Confusion Is A Desert Mirage Illusion
More from the 1,000-year-old M.C. This single, and the album it accompanied, were Awol One's "Breakout" releases. Compared to his earlier records, he all of a sudden sounded confident, relatively polished, and professional. In large part this had to do with his enlisting of Daddy Kev as producer, as Kev's beats were incredibly distinctive and on-point; but equally this had to do with Awol's revised outlook on his role in the hip hop game. Since the mid-'90's he had been steadily building steam as a solo artist, as member of the notable Mass Men, and also of the Shape Shifters; and his atmospheric inclusions on OD's Beneath The Surface were probably the tipping point for him to reach international acclaim. From the moment "Little Piece Of Heaven" broke, he promptly quit being a struggling, raunchy emcee with a penchant for aping other emcee's styles (namely MCA); to become, seemingly overnight, the emcee a hell of a lot of other cats wanted to be.
His releases soon began to reflect this metamorphosis. Souldoubt was jazzy, upbeat, and even jaunty, and Awol's lyrics were confidently delivered in a melodic croon that seemed a far cry from the scratchy freestyles and potty humor of his earlier 4-track releases. Similarly, his past albums were always cluttered with guest artists, making Awol only one emcee among many. On Souldoubt he was very apparently the only voice present.
Awol was definitely aware of this new stage in his hip hop existence, and embraced it in an uncharacteristically fervent fashion. All of a sudden he was rapping without any irony whatsoever that he'd never do another album "without an advance". Sharing the byline with the well-known Daddy Kev seemed to give him more credence as an artist. But the clever title itself ("Sold Out/Souldboubt") perhaps speaks the most clearly on how he viewed his new status as a "legitimate" artist.
It comes as little surprise that this single was, for a long time, the only place you could find the song "Confusion". Here, Awol shares the mic with Abstract Rude (the King of the Mass Men), Gel (The King of EXII), Circus (The King of the Shape Shifters), and Goodlife/Project Blowed OG's Of Mexican Descent. With all this notable talent, Awol's newfound celebrity status might have seemed a little threatened. It's a hella lively track as you might expect, and I think he finally included it on reissues of Souldoubt, as a bonus track.
I have to say I prefer Awol's salad days, but at the same time I readily admit that I played the hell out of Souldboubt. And when I learned that he was actually getting radio play down in LA I beamed with pride for my boy Walrus Eye. But I also felt a little sad for the loss of the old Awol, the one that loved to rap about boogers and toilets. That's why I consider this release the Rubicon in Awol's career: His new-found glory is present, but on the flipside you can still see remnants of his past, when he was still just an emcee among many, still searching for his voice.
Rhythm & Agony 12