Edmonton is a strange place for hip hop. You never know what to expect when someone new steps up to bat; and you probably have no idea what to expect from AOK’s debut CD, If you don’t buy this CD the terrorists win. You read the title and think it might be a revolutionary-themed album, influenced by greats like Public Enemy and KRS-One. Then you look at the cover and see a picture of AOK with his glasses on, and 64 of his friends wearing those same signature glasses pasted over every flap of the cover slip, all laughing and being quirky. It is now obvious that AOK is simply trying to make you pay attention to his CD any way he can; or at least be humourous about it. But even that isn’t quite what he’s about. The truth is that he does have something quite serious to say and to prove.
“Walk Like a Man” serves as the introduction for the whole album and presents himself as a person who stands by what he says. Of the things he says, one of his most recurring topics is his disgust for people adopting the gangster life for the sake of fashion and insecurity. While that style of life might make more sense occurring in depressed poverty stricken areas, if your from anywhere else you know that theirs a ridiculous overabundance of copycat gangsters. AOK constantly attacks this phenomenon, especially in songs like “Fake I.D.” and “Planet Grolic”.
Other topics include some personal ones, such as his cynical tale about coming-of-age sexual encounters in “Miss Greenlay”, his angst-ridden negative opinion on religion itself in “Unintelligent Redesign”, and of course his obsession with girls in the coffee shop industry in “Coffee Shop Girls”. The most important topic though can be found in his last two songs, ”You Are A God” and “Freedom is a State of Mind”, where he declares that your beliefs, freedom, and happiness are entirely dependent on your own thinking and mind state. I believe this is where his most revolutionary and important message comes out; about how we can redefine any of the terms that both religion and political philosophy present to us in any way we want.
As an MC he keeps his rhymes simple and straightforward, and employs a flow just a notch above the average rapper. Though he does really step it up in one my favorite tracks “Hip Hop a la Mode”, employing a skillful vocabulary set. The song does have a rather trite chorus, but is an impressive song for AOK. For the most part though, he rhymes bar-for-bar in a natural everyday Canadian voice. The production sticks close to a New York approach, featuring many soulful samples and upbeat drums. All the beats bump, though none completely stand out.
I’d have to say the most impressive thing about AOK’s CD is his strongly presented no-bullshit common sense beliefs. And if this is his debut, it’s a very promising start for him and his crew; Ill-Legitimate Productions.