About a decade ago (give or take a year), I found myself sitting across from Los Angeles underground rapper, Tony “Awol One” Martin, in an Olympia, Washington home full of college kids; my friend KB‘s trusty blue gravity bong bucket between us.
Earlier that night, I was down the street in another house on the West Side of Oly when the phone rang. The guy on the other end was a friend/classmate by the name of Mackswell Sherman, who now runs the Brooklyn-based fashion line, Ruffeo Hearts Lil Snotty. It was KB‘s birthday and we had scheduled the debut — and possibly, only (?) — performance by the project, KB Smooth & Da Bassmasters. This ensemble, which, to that point, had been discussed for many years, yet had never truly come to a notable fruition, would consist of KB rapping while more than half-a-dozen bassists accompanied him in one form or another — our friend Mack Dawg‘s contributed his low-end in the form of his instrument of choice: the keyboard. The show would be held in the tiny curtained-off back section of Le Voyeur, a cafe/dive downtown. On nights when the venue had dead schedules, it wasn’t unheard of for us to show up unplanned, offering to play a last-minute show, simply for the 2.5 beers that our meager complimentary $5 bar tabs would afford us. The message that was relayed to us was that Macks, who himself would rap under the moniker of Nameless, at the time, had some friends in town who were hoping that it might be possible for them to come down to perform at the show that night. KB didn’t seem to have a problem with the idea of random strangers getting on the mic during his birthday celebration, so we gave the thumbs up and, after that, I don’t think that any of us really thought too much more about it.
I arrived at the venue downtown that night somewhat agitated. My ex-girlfriend had done something which really fucking displeased me, so I drove her ass home — to be honest, I’m not even completely sure what it was, all these years later. For some fucked up reason, she still thought that it was cool to come to the show that I was performing at, effectively throwing me off my game all night. I was trying to make it clear that it wasn’t. As I approached Le Voyeur (solo), my irritation was replaced with confusion, when I immediately noticed Alpha Pup recording artist and Project Blowed member, Busdriver loitering around the entrance. As I was walking back to the bar through the small dining area up front, that’s when I saw Awol. Were these really the “friends” that wanted to come down and perform? Apparently so.
As the story goes, these guys had recently just done a show in Seattle and stopped off at The Evergreen State College‘s radio station, KAOS, on their way down to Oregon; that is, if I am remembering correctly. They had some dead time in the interim and thought it would be a good idea to throw a show somewhere. They were right. I would see roughly the same crew perform another show or two around the same time, so I can’t recall exactly all who appeared at this particular event, but I’m fairly positive that Awol One‘s set at least included, fellow Shapeshifters crew member, Existero. Busdriver may or may not have been working with Radioinactive at the time, but one thing that I do remember clearly is when he broke out a KB Toys-quality plastic turntable and incorporated it into his act.
Word had spread quickly, resulting in a sizable crowd pouring in to witness the impromptu show and see the Los Angeles troupe of underground hip hop notables tear the roof off our local hole in the wall. As for Da Bassmasters… we cleared the place in no time, afterward. There had only really been a total of two “practices” — if you could call them that — and myself and Memes missed one of them to attend a Charlie Hunter show at Jazz Alley in Seattle. It turns out that a bunch of bassists all going off at the same time with minimal to no rehearsal sounds a little better on paper than it does in reality [actually, I guess it sounds pretty terrible on paper, as well]. After we got through a rough rendition of the A-Team theme, it was pretty much over for us. I can’t remember if my regular outfit performed that night afterward, but if we had, we didn’t fare much better with the crowd — or, at least, what was left of it. Either way, I knew that we could always hold on to the claim that Busdriver and the Shapeshifters opened for us, even if it was only true in the most technical sense.
Our new guests had been invited to an after party at Sherman‘s home, commonly referred to as The Mystery Mansion, but even after popping in to perform at Le Voyeur, I truthfully didn’t really expect them to show up. My friend Cindy Wonderful handed them a CD of her work and, as they drove away in a van, I could hear that they were actually bumping it. That’s pretty much all that you could ever hope for from anyone in their position and I respected them for it. Little did we know that they would enjoy it enough for Alpha Pup to release a full-blown album by Cindy‘s project, Scream Club, which was comprised of herself and music partner/then-girlfriend, Sarah Adorable. They recognized the talent and put out a release by an act as unorthodox (especially, at the time) as a lesbian rap duo, without thinking twice. In fact, along with having Peaches featured on a pair of tracks, Awol, Existereo, and Busdriver, offered up their vocal talents for another.
They took time to show up at the party, as well. When we got to The Mystery Mansion, Busdriver was smoking a cigarette on the porch and, as I stated at the beginning of this piece, I eventually found myself forcing a cloudy jug of smoke into my lungs with the help of water pressurization and a blue mop bucket, while speaking with Awol. The only real part of the conversation that I remember clearly was when I was explaining to him about how Pokemon had given kids seizures by airing a scene with glitched-out flashing lights and then, when the news subsequently reported on it, they aired it again with the same results. When that story seemed to trip him out, I went into some background about the Mormon church that I had been studying, which was even crazier. When it was all said and done, he left one of the cooler autographs that I received in my old copy of 100 Deadliest Karate Moves.Whenever I’ve thought of Awol One since, aside from remembering what a chill, humble demeanor he seemed to possess, I’ve always pictured this little grim reaper doodle that he scrawled in my instructional fighting manual — he drew one in Le Voyeur, as well, but it was, unfortunately, later removed. The fact that he has developed into a full-on working illustrator shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but I wasn’t aware of it until earlier this month. If you were to visit AwolOneMusic.com, you would even discover the words “Raps And Illustrations,” pasted right across the top of the page and, if you were to visit the store section, you would discover an illustrated all-ages book of monsters that he created called, The Mombie, which features an accompanying “spooky fun hip hop cd soundtrack” (he’s also working on a sequel). Based on what I’ve seen from his instagram account, it appears that the lyricist even does some tattoo work. And it’s his instagram account that hipped me to his art career and, more specifically, his work in the toy design game, in the first place.
On January 2nd, my Oakland pal, Wilson, tagged me in the following instagram post:
For those that don’t know — but should — Dr Octagon is a groundbreaking 1996 hip hop release from “Master Of The Game” and founding member of The Ultra Magnetic MCs, “Kool Keith“ Thornton (aka Dr Dooom aka Black Elvis aka Mr Nogatco, etc), which featured scratches by repeated DMC turntable champion, DJ QBert of the pioneering DJ crew, The Invisibl Skratch Piklz, and is the project that put super producer, Dan The Automator (Handsome Boy Modeling School, Deltron 3030, Gorillaz, Lovage, etc) on the map. Far less of you will likely be aware that Kool Keith was actually featured on an Awol One track called “NME,” along with LA rapper, 2Mex back in 1998.
After posting an image of the prototype, Martin followed it up with this additional work-in-progress image the very next day.
Then, just last week, this went up:
I initially intended to post something about this release when I was first alerted to it, but… LOOK FOLKS, THINGS COME UP!!! But perhaps it’s even better that I did wait, because the following update just hit Awol‘s IG this afternoon.
Preorders for this Dr Octagon resin action figure sculpted by CoKreeate are currently available from Blockheads Toys. Although Awol One has designed and/or made figures of his own in the past, we’ve been informed that the artwork/backing for this particular piece was his primary contribution, as the actual toy design and resin casting, itself, was done by CoKreeate and Blockheads based on the original Doc Octagan album art. For those that want to get their hands on one (or more) of these beasts, you can do so by placing your order now and clicking HERE.
As for this Blue Flowers edition pictured above, according to the Blockheads Toys instagram, it’s a one-off that will wind up in the hands of one lucky buyer who places a preorder at random. Good luck!
Make sure to keep tabs on all of Awol‘s projects via his instagram, Facebook page, and/or his official website. He’s doing some pretty cool shit right now
and, who knows, maybe at some point in the future, we’ll even see a figure that’s half man/half shark-alligator [Edit: looks like Awol was already way ahead of us on that one]. The company is already tossing around at least one more idea based on this Dr Octagon release.
UPDATE (sort of)…
The image above is a design created by Awol for a project with Liquids Sci Glass. Remarkably fitting for this post, it turns out that the rapper/illustrator has aided in the manufacturing efforts of an unorthodox weed smoking contraption of his own. The following instagram posts (the latter of which was just posted this morning, not long after this article was published), should be pretty self explanatory.
The Liquid Glass “Cap’n Crumbs” Cereal Box Rig is available now from High Priority Glass