Personally, I never liked the term “alternative hip-hop”. Things at one time were just good and bad, then it became hardcore vs. everything else, and that “everything else” was considered weak. Then it became gangsta vs. everything else, and with that came East Coast vs. West Coast. While I respect originality in hip-hop, the genre classification seemed more about separation than making music for a common cause, or it became a matter of “my means is better than more”. These days, if you’re not a mainstream artist, you’re not a part of the spectrum, which means you’re going to be ignored and forever a niche, which I find to be bullshit. That may not be why Factor called his album Woke Up Alone (Fake Four Inc.), but with the cover image of a doll lying on a bed next to a coffin, one could say that it not only represents our fears of dying alone and rolling into a convenient grave, but what hip-hop has become in the last 15 years.
Parts of Woke Up Alone sounds very mainstream and could easily pass off as something that a group like Linkin Park would end up doing. Then you have a track featuring vocalist Jean Boots called “Carry Over” and it may sound like something you’d find on a Handsome Boy Modeling School or Lovage album, where you know it doesn’t belong but you figure “it’s music, why shouldn’t it belong?” “Give Up” has a well known break beat sped up and made more intense with the rap flows that seem as if it’s about to roll off the tracks, but never does. The bpm is faster than the norm, and while you almost expect for it to be smoothed out on the Teddy Riley R&B Big Daddy Kane tip, it is actually… funkier? Yes, it is funkier than the known/norm, and that’s good.
Woke Up Alone sounds like those varied hip-hop albums from the early to mid-90’s, when artists will willing to throw everything in the bag to see what came up, from weird and not-typical samples to ways of rhyming that may not be traditional, to the topics that were not about being on and on til the like break of dawn, or busting caps in asses. As the song goes, you could get with this or you could get with that, and while getting with this is beneficial, sometimes you want to turn the other way to see what you come up with, and that’s what Factor has done. He relied on the trusted formulas, but then added his own two cents until he realized he had a coin jar to throw on the table.