Factor – Woke Up Alone [Review]
Saskatoon, SK – Saskatoon-based producer, Factor, has just released his highly anticipated necromantic concept album, Woke Up Alone. The 15-track album is a throwback to the golden era of hip-hop. It sees the trending production of mainstream hip-hop, and takes the standards to a whole other level. As Shawn Carter might say, “We need to write new rules.” And Factor uses this album to write those rules. The result is a freshly upped ante on mainstream production.
For those who aren’t familiar with the necromancy concept, it’s based off psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief— denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance—from her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. The album is set up like a play. It must be listened to from start to finish—so don’t make the mistake of trying to listen to it on shuffle. Consecutive order is the only way to ensure a proper listening experience. Woke Up Alone follows the trials of the protagonist—played by Factor’s Paranoid Castle counterpart, Kirby Dominant— as he attempts to bring back his wife from the dead. The album features a slew of talented artists including the sassy indie-rocking Jeans Boots (she stars as Kirby Dominant’s dead wife), Astronautalis, Evil Ebenezer, and more.
The album opens with “Woke Up Alone.” The track features offbeat instrumentals—reminiscent of a darker Legend of Zelda theme song—as well as lyrics, courtesy of Jeans Boots. It’s a lonely track. But it sets a foundation for the rest of the album. “The Empire Has Fallen” introduces listeners to Kirby Dominant’s grieving character. Dominant strays from his typical easy-going brand of rhymes to take on some solemn lyricism: “I feel like a coward. I’ve been crying for an hour.” Dominant reminisces about his dead wife as he verses through the “denial” and “anger” stages of grief. Then the track takes a darker turn as Dominant’s anger turns into a confession—he hears voices in his head that tell him to bring his wife back from the dead.
After a brief post-funeral interlude titled “After the Service,” Kirby Dominant decides to resurrect his wife. The album goes into two solid necromantic tracks: “Raise the Dead,” featuring Ceschi and “Alive Tomorrow,“ featuring Nomad. These are two of the catchiest tracks on the album. But without proper context, they make for two really wack tracks. It’s not suggested to listen to them as one-off tunes. They have a cult-like feel if they’re not listened to in sequence with the rest of the album.
Dominant eventually comes to terms with the fact that he might be crazy during “In Sickness & In Health.” He goes to see a psychiatrist—played by Onry Ozzborn— to discuss his woes. This is music therapy at its finest and things get pretty deep: “The cards were dealt and you happened to have a tarot deck.” But therapy is not always the solution. At least, not for Kirby’s character. He hears the voice of his wife’s ghost— Jeans Boots—in “Don’t Give Up” and decides to seek help elsewhere. He decides to further pursue his resurrectional endeavours.
First, he pays a visit to a medicine man (played by Myka 9) in “Denied,” and later finds himself conversing with the devil in “Devil’s Call.” Here the kicker: The devil is played by Vancouver-based MC, Evil Ebenezer. It’s a very fitting feature. Woke Up Alone comes to an end as Kirby’s character enters the “acceptance” stage of grief. Minneapolis-based alternative rapper, Astronautalis, makes a cameo appearance on “Let It Go,” wherein he tells Dominant that it’s too much to “handle all this pain.”
Kirby Dominant teams up with indie-pop rapper, Gregory Pepper, for “Give Up” and makes a defining realization—he can’t resurrect his wife and he must accept her death for what it is. Factor closes the album with a sobering instrumental track, “The Grave (Burial).” Even though Kirby Dominant buried Jeans Boots more than ten tracks previous, this final tune represents the emotional burial of Dominant’s denial. It’s the final nail in the coffin.
So make sure you cop your own copy of Woke Up Alone on iTunes and check out some of the dope merchandise up for grabs. You can snatch up a Woke Up Alone pillowcase and literally “wake up alone.” And make sure you stay tuned for fresh new Factor visuals dropping later on this summer.