It’s not often you come across a work of art that is well rounded and nuanced like “Happiness” by London rapper Awate. It’s tempting to categorize Awate’s work as “conscious” or “woke” music, but it is so much more than that. His storytelling and conversational style separates him from preachy-type artists who pretentiously assume ignorance from their listeners.
Yet, Awate’s music still confronts deeply political problems. In track six, “An intermission for the struggle of black life”, we listen to a description of Black pain and struggle embedded into a call for action, but the next track shifts smoothly to romantic pursuits without the hyper-masculine postures that some may expect from a hip-hop album.
The sounds, a crisp brewing of soulful jazz and hip-hop rhythms that the artist experiments with, in the album are reminiscent of Mos Def and Black Star’s previous work (who he has opened for in London in the past). While clearly influenced by them, the style and stories are his own.
Awate’s startling honesty throughout the album, scattering phrases such as “I cry myself to sleep a lot…” and “… I’m depressed a lot, granted I impress a lot of people while I’m smiling when the police aren’t arresting us…” is not only original but invigorating. He gives oppressed peoples who have been forced to live on council estates and in poverty social dimensions that they have been denied in the past.
You can listen to “Happiness” by Awate on Spotify here and you can catch him live on Feb. 22 at the Roundhouse in London.