but so do stoned college freshmen pondering the week’s Kant lectures in their dorm rooms — that doesn’t necessarily make either worth hearing. But it would certainly help if you could hear what AWOL One was saying. His delivery, the kind of raspy monotone normally befitting garrulous old men, lulls you into a bored daze as verse and hook blur together into the same indistinguishable drone. Like a Percocet chaser to AWOL One’s NyQuil rhymes, the lazy, woozy scratching and sampling from Canadian producer Factor further exacerbate the album’s opiate effect.

Even if you’re able to listen to this record with a bold cup of coffee, it might only alert you more to the awful pretension of AWOL One’s elementary wordplay (dude’s also got an album called The War of Art, btw). Lines like “I wish I had a thousand lifetimes/ Would that be a blessing or a curse?” are innocuous enough until they’re spun into grammar-defying choruses on “Old Babies” (note, like, the oxymoron of that title, and stuff): “Like even a old lady/ She used to be babies/ Everybody in the world/ They used to be babies.” Warning: AWOL One & Factor will not kill you, but may induce dizziness, indie hip-hop fatigue, and/or coma.

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