Give any of Antwon's acclaimed mixtapes or albums a cursory listen and you'll hear a gifted MC worthy of the blogosphere's accolades. But given more focused attention, you'll realize how much the San Jose-based hip-hop artist's output deviates from the bass-heavy, weed-laced posi-vibes of his West Coast compatriots. Antwon hardly shies away from punishing low-end or chemical enhancement, but his fatalistic litanies and short-sharp-shock attack have little to do with the mainstream rap game. Onaverage, his early songs tapped-out at the two minute mark, giving him justenough time to spit out a couple of verses before lashing into his next spiel. And while not averse to lifting hooks from old funk songs or '80s synth ballads, Antwon typically veers towards caustic sound sources, industrial-like dirges, and swaths of digital haze. Rather than simply using the music as the springboard to inundate the listener with his rhymes, Antwon employs his craft judiciously to allow the production to have it's own voice. Even his lyrics seem out of step with conventional hip-hop, with the braggart's vanity of big name artists eschewed in favor of grim, impoverished nihilism.
Antwon's unique style makes all the more sense when one acknowledges his punk roots. From his Bay Area powerviolence-steeped past through his tenure in filth-ridden hardcore bandLeather, Antwon's love of hip-hop has been offset by his appreciation for the more brutal niches of underground rock. Despite rock and hip-hop's domination in three decades of pop culture, few attempts at bridging the stylistic divide between the two communities have yielded respectable success stories. Perhaps the most obvious reason for the long list of failures in this brand of crossover stems from the glut of ham-fisted appropriations from guitar-centric artists who have no real grasp of hip-hop's roots. For every Check Your Head, there are a million Significant Other equivalents. Ultimately, the ability to operate in both worlds with any sort of style and credibility has required a genuine understanding and appreciation for theirdistinctively innate qualities. You can't just cram rap verses into a rock format or lazily sample a Metallica hook and expect intriguing results. Themagic of Antwon's craft is that he manages to apply the aesthetics of crucial underground bands-the succinct outbursts of Infest, the mechanical throb and lush layers of Jesu, the cocaine-night nostalgia of Chromatics-into a hip-hop format.
Antwon's deft ability to absorb and recontextualize disparate musical elements has not gone unrecognized. Whileit's no surprise that his refreshing approach has won an audience in the hip-hop world, it's the percolating excitement over his tracks in the fickle indie rock press world and the hardcore-matinee-level crowd eruptions at his shows that really demonstrate Antwon's burgeoning position as one of the leading voices in the rap community. With this building fanbase sending him out for performances across the U.S., U.K., and the far reaches of the Europeancontinent, Antwon's cross-pollinated empire looms larger every day.
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