Anthony Martin, aka Awol One, aka Awalrus, has made a lengthy career for himself as one of Los Angeles’ underground hip-hop staples. He’s been a DJ, graffiti artist, and MC for more than a decade. With the release of his fifteenth studio album, The Landmark, Awol One takes on the seemingly relatable subjects of social networks, media frenzies, relationships, youth, and depression with the help of fellow artists such as Buck 65, Moka Only, Abstract Rude, and Ahmad. The twelve-track journey into Awol One’s lyrical stream of consciousness results in a relatively boring listening experience.
Constant and pervasive sarcasm might leave the listener wondering if this album should be taken seriously at all, especially after hearing lyrics like I stay out real late/and I get real drunk. Using the same repetitive beats, ominous acoustics, and voice modulation that was so fresh and intriguing on Beck‘s 1994 break-out Mellow Gold, opener “Coming to Town” seems a little outdated. And it’s a preview of coming attractions. The monotone quality of each track is certainly not helped by the fact that Awol One’s crude free-association lyrics are almost completely irrelevant to the new generation of hip-hop fans.
While Martin’s intelligence shines through on tracks such as “Frenemies,” which perfectly embodies its title through its light music and dark lyrics, and the surprisingly touching ballad-esque “Alive,” these moments are too few and far between. (Fake Four Inc.)