billy woods – “Aethiopes” review

This is the 10th full-length album from Washington, D.C.’s very own billy woods. Whether it be him teaming up with Elucid as the duo Armand Hammer or his own solo output like History Will Absolve Me & Dour Candy, there’s no denying that he’s been steadily holding it down for the abstract hip hop scene for a minute. But coming off Armand Hammer’s magnum opus Haram produced entirely by The Alchemist last spring, billy is now enlisting Preservation to lace Aethiopes from top to bottom.

“Asylum” is a chilling opener with it’s piano instrumental & vivid storytelling from billy whereas “No Hard Feelings” works in a blaring instrumental talking about how he’ll “show you Slum Village”. “Wharves” throws some vibraphones in the mix describing monster cannibals just before Boldy James & Gabe ‘Nandez tag along for the dusty “Sauvage” getting on their street shit.

Meanwhile on “The Doldrums”, we have Billy on top of a settle yet dark instrumental reminding that “nothing happens ‘til it does” leading into Armand Hammer & Crown Nation teaming up for the dusty “9” to talk about the one true & livin’. Mike Ladd comes into the picture for “Christine” to somberly upset the town, but then the El-P/Breeze Brewin’ assisted “Heavy Water” providing streams of consciousness on top of a grim beat.

“Haarlem” is a decent 2-parter with Fatboi Sharif coming through with one of the weaker features on the album, but Despot’s verse on “Versailles” happens to be much better as he & billy get conscious on top of a triumphant instrumental. “Protoevangelium” with Shinehead delivers some slick production talking about “Whom the cap fits, let them wear it” while the penultimate track “Remorseless” speaks for itself over a flute-heavy beat. “Smith + Cross” then ends the album with a bare, harmonious loop talking about some being slumped & gassed in what they’ve done.

For this to be billy’s first solo outing in 3 years, I think he happened to come back with one of my favorite ones that he’s crafted so far. A couple of the features lacked, but Preservation knocks it out of the park behind the boards & billy’s abstract lyricism continues to blow wigs back.

Score: 4.5/5

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