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

Armand Hammer – “Haram” review

Armand Hammer is duo from New York City consisting of Billy Woods & Elucid. Forming together in 2013 off their only mixtape Half Measures & the debut album Race Music, the pair would go on to release an EP & 3 more full-lengths worth of abstract political hip hop. Their previous effort Shrines just came out this past summer & not even a year later, Billy & Elucid have tapped on The Alchemist for their 5th full-length album.

The album kicks off with “Sir Benni Miles”, where Armand Hammer gets cryptic over a grimy instrumental with a couple of vocal samples laced in. The next song “Roaches Don’t Fly” talks about how “you don’t have to be here if you don’t wanna” over a synth-heavy beat with some occasional guitar passages while the track “Black Sunlight” gives the listener profound motivation over a cheerful instrumental. The track “Indian Summer” talks about swearing vengeance in the 7th grade & how they “can’t walk them dogs with you” over a mystical beat while the track Aubergine with Fielded finds the 3 talking about hysteria over an instrumental that starts off with a demented atmosphere, but then switches into something more forlorn.

The song “God’s Feet” talks about “blowing that horn fast” over a glistening boom bap beat while the track “Peppertree” talks about how “there’s something else out there” over a saxophone & a reversed loop. The song “Scaffolds” talks about always being late with the epiphanies & having excuses over a paranormal instrumental while the track “Falling Out the Sky” with Earl Sweatshirt sees the trio opening up about their demons over a lachrymose beat.

The song “Wishing Bad” with Curly Castro & Amani finds the 4 talking about how all their problems come from no compensation over a minimal, yet deranged instrumental while the track “Chicharonnes” with Quelle Chris sees the 3 talking about corrupt cops over a ghastly beat. “Squeegee” is another favorite of mine with it’s enraged verses, the ear-grabbing hook & repose production while the penultimate track “Robert Moses” talks about a new day over a jazz-laced instrumental. The album ends with “Stonefruit”, where the duo talk about having so much to undo over a celebratory beat.

This is hands down one of the best albums I’ve heard all year & I’ll even go as far to say that it’s Armand Hammer’s magnum opus. Couple of the features were a miss for me personally, but the gruesome imagery that Billy Woods & Elucid paint goes hand to hand with Uncle Al’s signature sound almost flawlessly.

Score: 4.5/5