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Track-By-Track: Aztec Flow’s ‘Wake Death & Return Life’

16 June 2023 | 9:08 pm | Staff Writers

Jonny Blackwell dissects the Mexican-Australian rapper’s bold debut album.

Aztec Flow

Aztec Flow (Source: Supplied)

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Aztec Flow’s debut album is named Wake Death & Return Life, deriving from the Japanese proverb “kishi kaisei”, which translates to “wake from death and return to life”. Themes of the album range from love, heartbreak, death and self-reflection to racism, oppression and various other hardships.

The Mexican-Australian artist shares his outlook and his stories from his life. The entire album is self-produced, and the accompanying visuals were all written, filmed and directed by himself. From the artwork to the music videos, Aztec really showcases his talent and love of music with this incredible album.

The whole album is a representation of Aztec, his struggles, pain and life. Ruu from triple j, who reacted to the album in a private listening party, said it was “one of the most personal albums” he's heard, and one of the best albums to come from Australia in 2023: “It’s so authentic and raw”. The quirkiness of the lyrics and the production really give you a unique listening experience, heightening the experience of the album. 

The album features US artist Wifisfuneral, a XXL Freshman in 2018 and former Members Only artist with XXXTentacion and Ski Mask The Slump God. Wake Death & Return Life also features the likes of Curtiss King (rapper and producer of Ab Soul, Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, E-40 and more), Australia's own afro-heavyweight Big Skeez, Steez Malase, Chief Maez and Atahan.

1. ‘Focus’

Focus was one of the first releases from the album, and came with an amazing music video which has already racked up 51,000 views on YouTube, with additional screentime on MTV and Rage. The song goes into a lot of self-reflection and wrongdoings in Aztec’s life, while at the same time trying to remain focused. 

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The song is also doing well on Spotify, sitting at 75,000 streams at the time of writing. The smooth, detuned instrumental complements the broken aspects of life, while also showing the beauty in it. This song also features horn sections from Sydney’s True Vibenation, with them bringing a beautiful horn atmosphere to the song.

2. ‘Serpico’ (featuring Atahan)

Serpico features Turkish-Australian artist Atahan, and is the second single from the album. With strong language, the duo talk their talk about people who choose to spread rumours or half-truths to harm. Sticking hard with the “you a rat” theme throughout the song, and even takes it further by naming the song after police informant Frank Serpico (which Al Pacino depicts in the titular 1973 film Serpico). 

The music video follows that theme by having Aztec and Atahan play corrupt detectives in the future – 2059 to be exact. The song's production really shines and gets you out of your seat with a gritty 808 and distorted vocals.

3. ‘Pheme’ (featuring Wifisfuneral)

Pheme features the largest artist Aztec has worked with, Wifisfuneral. The song dives into the using mentality of friends, or sometimes even people you don't even know well. The name of the song comes from the Greek goddess of descent. The two artists jump off each other, trading bars that really shine on this song.

4. ‘No Love’ (featuring Big Skeez)

No Love is a song built from heartbreak, but for you to turn up to. It’s perfect for when you don't want to listen to a song and cry – sometimes you get tired of shedding a tear over an ex-partner and you want to validate the idea that leaving them behind was the right decision or the best outcome. Both Aztec and Skeez do their thing and match the energy perfectly, ending with a nice switch-up towards the end of the record.

5. ‘Return To Life’ (featuring Curtiss King and Steez Malase)

This is probably one of the more emotional records from the album. Aztec and Curtiss fill the verse sections nicely, feeding into the ways they both grew up. Steez also fills the chorus nicely with a very ambient flow, reminding us that everything we're working on has a purpose.

6. ‘The Burbs’ (featuring Chief Maez)

The Burbs is a turn-up-in-your-face record for the rich people that don't like Latinos or Black people in their “upper-class” communities or suburbs. Screaming out and getting in the faces of our oppressors, and not bowing to nobody, it’s a record to cause a stir in the ‘burbs and to let them know we’re here and never leaving.

7. ‘Black Space’

Black Space is the toxic song of the album, playing on a concept picked up by DMX ‘Damien’ – having your evil or internal thoughts getting the best of you and wanting you to slip up and do those lustful things. The whispering on the ad-libs fills the holes in the track and creates this noxious and spiteful, albeit subjective song. 

8. ‘1862’

1862 follows some stories that Aztec’s abuela (grandmother) had told him over the years, about his family's history and what his descendants had faced. One particular story she told him was about one of his great grandfathers in 1862, facing racism in America and having to move under the threat of lynching. This song is a strengthening of Aztec’s roots to his culture and a show of him embracing his Meso-American identity.

9. ‘Baby Boy’

Baby Boy is a real self-reflective song, it came from Aztec watching one of his teenage movies, Baby Boy with Tyrese Gibson. He related and saw maybe a little too much of himself in the character Tyrese was playing, which was a momma’s boy that still lived at home, playing around with women and cheating – just dog activities. So this song follows him reconciling with that and trying to be a better person in the process.

10. ‘Temet Nosce’

Temet Nosce translates to Know Thyself in Latin. Coming off that title, you know it's going to be the most personal song on the album. It’s a production masterpiece, with beat switch-ups, interludes and string sections filling out and ending the album on a wholesome and fulfilling energy. 

The lyrics are beyond strong in this one with double entendres and even triple entendres happening throughout it. It gives a wonderful telling of Aztec facing himself and his fears. The outro itself even made Aztec cry, with home footage of him as a kid at Christmas giving that nostalgia feel to the record and really making the whole album feel unique