Haling from upstate, New York, Awar is an extremely talented emcee coming out of the Pitch Control Music family. Awar got his start in the rap game when he moved to the Bronx and met up with Lou Cipher, Manifest the Mulinyan, and iCON the Mic King, who included Awar in their crew, Fallen Angelz. (Now the crew consists of Awar, Icon, Manifest, and Diabolic) Eventually Awar hooked up with J.J. Brown, and the two started to work on Glory Days, Awar's debut release. J.J. executive produced the album, which also features production by M-Phazes, Decap, Chum The Skrilla Guerilla, and MVRemix's very own Vanderslice. Naturally, MVRemix had to link up with Awar to discuss his debut album.
MVRemix: I just want to start off with some background info and history, so fans can get to know you better. So where were you born and raised? What was it like growing up there over the years?
Awar: I was born and raised in the 518 area of Upstate, NY. Tumbleweeds and all that. The largest city in my vicinity was Albany, and that's still a good half hour away from my hometown, Chatham. Being from a small town, there wasn't much for me to do other than play ball, write, and get into trouble. So that's what I did for the most part. Cow tipping, pool hopping, petty theft, drinking, puffing, and writing rhymes. By the time I was in high school I was dying to get the fuck outta my town.
MVRemix: What is your first memory of Hip Hop?
Awar: I had limited exposure to hip-hop while growing up, but I remember hearing EPMD, Eric B and Rakim and Big Daddy Kane on the radio and it was just instinct or a gut feeling that this music was for me. I had a friend from Albany who really put me on to some dope shit when I was like 12 or 13, so I guess 93 or 94 was when I started seeking more music.
MVRemix: What was the one album you loved as a kid? Or who were some of your favorite artists growing up?
Awar: I remember rocking to a lot of Wu, Redman, Boot Camp, Onyx, Mobb Deep, Beatnuts, Gangstarr as a youngin'. Ras Kass, and Pharaoh Monch were my favorite lyricists once I discovered them. Raekwon's "Only Built For Cuban Links" was probably my favorite album of that era. I know I sound like a new jack admitting this shit, but I just turned 24 and being where I'm from, it's a miracle that I found rap music when I did. I had to do a lot of backtracking so I could learn to respect the roots of the culture.
MVRemix: How did you first get into rapping?
Awar: Just through listening and writing. It was a trip at first, but when I started the hunger was evident.
MVRemix: How did you start to make a name for yourself locally?
Awar: When I was in high school I recorded for my first time, and did like 10 haphazard tracks and sold the CD around the area. Hopefully that CD never resurfaces again, I really had no idea of how to structure a song or flow at that point, but the locals seemed to like it. I met some local DJ's and they kind of pointed me in the direction of some other emcees who were doing similar or more advanced things than I was doing with music at the time. I met my man Dezin8ed and he showed me how to record tracks on a 4-track, and over the years, I met a lot of 518 area artists through him and that initial connection we made. What it has evolved into is, Pitch Control Music. PCM is a network of artists from the 518 who are all trying to make moves, individually and as a unit to spread the word that there is an actually very talented scene there. I don't live in the area anymore, but I go back frequently to do shows and record and build with the people I have respect for in this shit.
MVRemix: I read that you moved out to the Bronx to go to Fordham University. Is that when your rap career really started to take off?
Awar: I guess moving the place where hip-hop originated, I had some preconceived notion that I'd be catching ciphers everywhere and making connects while I was doing the education thing. I was partially right, I went to a lot of shows and battles and caught some ill ciphers while I was in school, but that was really all I was paying attention to. I partied and skipped too many classes, eventually forcing my way out of school for the time being. However, through those couple years, I met pretty much everyone was nice in the NYC underground. I ended up in a crew of spitters called Fallen Angelz. I met Lou Cipher, MANiFEST, iCON the Mic King, Diabolic etc. And I still do work with and rep all members of the crew that are still pursuing careers. As for the Bronx, I been in the Boogie Down for 5 of my last 6 years and I'm ready for a relocation. It's a love hate thing.
MVRemix: Let's talk about your debut album Glory Days. What is the personal significance behind the title?
Awar: First of all, the beats all sound like golden age boom-bap with a more polished, current sound. To me, when I dropped out of Fordham, it was like, now I finally get to do what I wanted to do all these years I been writing.... make an album. Myself and the people I associate with are the next breed. The scene has been over saturated with garbage shit for too long. We here to bring back enjoyable music. Plus make your motherfucking head explode.
MVRemix: For those who never heard your music, how would you describe your style or sound?
Awar: I write songs for me as cliché as that sounds. Lyrically I'm original, I don't recycle the next guy's mentality or punch lines. My heart on my sleeve whether its concepts, battle shit, or real talk.
MVRemix: What types of concepts, issues, and songs can fans expect to hear on this album?
Awar: Man, I go through various topics. I have a song about the NYC subway system and some of the politics involved in the city as a whole. There's multiple songs about relations with women, some positive, some negative. There's a song about rappers who still need bodyguards cause of all the shit they pop and afraid to back up. A song about how there's a thin line between insanity and genius. There's autobiographical shit on there. I covered most the topics I wanted to touch for my debut, but left plenty of room to expand.
MVRemix: I see J.J. Brown executive produced the album and mixed everything. How did you hook up with him and what is your guys relationship like? Just business, or friends?
Awar: I was a fan of J.J.'s work with Louis, and I feel like I have a pretty good ear for beats and mixdowns, even though I rarely ever touch the boards myself. So I hollered at him, it started as business. We banged out "Full Metal Jacket", which is the bonus track. Its actually a completely different beat than what I recorded to. I think his remix is ill, but wasn't the sound I was going for the whole album. He got at me asking if I wanted to do more work because he was feeling that song, and it evolved into a whole project. He's a real knowledgeable, cool dude to work with. He coached a little bit, but I think by the halfway point through the album, I was impressing him. So J.J. became fam to me, but he's the man as far as making shit sound right and deserves every penny he makes for what he does. He laced all the cuts on the project as well.
MVRemix: You have some dope production from M-Phazes on the album, how did you hook up with him?
Awar: M-Phazes is from the Gold Coast in Australia and a member of Wax Reform. I actually was just fucking around on the net looking for beats because all the local producers seemed tied up with other peoples projects. Stumbled across some of his soundscapes, sent him a song. He liked it and I ended up securing some gems. He's an incredible producer, probably my favorite at this moment. Lookout for the boy to blow up real soon, his whole camp is making moves.
MVRemix: MVRemix's very own Vanderslice did the intro, how did that come about?
Awar: He got at me because I had leaked a couple of the album's songs a while ago and he liked them. I was already a fan of his column and humor. I didn't know he made beats, but he sent me pretty much his whole beat stash of like 200 joints. The interlude beats on the album are all him too. That's my man, real cool, misunderstood cat. Slice, when you get out I got you! Free Vanderslice!
MVRemix: What is your goal for this album? What do you want to accomplish?
Awar: I just want to be heard and get a name for myself so that getting projects out in the future won't be such a struggle. I want to help put my PCM and Fallen Angelz affiliates on the map. I just want to continue making music and rocking shows, it's my livelihood, my therapy.
MVRemix: What has been the biggest headache you have had to deal with in this Hip Hop game?
Awar: Just the process of creating your own buzz. I have a great support system with the people I'm affiliated with and working with, but I put together the whole project myself. So marketing and promoting it without a label backing it has been really hard. Eventually I'd like to have my own indie label and be able to distribute myself and my peoples music the way it deserves to be.
MVRemix: Overall, what is your main career goal?
Awar: To find what I'm looking for.
MVRemix: What else do you have going on in the future?
Awar: I've got alot of shows coming up, including a May tour. iCON the Mic King's "Binary" 12" is dropping on Beyond Space, I'm on that. I'm also gonna be on a joint called "Recognize Kojak" with him that's coming out on wax. I'm gonna continue pushing Glory Days until the wheels fall off, but I'm in the lab cooking up some new joints fa sho.
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"...he sent me pretty much his whole beat stash of like 200 joints. The interlude beats on the album are all him too. That's my man, real cool, misunderstood cat. Slice, when you get out I got you! Free Vanderslice!"