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The Shape Shifters.

HIP HOP! THAT'S RIGHT BITCH, YOUR FLANNEL WEARIN,' freedom rock listenin' hero is about to take a journalistic mission into the urban realm of the MC, graffiti artist, and 40 oz drinker (this beard prefers quarts, of course). The reason? I dunno, good shit just seems to flock to me. Master rappers Circus and Awol of the Shapeshifters make the minds boggle and the knees wobble with their specific forms of lyrical mastery. Awol, with his trademark "oldman" voice, spewing lyrics darker than the sketchy alley behind my house. Circus, bellowing aloud like a monkey lost in space, rapping about cavemen, robots, and everything in between. Awol, living underneath a pessimistic cloud loaded with acid rain. Circus, a blur of cartoon-colored conspiracy theories. Yes dear, Cobra Commander is real and he lives in the White House. Circus and Awol's subject matter exists on the mainstream fringe. While it's hard to say this stuff will make you think different, it will definitely make you wonder just how much weed they've smoked over the last 10 years. Oh yeah, they don't just believe in aliens, they know them personally...

Have we as a society been fucking up since the beginning of time? Or is it getting better?

Awol: America is backwards. Our society is based on entertainment.

Do you think it's ridiculous for people to make as much money as they do making rap albums, pro basketball, skateboarding, etc.?

Circus: Well, we make next to nothing doing what we do, but you've got rappers talking about their cars, their girls, their gold--that's the shit that makes the money. Talking about their money makes them money. People buy it up--It's all about "Ohh I want gold and bitches too!"

There's a lot of talking shit in rap music, and even you guys aren't above that in your songs--but you do it differently, more like a parody of stupid shit rather than just blatantly calling people motherfuckers. I'm thinking of that Shapeshifters song called "Kornbizkit," which takes a poke at the rap-metal fad.

Circus: You mean gangster rock?

Awol: Guys like Kom and Limp Bizkit take themselves too seriously. They tell themselves so often that they're hard that they actually start believing it. Hip hop has always been a matter of mimicking and mockery.

Circus: Yeah, the rap thing has always been like that. It's childish and it started primitively. One guy came out and he blew up and so another guy is like "That guy's wack, check me out." Since then it's been this "De-throne the King" mentality. The thing with us is that we do rub it in people's faces to some extent, and we'll be egotistical, but like you said, its more like a parody--like joking on them. These rapmetal guys act as if they invented that shit, when in reality the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Run DMC were doing it long ago. It's nothing new.

What do you guys think of live rap concerts, both freestyle and planned-out stuff? The few rap shows I've been to have pretty much sucked ass, but then again I'm just some hick.

Awol: Big stars that get paid big dollars usually have the worst shows. A Snoop Dog arena show? That's mad boring. After 10 or 15 minutes you're just over it. The smaller the club the better.

Circus: I grew up going to a lot of rock shows, I experienced seeing a lot of live shit so I know what you're talking about. The thing about the majority of rap shows is that a lot of it isn't live, It's just a guy saying words over pre-recorded beats. And a lot of hip hop stuff is literally Milli Vanilli type shit, lip synching. Underground hip hop, stuff like Project Blowed--people go to see those guys really rap. It's not a big planned-out stage performance, it has a live element to it; lots of energy and the audience is involved.

Awol: And if the audience ain't feeling you they will let you know.

Circus: They'll tell you to get the hell off the stage. The audience isn't gentle. They'll throw shit at you, guys will come up and try and take the mike from you. People try to battle you.

Who in the contemporary rap world can hold his own in a freestyle/open mike situation?

Awol: To be honest, Snoop Dogg got his credibility from freestyling. His first album is basically all freestyling. Back in the day, these cats I know used to hang with him ... that's how he built up his rep, like "Man, this fool can rap for hours and hours."

What do you think happens when somebody leaves the underground for the mainstream and the big paycheck?

Circus: Whether it's hip hop or religion or whatever, it's the same. Things get so watered down when the money comes into play. It has less of a point to it. People distort it to their liking. Once something hits the mainstream, it loses meaning.

So Awol, what's with all the doom and gloom in your lyrics? You consistently dwell on the dark side of life. "One time for Xmas all I got was the flu" and that type of thing. What's the source?

Awol: It's just the weight of everyday life. And I've always been a pessimist. That flu thing on Xmas, that really happened.

Most of the themes coming out on that Souldoubt CD touch on real dark, kinda depressing skit, but with this shot of humor thrown in as well. Themes like alcohol abuse, greed, suicide... Basically there are no sunshine and daisies in your lyrics.

Awol: Yeah well, we all live in sunshine and daisies right?

Circus: I don't think there are any Awol songs about sun and daisies.

But then again, there are these instances in Souldoubt where you slip in uplifting messages.

Awol: Well I am a Gemini. I've got two totally different points of view on everything. My girl's a Gemini as well, and we're either right on or right off. It's like living with four people.

Mr. Circus, what's with the 1980s cartoon references that are laced throughout your lyrics?

Circus: It was just something I was in love with as a kid. Both my parents worked, and I used to have to watch my little brother and sister, so we'd just watch cartoons all day. I remember getting pissed off when I changed schools because I was gonna have to walk further and I wouldn't get home in time to see the new GI Joe shit.

So how did they influence your artwork and your lyrics?

Circus: I think there was some undertone of shit they were trying to tell us kids in those cartoons. For instance, in GI Joe, there were cloning references and they created this supreme ruler to come take over. All that shit that they made and sold us warped me in some sort of way; I just regurgitated it into a method of explaining what I see going on around me. We grew up on this shit. I can mention one of these cartoon characters and anyone from our generation will identify with it. Like, if I say don't vote for George Bush because he's Cobra Commander, people our age will get it, but George Bush wouldn't have a clue. Like the president is Skeletor.

What about the whole caveman/robot connection? You seem preoccupied with both the prehistoric and the futuristic.

Circus: As a society we're right between those two situations; part caveman, part robot.

A caveman with a laser gun?

Circus: Naw, a caveman with a can of Krylon painting a naked lady on a cave wall.

For info regarding the way too funky Shapeshifters, e-mail You can find all their recordings at Keep them eyes peeled for "Child Star Haircuts," a new single featuring Awol One and speakerface, featuring both Circus and Awol along with the likes of Aceyalone and Kool Keith, recorded by Kutmaster Curt. Oh yeah, Kid Zelda (more Circus-related babble), and the long-awaited Shapeshifters video. That's right bitch. I'm out.
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Title Annotation:music group
Author:Harris, Andy
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2002
Previous Article:The Gilded and the Gold.
Next Article:Exhumed.

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