Rome is burning. Armand Hammer is watching.
Rome is the latest record from Armand Hammer, the duo of billy woods and Elucid. Now if you been following me for a minute, you’ll note I’m huge fans of both of these artists, who both take unconventional approaches to hip-hop. Woods and Elucid create music which sounds like a complete and total blackout, with lyrically and sonically dense production, a hazy sense of dread, and each artist taking a perceptive, acerbic, and caustic approach to their topics, which include race, poverty, violence, hood shit, economics, history, and more. Woods sounds like a manic street preacher, delivering sermons in a half-rapped, half spoken-word style while not taking the end of the world all too seriously, while Elucid is incisive and calm, crafting lines that kill. They’re a good duo, and have put out great music both together and individually.
Armand Hammer had been dormant since their 2014 EP, Furtive Movements, but in 2017 they are fucking back, with just the music we need for this woozy shitstain of a year.
Rome is a chaotic, terrifying, hostile, and liberating record. It’s challenging and forward-moving, a ridiculously dense and dizzying mix of prophetic verses, power moves, threats, brags, words of warning and wisdom, and much more. It’s constantly in your face and worming its way into your psyche, full of baggage that will take numerous listens to comb through (Surprisingly enough, Elucid mentioned it’s more straightforward than their previous records). I’m still digesting the record, but it’s amazing just how in-sync these guys are, how their contrasting rapping styles pair so well, and lines fly out of the sonic and lyrical barrage to hit you right in the face, repeatedly. It’s an experience.
“It Was Written,” word to Nas, is an utterly fantastic joint which has the duo going all the way the fuck in, each delivering heat over a sparse and unsettling drum kick. I’m particularly partial to Elucid’s verse here, particularly his lines about his discography being a “radical act of love and protection,” and some really poetic imagery: “Made a bed of black orchids in the Leviathan’s fortress.” Hell, he even balances that beauty out with a random sucker-punch where he asks fuckboys who raised them (“…He probably ain’t shit anyway!” he casually tosses in). Like, yoooooo, this track goes! And it’s just one moment in a record full of stellar listens. It’s far and away some of the most substantial and finest rap you’ll hear this year.