Awon and Phoniks - Return To The Golden Era (Review)

Awon and Phoniks - Return to the Golden Era

"Return to the Golden Era" is the first collaboration album between Newport News, VA emcee Awon and Portland producer Phoniks. The album features guest appearances from Dephlow, Tiff The Gift and Pel while all production is handled by Phoniks himself. It was released on July 30, 2013 and is available as a "name your price" release on the groups website.

1) Midas Touch - The album begins with a short movie sample about King Midas before the beat actually kicks in and the song begins. Once it does, it's sure to get your head nodding. The instrumental is atmospheric, with some moody pianos and DJ scratches over gritty boom-bap drums. This is my first time hearing a Phoniks instrumental and I'm definitely impressed. Lyrically Awon also does his thing and kicks some boastful rhymes about his mic skills while using gold as a metaphor. This shit is dope.

2) Champagne Laced - The beat on this track is real smooth and reminds me of something that might have ended up on Jay-Z's "Reasonable Doubt", a feeling which is further solidified by the Jay-Z vocal sample on the chorus. Awon flows effortlessly over the beat, spitting some vivid lyrics about the negative aspects of selling drugs and the worry and paranoia that comes with it. Nice.

3) Forever Ill (featuring Dephlow and Tiff The Gift) - Awon and guests Dephlow and Tiff The Gift rip another smooth boom-bap instrumental, this time with a light piano loop and head-nodding drums. The beat is ill and everyone is on point, spitting punchline after punchline about how sharp their lyrical skills are. I'm not familiar with Dephlow nor Tiff The Gift, but they both sound really good on here. Dope.

4) Street Saga - This song has another mellow instrumental with some jazzy horns and a melodic bass line that give it a somewhat hazy feel. Awon comes correct and kicks a few rhymes about the trials and tribulations of life in the streets, from being harassed by the police to just the trying to make it through the every day drama. So far Awon's no-nonsense flow and Phoniks beautifully crafted throwback instrumentals seem like the perfect fit together. Very nice.

5) Blinded by the Riches - Awon spits fire over another dope boom-bap banger with a slightly bouncy sample and some cinematic strings on the chorus. The beat is dope and Awon rips it, rapping about his dreams of breaking into the rap industry, locking the game down and getting some of that hip-hop money to take care of his family. I'm definitely feelin' this track. Very ill.

6) Blood In Blood Out - This song has a beautiful, though somewhat melancholy, piano instrumental laced up over head-nodding drums. The beat is jazzy and smooth and is probably one of my favorites on the album so far. Lyrically this is Awon's most heartfelt performance on the album, rapping about losing his brother and his cousin to drug dealing and to drug abuse:
"Got the call late night that my brother got shot
Hopped in the whip even though the blocks hot
The sight of him in the rain, dead in the street
Body covered up under a blood stained sheet
Looked his daughter in the eyes and she didn't understand
She was just a baby still in her mother's hand
Soon to be raised up by another man
Who would never love her the way my little brother can
Revenge in my heart, but his blood on my hands
Cause I led him to the spot, showed him how to move grams"
The rhymes are honest and sincere and you can clearly feel Awon's pain about losing two people that were so close to him. This shit is fire.

7) Rule of the Gun (featuring Dephlow) - The instrumental on this song is a tad darker than some of the others, with a soft harp sample over murky drums and Mobb Deep vocal samples. Awon and Dephlow both sound good over it and kick some street rhymes about guns and gun violence. While this track is dope, it's not really a standout for me. I do like the Group Home/Lil' Dap reference though.

8) 40oz Wisdom Interlude (featuring Pel) - Skit.

9) Get Yours - This track has a lighter feel than the previous track, with an upbeat jazzy horn sample and an ill Biggie vocal sample on the chorus. The lyrics, however, are anything but carefree as Awon comes through and raps about his past selling drugs just to survive. This shit is dope and that Biggie sample is fire. Very nice.

10) Move Back - Phoniks is really crafting some beautiful instrumentals on this album and this beat is no exception. The instrumental has a nice summery, old-school feel and Awon rips it, spitting about how he used to sell drugs but now he slings raps. The beat is dope and Awon sounds right at home over it. Another banger.

11) Black and Blue Interlude - Dope instrumental / skit.

12) Correct Techniques - This song has another one of my favorite beats on the album, with some beautiful falling chimes, jazzy horns and gritty drums looped up with static. Awon bodies the beat again, kicking more braggadocio rhymes about his mic skills while Phoniks provides some ill scratching on the chorus.
"I cultivate my craft in the booth like its a meth lab
Unstable substance, ready to blow any minute
Rhymes infinite, skies the limit"
This shit is fire.

13) Above Water - The final song on the album (before we jump into remixes) has another head-nodding instrumental with a textured backing sample over a hard snare drum. Awon comes through yet again and rips the beat, rapping about maintaining and keeping your head up no matter how bad it gets. Very dope way to close out the album.

14) Move Back (Phoniks Remix) - The first remix has an ill string sample with more boom-bap drums and incredibly dope scratching on the chorus. The lyrics are the same as the original, but the beat is banging and is a nice alternate take on the original. That being said, I think I prefer the original version a little more than this remix.

15) Rule of the Gun (featuring Dephlow) (Phoniks Remix) - Just like the previous song, this remix features the same vocals as the original over a new instrumental. Unlike the last song, however, I prefer this remix over the original. The beat is dope as hell and the scratching on the chorus puts it a tad above the album version in my opinion. Dope shit.

I'm going to rate the album

4.5 / 5

because the album is really, really good the whole way through. Phoniks definitely comes through with the beats, crafting "New York"-inspired boom-bap bangers that had me reminiscing about that classic hip-hop sound of the mid-90's. While all of the beats have that throwback feel, they still manage to have their own identity and never feel like a straight rehash of the older beats from that era. Awon also delivers beautifully on the lyrical front, spitting poignant rhymes in a smooth, yet rugged, flow that compliments the beats perfectly. His street tales are vivid and his more personal tales are honest and heartfelt. If you are a fan of that "Golden Era" sound, you are going to love this album. Head on over to the groups Bandcamp page and pick it up ASAP.


  1. Great album Has totally none many

    bad songs

  2. Amazing album for everyone who miss the 90's.


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