If you're reading this, I don't need to explain who Awol One is to you. There is a chance, however, that I need to explain that the underground legend (then and now,) has a new album dropping on January 31st called "Tony The Walrus." I got an early sneak peek and am here to do a track by track review in anticipation of the drop. So here we go:
1. Extrordenary Narwhalrus: After Awol's previous project, the punky "Primer" which I was not a fan of, I was curious and a bit apprehensive about the direction of "Tony The Walrus." The project's first single, "I Can Do That," calmed my worries and this opener definitively put them to rest. The track really screams everything I love about Awol solo projects. Over a heavy bass and some eerie synths, we get the thousand year old behemoth rapping slow and grimey, offering words of advice and warning to those who would challenge him. Great way to start things off.
2. So Poor All I Have Is Money: I've heard a few peeps over the years complain about Awol's delivery style, which is strange as (1) His delivery is usually top notch and (2) He has far more than one style. This next track is a perfect example, where Awol rides the lo-fi beat with ease - even showing traces of that Blowedian chopping. The content is a perfect match as Awol discusses the importance of ingenuity in the music realm ("Hunt down the mundane, boring, and dull.") The hook switches things up sonically with some really smooth 80's-esque keys that tie things nicely together.
3. I Can Do That Feat. Open Mike Eagle: This is a Blowedian collabo long overdue - and it does not disappoint! I've always appreciated the sense of humor that both of these guys possess, so it's only right that we get a light-hearted left-field braggadocio track, over a static-y slightly off-kilter instrumental. Awol flexes his ability to destroy a wide variety of animals (particularly via the head region) - proving that the Walrus is truly supreme. Open Mike runs through his list of talents which includes child safety, karaoke, and off-the-clock emailing. Immediate classic.
4. Underground Rapper: Here we have the first dud of the project, and it's mainly due to the production. The main synth melody never really takes off and instead ends up drowning out Awol's voice for most of the song. There's a couple beat breakdowns as well that don't really work. The content is interesting - part of the hook recites "Everywhere I piss, the flowers grow." I can never be sure of meaning in indie rap, but I wonder if the line is a commentary on how particular underground artists' output, which go un-noticed or unappreciated, often end up being the fuel of more widely acclaimed works. Or maybe Awol's actual piss is just that potent.
5. Pizza Bones: Straight head-nodder here! LL decided not to go back to Cali, and Awol here vows not to go back to "alleys" lol! And in order to ensure we don't do the same, he drops lines of knowledge throughout the track regarding personal growth, anxiety, and ultimate rebirth. I particularly enjoy his "trying not to be anti-everything" - something which I find to be far too rare in indie rap these days.
6. Manifested Words: Another head-nodder with some throw-back claps tossed in the mix, which is fitting given the topic. Awol spends the first part of the track talking straight greasy ("I kill emcees out of pure nostalgia") and then touches a bit on his come-up, particularly linking up with CBS and the Shape Shifters and ultimately meeting one of his big influences, GURU. The vocal sample of GURU shouting Awol out at the end is a cherry on top. RIP.
7. Jealous And Bitter: I'm not in love with the riffs and hollowed-out noisiness of this one. The raps don't do much to save the track either. The theme is Awol overcoming his jealously of other rappers who made it and adopting a realization that he's built to last in the rap-game and has the skills to outlast the noobs. This is all fine and good, but Awol's writing doesn't really give any impact to the content.
8. Some Kind Of Genius Feat. Gel Roc, Megabusive and DJ Roach: Cloaks in the building! And they brought Computer Chip with them...along with a Circus intro?!?! The theme here is pretty simple - God's infinite power and creations as explained through the notion of time, geometry, counter-intelligence, quantum mechanics, wormholes, third eyes, probably some other stuff. You have some of the slickest from the West delivering it to you tho, so it all sounds so good. And just because this is rap, if I gotta crown a winner - I think Megabusive gets it (he's last for a reason folks.) Hope Circus is doing well.
9. When I Look Around: This one should please the OG Shifters fans out there. Over some spooky keys and upbeat percussion, Awol uses simple jumping off scenarios (waking up on a strange couch post-party, driving around the block) to tackle deeper existential questions of humanity's relationship with each other and the universe. All done via a story-narrator type delivery. This one needs a video asap.
10. Scary Man: I've always loved Awol's melodies and he certainly saved the project's best for the closer here. Over a jazzy instrumental, Awol takes on a sly, potential sinister, persona (I imagine Dracula lol) with endless powers...and a very infectious melodic flow! I hope he has the book and/or action figure ready! Very solid closer.
All in all, this is a great Awol One album (a huge step up from "Primer" imo,) that really showcases his various sounds nicely in a 10 song package. The project officially drops on all platforms on January 31st. And from the looks of things, it seems like a cassette might be available as well. Peep it then!