I remember meeting Awon when he worked with a collective of MCs called the Soul Students. There were a Justice League of artists from the Hampton Roads area of Virginia that ripped shows throughout the region. On stage, their performances were stellar. I was asked to managed them and I refused. I just didn't think I could provide what they needed. They deserved a way better manager than I could hope I could ever be. Plus, I was a huge fan and felt that I couldn't separate that. I am completely unfamiliar with Phoniks' work but I am equally impressed.
There was a time period between 1990 until 1994 when many artists from the NY Tri State era released work that displayed both lyrical wizardy with Dj scratches and snippets from classic NYC songs. Artists that worked with Pete Rock and Dj Premier are just a few examples of how this was done. It wasn't just limited to the NY Tri State area. Artists all over the country did it this way. There were no R&B singers swooning during the hooks. While there are several reasons why this isn't wrong, it does bring back some nostalgia to when artists focused on lyrics. Many of us lament and call this era (actually between '88 and '92 - the time period is debated and it's a term I avoid using), "golden." Sonically, it was a moment where many artists sampled some dope shit. It was a time when folks really dug in the crates. I don't think a week doesn't pass where I don't hear a pop artist sample ideas from this time. Many blueprints were laid and once record labels peeped how many obscure records were being sampled, they decided to recoup and change the entire landscape.
I find that with "Return to theGolden Era," Awon and Phoniks planned to focus on dope beats and dope tracks. Awon plays a modern G Rap without the lisp while Phoniks harkens back to an era of 12 inch joints with dope scratches. It works. Awon doesn't hit the listener up with preachy rap or about backpackers or ciphers in hole in the wall clubs. Instead Awon tells stories. He even has skits where cats are just talking and not trying to be funny.
The lead track, "Midas Touch," sets the tone for the album. "Forever Ill" featuring Dephlow and Tiff the Gift demonstrates how a posse cut should be laid down. "Blood In, Blood Out" focuses on the collateral damage of drug dealing. It's something refreshing and you really never get to hear when it comes to that type of storytelling. "Rule of the Gun" is a crazy dope overview of gun violence within our community. "Move Back" definitely sounds a joint copped from Fat Beats under a white label.
It's a well balanced album and definitely worth coping. I really hope to hear more joints like this from other independent artists. There are no gimmicks. Just dope production and great storytelling. For those who remember that time when many albums did just that, this one is for you.
-Dan Tres OMi