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Something Awful
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

When Hamden emcee godAWFUL chose his name he knew there would be plenty of jokes thrown his way, especially in the battle scene. “I’ve heard all the punch lines,” he says, “‘take your name literal!’ I’m like, wow, that’s creative.”

Had his lyrical combatants had a dictionary handy they probably would have been surprised by the literal definition of the phrase God-awful. “It’s not so much bad,” godAWFUL explains, “it’s disagreeable.” This, he says, is, in an odd way, fitting for his work. “My music is not always agreeable, sometimes it’s a little abrasive and confrontational.” When he first chose the name godAWFUL, however, he did so for a completely different reason. “I wanted a negative connotation because I didn’t feel I was very good.” godAWFUL notes he saw himself progress steadily over the years and “eventually I got some self confidence.”

That self confidence led to a teaming with fellow Connecticut emcees Logic and Alley Hood to form Penalty Box. godAWFUL is quick to explain that Penalty Box is “not a rap group, and it’s not a label,” saying instead, “it’s something that fans can back. It’s kind of a movement.” And it’s a movement that’s moving forward as godAWFUL just released Beats & Rhymes In The Key of Awful Vol. 1, a seven song EP which he both wrote and produced (available at godawful.bandcamp.com), with the title being an obvious homage to Stevie Wonder (Songs In The Key Of Life).

godAWFUL’s goals for the album, and with all his work, is to move hip-hop forward by bringing back elements of its past. “I want to take hip-hop back to when you sat in a room, lit up whatever you do, sipped on whatever you do, and just listened to what the man was saying.” He balks a bit when it comes to being labeled progressive, though, at least for now, saying “I don’t want to say I’m progressive, like I’m the next level of hip-hop music, but that’s what I want to do. I want to see hip-hop taking a turn towards improving, because lately hip-hop is locked. It became a product and we’re just playing formulas now. I want to break the formula and I want to see progression.” He adds that progression was a regular thing in the 80’s and 90’s, noting “back in the day everyone was progressing. When (A Tribe Called Quest’s) Midnight Marauders came out everyone was like ‘yo, they went and did THAT.’ I want to bring that feeling back.”

An idea godAWFUL has been working with, musically, to bring that feeling back is one of progression through aggression. This is one of the reasons why when he was recording Beats & Rhymes In The Key of Awful Vol. 1 he was listening to rock music rather than hip-hop. “I listen to metal, screamo, emo, everything, the whole spectrum of rock music. I love the energy behind it. That’s actually what I like to replicate in my songs.” godAWFUL also loves that rock music won’t subconsciously influence his delivery, noting that another reason he doesn’t listen to hip-hop while recording is “because I don’t want to unintentionally bite anyone.”

While bands like Eyes Set To Kill and iwrestledabearonce may come out of his speakers during his writing sessions, it was a decidedly hip-hop group that first inspired the now 22 year old emcee to pick up the mic. “Once I found Jurassic 5,” he remembers, “I was like yo, hip-hop can be something else, and that’s when I was like, lemme take a wack at it.”

Artists like Jurassic 5, as well as P.O.S. and Sage Francis, are the types of hip-hop artists godAWFUL listens to when he’s not recording, as he respects the fact that their depth is authentic, which is something he can’t say about a lot of other emcees. “I know a lot of rappers will write something, but they won’t come up with a meaning behind it until it’s recorded.” godAWFUL compares this to trying to make something meaningful out of gibberish, saying “it’s pretty much writing ‘the unicorns ran through the field,’ and they won’t come up with a meaning for it until somebody asks em and they’re like ‘nah man, that’s about me being at the package store.’ Like, what? What are you talking about?”

That kind of writing is something godAWFUL doesn’t accept in other emcees, and even more importantly, he doesn’t accept it in himself. “When I write my lyrics I like to make sure they have meaning straight from the jump.”

Putting it even more succinctly, godAWFUL sums up his feelings on his lyrics, and everything else involving his career, saying “I don’t want to half ass anything.”

And that’s something you can take literally.

Story originally ran in the FairfieldWeekly.

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