This album was released on March 26th this year. Armand Hammer released one of my favorite albums of 2020 with Shrines, so naturally I’m pretty excited for this project. When this project was announced, I was 99% excited and 1% worried. It’s really cool that The Alchemist is producing an album for Armand Hammer, but at the same time, I really loved the work that billy woods & Elucid did with guys like Steel Tipped Dove & Kenny Segal. I also thought it was kinda weird that they were already giving us another album less than a year after Shrines. I’m not gonna act like it’s a problem though. The Alchemist is one of my favorite producers of all time, so I’m sure the production on this album will be good. I’m just hoping it lives up to the quality of Shrines.
1. Sir Benni Miles
This album really started off with a highlight for me. All the slight worries that I had prior to listening were extinguished soon after I first pressed play on this track. The production from The Alchemist here is fantastic. It’s just as dark and cryptic sounding as some of the best beats Armand Hammer have performed over in the past. It fits their style perfectly. It actually kinda reminds me of that song Reversals by Gangrene. The first verse from billy woods here is really cool too. This was probably my favorite couplet in the verse…
Don't make a promise you can't keep
Don't make a keepsake out of grief
His flow is more fast paced here than it usually is in my opinion. I love his verse here. The second verse from Elucid is pretty awesome as well. I can’t say who had the better performance to be honest. billy’s lyricism stood out to me a bit more, but Elucid’s flow, delivery, and rhymes were all on point.
I'm not privy to the stories you live inside
A home of alt history, I just bend the rhyme
No mystery, god, deepest look inside
Thick fog on the channel, rando pseudo Rambo
Bad camo, armed to a T as in tango
I don’t really have any gripes with the song at all. I think the production is fire, and both of the MCs here killed it. The song is dope as hell.
2. Roaches Don’t Fly
This is a solo track from Elucid, which I found to be pretty interesting since Shrines’ second song was also a solo Elucid song. It’s probably just a coincidence. Anyway, the production from The Alchemist here is really awesome. It’s a lot more melodic and tangible than the preceding instrumental, which just sounded more like an amorphous mass of sounds. I mean that in a good way though. With that said, I definitely prefer this instrumental. It’s dope af. The verse from Elucid is pretty short, as is the entire song. The verse is fire though. I love that line about how colonizers can’t pronounce his name. The electric guitar that comes in toward the end of his verse sounds really good. I definitely like this track way more than Elucid’s solo track on Shrines. This shit is fire. I think it’s dope as hell.
3. Black Sunlight featuring KAYANA
This track has a surprisingly clean, lush instrumental. I could see Rick Ross rhyming over this beat, which is not something I expected to say about anything on this album. The soft vocals from KAYANA sound really nice over the posh instrumental. The first verse from billy woods is really dope.
Is this performative or praxis?
Are we talkin' about practice?
Rock the kufi backwards, magic negro, Wesley Snipes' taxes
Dark inside the Ibex with two ratchets
African accents, American names like Dave and Patrick
Game is the game, just gotta change tactics
Once again, I think woods had the more interesting verse just from a lyrical standpoint. I feel like Elucid’s delivery was a bit different from how he usually performs. It sounds like he was really trying to project his voice as much as possible. I think his verse is great, but I prefer that of billy woods personally. Overall, I think this is a pretty dope track. It doesn’t blow me away like the first couple of songs just because I prefer them over darker, more claustrophobic sounding instrumentals, but this is still really tight. I fuck with it.
4. Indian Summer
The previous track transitions into this one pretty smoothly. This track is a lot more cryptic sounding than the preceding one. I could definitely see Iceberg Theory spitting over this beat. The opening verse from woods is amazing.
Pluckin' guitar strings, Orpheus outside the fortress
MDC Brooklyn, the rats is gorgin'
Kill one, only bring more and more like dead explorers
I put a neat hole in Indiana Jones' fedora
For that Somali Torah, we lit up the night like Sodom and Gomorrah
Left out, face forward
I was hooked the whole time. The second verse from Elucid is great as well.
Kettle whistle, Qadry Ismail, The Missile
Sky face wistful, I had a fistful of fucks ground to the gristle
Conditions and stipulation, past the need for affirmation
My activation, iridescent black, back to basic
I told her "Taste it", obliged and gracious
Consent enthusiastic, splash, catch this
As if, black script, my last grift
Dumbfound myth, run wild wind, just past the line
You won't gun down the sun, I done told you again
I’ve always said that Elucid was my favorite of the two members of Armand Hammer, but up to this point on the album I’d felt like I was enjoying billy woods’ performances more. I’m not really sure if it’s just because my taste changed or if it’s because woods stepped things up for this album. It’d make sense that he’d go extra hard for the Alchemist collab. I don’t know. Fuck it. This song is dope as hell.
5. Aubergine featuring Fielded
The beat on this track is amazing. I love how subtle everything here sounds. Everything sounds really quiet and kind of somber. The opening verse from Elucid on this track is fantastic as well. He killed this shit.
Weave what he want and it's still on the one
'Cause I wander don't mean that I'm lost
'Cause I wonder don't mean that I'm stumped
Bending wills to exactly what I want
I been hunted, I been shielded, I feel love here
The haunting bridge from Fielded is fucking crazy to me. I think it sounds fucking awesome, and the way the second beat fades in for billy woods’ verse is perfect. His verse is superb as well.
Westworld niggas re-rebooting, recyclin' the same shooting
Rappers tired, inertia the only thing keep 'em movin'
Glassy-eyed in the stu', that street date looming
Toast coriander and cumin
Crush fragrant, slow, circular movements
In the garden, nascent, she let me ate it, I'm only human
This is not only one of my favorite songs on the album, but one of my favorite Armand Hammer songs period. I think it’s dope af.
6. God’s Feet
This track has the jazziest instrumental up to this point on the record. I think it’s an amazing beat to be honest. It’s really chill, yet kind of dark sounding at the same time. I love it. I also love the weird singing from billy woods on the hook of this track. It kinda reminds me of ScHoolboy Q for some reason. Elucid comes in to sing the same hook, and then he performs the only actual verse on the song, which is really dope. It’s only like 8 bars, so there’s not that much to dig into, but it’s still really dope. I love the production on this track, and I think it’s cool that they used this song to do something really different. The structure is totally different from that of any of the other tracks, and I appreciate that. This shit is dope as hell.
This is a solo track from billy woods, and it has a pretty glitchy, melodic instrumental, similar to that of Elucid’s solo track. It’s a pretty cool beat, albeit far from my favorite. The refrain on this track doesn’t really do much for me, but the verses are cool. I think if the song was a bit more fleshed out I would like it more. A more detailed hook and maybe some longer verses would’ve made this sound less skeletal. It’s still a very dope song though. I fuck with it.
The beat on this track is incredible. It’s one of the best beats I’ve heard all year. It completely blew me away. The first verse from billy woods is amazing too.
I can't afford not to believe in things unseen
But belief always been dangerous to me
Slumped in the last pew, the pulpit packed
The culprits beg and accuse, executioner dons a mask
That line about how all a liar needs is a shred of truth was tight. Elucid comes in right behind billy woods with another really great verse.
I love to talk with fools, I hate circlin' the drain
And repeatin' myself unless I'm barring on a stage
The price done doubled, the ice pebbled, the mint muddled
A vision, receiving all I signal out
There's a part beyond me, plus chaos
I don’t love his verse quite as much as that of billy woods, but I still thought he did a really nice job here. The song is dope as hell.
9. Falling Out the Sky featuring Earl Sweatshirt
This track has the brightest, sweetest sounding instrumental on the album. It’s way fluffier than anything I’ve ever heard these guys rap over in the past. This is the last beat I would’ve chosen for them, but they surprisingly made it work. I think the opening verse from Earl is really good, despite my aversion to almost anything he’s done since 2015.
Rhymes forged to conjoin us to the cosmic
Spliff burnin' like crude oil, cool water drip like osmosis
I'll set the mood for ya, you know the vibes
Today I got time for it, run, Forrest
Five on me like I'm Bob Horry for the tribe, slime
Mamba mentality, stars falling out of the sky
I love the second verse on this track from billy woods. That line where he said that he genuflected when he heard how low prices for weed are in California was hilarious. He killed this shit. He definitely had my favorite verse on the song, but Elucid killed that final verse too. The song is fire overall. The sweet, melodic instrumental is really hypnotizing, and the writing from each MC on this track is phenomenal. The song is dope as hell.
10. Wishing Bad featuring Curly Castro & Amani
This track has another fantastic beat. It’s super gritty sounding, and very detailed. The first verse from billy woods is great too. I’m not familiar with this Amani person, but their hook on this track is pretty cool. Curly Castro fucking killed that second verse too. That’s my favorite feature up to this point on the record.
Stowaway in the back of the car, Biggie bled
All the clocks, Brooklyn went cold the night that manifest
No one on Church Ave made a sound until it came correct
A pound of flesh was needed to scale when time to pay respect
Fuck Puff, survivor's remorse should keep him fucked up
Riding out on a warhorse, leave dummies dumbstruck
I prefer Jag then L-Boogie when unplugged
Baptist warlord Sam Sharpe, we all are one blood
The second verse from Elucid is somehow even better. I think Elucid had the best performance on this track, but it was nice to hear a traditional flow from Curly Castro. This is one of the better songs on the album in my opinion. I think it’s dope as hell.
11. Chicharrones featuring Quelle Chris
I love how slow the instrumental on this track is. I of course love the hard-hitting percussion as well. The opening verse from billy woods is amazing. I love these opening lines.
Got caught with the pork
But you gotta kill the cop in your thoughts
Still sayin' "Pause"
Negroes say they hate the cops
But the minute somethin' off, they wanna use force
I just work here, I'm not the boss
The hook and second verse from Quelle Chris are really good too. I know his verse got a lot of praise, but I personally enjoyed woods’ verse more. His lines just stood out to me more. Both of these guys killed it though. I think the song is really dope overall. I do wish that the production kinda switched up at some point because it does get kind of old after a while, and a verse from Elucid would’ve been nice. It’s not one of my favorite tracks on the album, but I do like it quite a bit. It’s dope.
The instrumental on this track is good, but it doesn’t really stand out like most of the others do to me. For whatever reason, I just found myself being far more enchanted by Elucid’s rhymes than by The Alchemist’s production. Elucid killed the first verse. I feel like his flow really stood out more than usual here. The sung hook on this track is kind of eerie to me. The melody just sounds oddly haunting. The second verse from billy woods is really good, although far from my favorite from him on this album. Even though this track has my least favorite instrumental on the album, I do think it’s very dope. I fuck with it.
13. Robert Moses
This is another solo track from billy woods. The dark, jazzy production from The Alchemist fits his style perfectly. The song is really short, so there’s only one verse here. The verse is really good too. I just feel like the song could’ve been extended and fleshed out a little more because it sounds more like an interlude than anything. There’s nothing in particular about the song that I dislike though. The jazzy production is fire, and the verse from billy woods is really cool, even if I have no idea what the hell it means. I mean, I do have a slight idea of what I think the song is about, but I don’t wanna say it because it’s probably completely wrong and I don’t wanna look dumb. Or dumber than I usually do. Anyway, I think this song is really dope. It’s just not really a highlight for me amongst the other tracks on this album.
The melodic, kind of sentimental beat on this track is really dope. The sung hook from Elucid is surprisingly good too. I love his verse on this track as well. His melodic delivery sounded really good, and his writing had me hooked.
Chaos dissolves, distills what's true
I have so much more left to do
It never ends, like light I bend
I call for winds, sight beyond men
billy woods fucking killed that second verse too. I’m glad he didn’t use the same melodic flow and delivery that Elucid used. Not that they ever copy each other’s performances, but still.
The pavement gave way to a thicket of thorns
Where the body lay naked as the day I was born
She rocked my teeth in a necklace, gulped blood from a horn
Ruby Woo, facin' Mecca, hair disheveled and torn
She left what was left in a ditch, she dream of the sex
She finished on top and howled in the crook of my neck
She dragged the bones home and built a bed
She drank Rosé out the skull but held it gentle as my living head
Not only is the song itself great, but the music video is really goddamn cool too. That’s probably my favorite music video that Armand Hammer have ever done. The song is dope as hell to me.
This album is dope as hell. It’s one of the better projects I’ve heard all year. There aren’t any tracks that I don’t think are dope. I think it’s neck & neck with Shrines to be honest. If I had to choose one over the other I’d probably go with Shrines just because I feel like it’s a darker sounding record, but the soundscapes that The Alchemist provided for this album are just as good as I was hoping they’d be. I feel like if you’re familiar with Armand Hammer you pretty much know what to expect on this album. The writing is as confusing and interesting as it’s always been. The production here isn’t as dark as I expected it to be, especially after seeing the cover art for this album, but it’s all super detailed and diverse. A track like Sir Benni Miles sounds completely different from Falling out the Sky, which I appreciate. I don’t have any consistent gripes with this album. I think it’s a major success. It’s really great.
Favorite Song: Aubergine
Least Favorite Song: Peppertree
Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.
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