Written Before Listen
Armand Hammer is a rap duo consisting of New York MCs Billy Woods and Elucid. I’ve heard Armand Hammer before when I listened to their project “Shrines”. I enjoyed it but never thought it was anything over the top. On the other hand, The Alchemist is one of my favorite producers of all time. Producing for the likes of Pharoahe Monch, Nas, Griselda, Danny Brown and arguably his highest achievement, Alfredo. Hearing about this collaboration was interesting so Im coming into this record with high expectations.
Its honestly hard to talk about the lyrics of Billy Woods and Elucid. Every verse they spit is insanely complex and technically over your head. A lot of the verses are filled with double meanings, intricate depth and so much more. The opening verse already leaves you falling behind. The rhyme schemes are on point, the lyrics still confuse me. They still mean something but the complex vocabulary and depth of meaning just leave me lost on how to talk about it or truly connect it to a more basic form. I honestly respect the density of the lyrics and the meanings of it but they are just wayyyyy to complex for me personally.
So the production on this album is in typical Alchemist fashion. We have beats like “Sir Benni Miles” and “Peppertree” where Alchemist reverses jazz samples and creates that as the foundation. We have retro beats like “Roaches Don’t Fly” and “Black Sunlight”. Although Alchemist is usually a man of many styles, a lot of the beats (like usual) are hypnotic, psychedelic and atmospheric. There is probably a streak of 5 beats that go in that route until we get the dub inspired “Falling Out The Sky” with its shuffling beat and reggae chord progression. Overall, Alchemist doesnt shy away from his usual style and it meshes well with Armand Hammers flows and rhyme patterns.
The topics on the other hand, are a little more clear. On the opening track, I believe Elucid is talking about drugs but its so obscure and filled with double and triple entendres, its just hard to pinpoint what its actually about. A song like “Indian Summer” on the other hand shows Billy Woods delivering what I believe to be the best verse on the album and Elucid stands up to par with him. With a song like “Aubergine” we have Elucid delivering a verse that is very psychedelic and spiritual while Billy Woods talks about a more straightforward rap topic like living in the urban life. Thats one thing about Billy. He chooses usual rap topics but he takes it with so much depth and intelligence, it seems like he is talking about something completely different. Elucid is almost as complex but he is a little easier to comprehend which made me enjoy his verses slightly more than the verses delivered from Billy.
There aren’t that many features on here but the features that do appear, do their job. First off we get a verse from none other than Earl Sweatshirt. He comes with his usual deadpan delivery and abstract rhymes/topics. Its easy to say that he fits the album well. We then get Curly Castro delivering a very intriguing verse with vivd lyrics and sharp flows. At the end of the day though, Quelle Chris easily has the best guest verse. easily one of the most symbolic verses on the album talking about pigs and how its relating to the former president of the Unites States and all of the protests that happened too. Honestly, the features don’t carry the album but add so much more to the artists themselves which is for sure a rarity.
So what can I say? The dudes are lyrical as hell, Alchemist delivers great production, Its a rap record. Easily one con that comes right out is more of a personal one. They are way too complex for me. Listening to this album in a lyrical stampoint would probably give me a headache. Also, Alchemist sometimes comes short in delivering a good beat sometimes. Other than that, this is just a record that I admire more than enjoy.
So this album and Armand Hammer themselves are an enigma. Their verses are filled with meaning that are hard to interpret, the beats are left-field but insane, the flows are going against the grain. Its quite impressive and comes out as a very intelligent hip hop record. Despite my lack of understanding, Armand Hammer and The Alchemist deliver one of the most unique hip hop pairings ive heard in a long time.