I long to author love songs
that sing to my at-risk genre,
that one that I loved
and left me so lonely.
Sonnets and poems to be sung
at the stroke of science
all in the key of culture.
Ohh, how I live in this quiet storm so loudly.
Fighting to sleep in my dreams made true
inside this nightmare scenery
that has its own society,
its own rules,
its own media,
it’s own schooling.
That Hot 97 school of Charts.
The 105.1 Rec center for pop play.
The Diddy University of Crossover.
The Jaybey Ivy League schools for the rare who use it all for all the wrong.
My Hip Hop, of sounds, moves and sights uncompromised.
The worst of the at-risk genres.
It grew up and ran the streets, party to party,
basement through cellar, park to park
It played with all of us who lived on the block,
those whose careers were on the careening corners
or fighting to be made in the classrooms.
So risky in this nightmare matrix,
it took the criminals from the minimal
also drummed up this little ghetto brown boy
to let his frown toil in the bravado of an Art’s supremacy.
my at-risk genre friend who ain’t heavy,
but whose legs aren’t sound
whose arms won’t break
and words can’t convey words
with these glittery mic stands.
Let this at-risk genre meet the worst of my at-risk youth again,
drop out of school, skip college, reject the scholarships
and be born again in the streets.
That they revel and rebel together
and revolt a new way.
Give that at-risk genre, Hip Hop, a Knowledge of Self,
Awon victory worded in the greatest grammar of Phoniks.
Awon & Phoniks are the leaders of this decade’s Boom Bap revivalists. Phoniks is never embarrassed about the honor of producing in a style that has the blatant intention to make the hardest snapping drums and thickest bass drums possible. Awon knows not the shame of those soon to buy in, always favoring the principle retained over the capital acquired. The development of a music, here another classic genre of the oppressed, absolutely needs the progressive experimental scientists but it also needs the perfectly grown farmers that reveal the genre’s core, the purest foods harvested for this ignorance-fed and ill-starved young of today.
Knowledge of Self is a a homage to Hip Hop, to show its roots, detail it’s principles just as Guru constantly did on his Gang Starr classics and expose the unity of the gorgeous sample and the dirty, filthy break. Just as there are countless LPs in the 90’s that are rarely unmentioned treasures. Works as the debuts of Artifacts, Cella Dwellas or All Natural or LPs by artists that were greater than their prior hit albums as Das Efx’ Hold it Down, Onyx’s All We Got Iz Us or Cypress Hill’s Temples of Boom that rooted themselves deep into the purity of Boom Bap. Knowledge of Self is one of those LPs for this era.
The theme, Knowledge of Self, always in danger of didactic failures that assumes preachy predictions is given the smoothest beds by Phoniks. Just wonderful sampling that links the right chopping and the properly addictive drums together. The introspective horns on “Ideology” sail in and out with snares that extend themselves to match. Snares that are backed a 1-2 maraca shake that preludes the return of the break when it drops out during the chorus. Awon builds on the sincerity of dues being paid and the focus on self away from the obsession with criticizing others around a up tempo, rolling flowed verse by NorCal Nick. Guitar strings and bass drops prelude Heeni’s “Profit Off My Pain” vocals and Awon’s impassioned stories on the fight against hypocrisy and devilishment with powerful demands for the truth and the matching society. “I want to stop apologizing for my Blackness/Stop acting like you saying ‘niggas’ cause of some rappers/Trayvon and Michael Brown wasn’t killed because they’re thugs/shit, I’m alive and I done sold a ton of drugs/I want love unconditionally/truth in my history/after my grandfather everything else is a mystery/we got the same blood, fam/that ain’t no mistake/don’t act like my female ancestors weren’t raped/just to think of it/everything you told us was fake…” Then “Gifted Unlimited,” they pay homage to the great God Guru of Gang Starr (RIP #RememberedInPerfection), the one MC that orated and revealed the epitome of the essence of Hip Hop’s dignity and principles in Original Creativity and Honorable Black manhood. Three incredible verses of battle prowess and Hip Hop ethos confirmed by Hex One of Epidemic, Awon and Dephlow through a blaring horn, 1,2,3key stab patterns and a thumping break at the ideal riding pace.
Phoniks tempos his tracks perfectly for the mid-range excellence Awon thrives in while Awon varies his presentation of content throughout with, lines of tribute mixed with bars of insight. These are albums with no mistakes so even when samples may be familiar they become a new track and when topics are expected they are addressed deeply and profoundly. Phoniks, even with the work he has put in, has only reached a peak in the mastery of understanding the Boom Bap sound. Awon, a veteran of Hip Hop, has another LP that just starts to amass the years and years of experience and tempered smoothness of delivery he has to share. These are the records that cement what Hip Hop is from the wonderful textbook definitions of sounds 9th Wonder, Evidence, Oddisee and others are progressing with the pictorial manuals to MCing that can go in between the pages where unheralded greats as CL Smooth, DITC’s AG, Masta Killa and so many others laid scrolls of definitive consciousness effortlessly amazing. With these LPs, an at-risk genre stays wilding in the streets…