Let’s skip the intro. We have plenty to get to.
Southside Jamaica Queens, NY lyricist L.O.U (Luther Williams) joined forces American born, London-based Orlando “Big O” Turner to churn out their 2nd LP, Journey Of Choices (An Awakening Mind).
JOC lives in the vein of the Richard Linklater film, Waking Life. Both are euphoric, introspective, draped in quoteables & airy yet grounded. Even Big O’s production here could’ve soundtracked the aforementioned movie. Lastly, the two are amongst the most aptly titled pieces of art in existence.
The 12-track journey begins with a title intro that feels like a ride through your own subconscious. This sort of feel continues throughout, only amplified by lengthy monologs ending out most tracks here.
L.O.U is alive but he yearns to live, giving way to “Depression on the 18th“. Here he spits “The only time people listen is when I speak through the music/I guess my opinion matters when it’s mixed with acoustics“. There’s also a depression speech, just in case you didn’t hear him clear.
It seems our hero’s only light is Hip-Hop! In the midst of lowlights, including a failed relationship (see first single “Shellz“); rap seems to be L.O.U’s light at the end of the tunnel. There’s only on problem; it’s not progressing ideally.
Time doesn’t wait…
On “Reality Hits“, he mentions “Writing music got me at a disadvantage/I need bread to pay the bills but my talent alone won’t demand it“. On the same song, L.O.U belts “Ain’t got no time to be depressed on the beat/I’m Euro-stepping from taking my last breathe in the streets“. This highlight track is undoubtedly relateable to “struggling” artist; especially those in their 30‘s.
This all sounds sad but I can assure it doesn’t feel that way. Tracks like “Learning Who I Am” and “Handle With Flair” showcase why “Let’s Obliterate the Universe” is L.O.U’s chosen acronym. The latter’s production takes a celebratory tone and is themed in getting through adversities. One being the death of his father. If one can take such a blow in stride, it’s safe to assume they can soldier through most anything. Namely, “making it” in music.
The fighter’s spirit literally shows up main stage on “The Preordained“, where the Queens emcee says: “Fighting demons, heart hurting, got trouble breathing/Boxing matches against what I was taught to believe in“. In addition to being the most quoteable track here, it exhibits that L.O.U does have conscious connection with a higher power. “I don’t choose, my mind’s gifted” he utters on the track.
Maybe it’s that connection that has him pondering life and death just as much as 2Pac and Biggie in the 90’s.
“We miss the dead, so we question if there’s an afterlife/Who are we really? I guess it depends who you ask/We’ll never truly know until our moment has passed” he figures on “Avenue of The Aspects“. Philosophical, meme-ready lyrics litter most of the 39:55 runtime.
Journey Of Choices is not without dull spots, however. Mid-album, two of its weakest tracks “Indigo River” and the previously mentioned “Learning Who I Am” appear back to back. The former being the least satisfying production and hook combination you’ll see on the entire project. Somehow, it manages to feel like filler while seeming like a botched attempt at a single, all in one; sporting the LP’s most pop-like sound.
A large portion of the (rap) features also seem unnecessary on such a personal attempt.
Sans Maze Rockwell on “Consequences of The Unforseen” trading old come-up stories, Journey could’ve done without all of the featuring artists.
What can’t be understated here; JOC is instrumentally insane! Beat switches, drop-outs and transitions are not only in sync, but add layers to already stellar lyricism. It’s also mastered to a tee (by Big O for Studio O).
In conclusion, this is a must-hear piece for real “heads”. L.O.U’s delivery, depth and wordplay mixed with Big O’s ear and sounds have them rivaling Hit-Boy and Nas in 2022. What will come of this project? To quote Trell Money on the “An Awakening Mind (Outro)“: “Behind each door is your fate“. Journey on.