Album Review | billy woods & Kenny Segal – Maps

This album was released on May 5th this year. billy woods is one of my favorite rappers of all time, and his first collaborative album with Kenny Segal, Hiding Places, is one of his best projects in my opinion. I reviewed that album when it came out, but I like it even more now than I did when I covered it. In fact, I like billy woods way more now than I did when I first started listening to him. I really fell in love with him when I revisited his discography in preparation for Aethiopes. I also really enjoyed Church, which came out towards the end of 2022. With that said, Church is probably my least favorite billy woods album that I’ve heard. It should be noted that I haven’t listened to anything he’s put out prior to History Will Absolve Me, which is still my favorite album from him. I’m just gonna say it now though; this album, Maps, is my second favorite billy woods project now. I think this shit is amazing. Let me tell y’all why…

The album begins with a highlight entitled Kenwood Speakers. This shit is fire. I knew as soon as this track started that I was going to love this album. I love how weird and hard-hitting the percussion is. The verse from woods is of course fantastic. There are a lot of dope lines and references peppered throughout his performance, but my favorite part of the song is easily this line…

Every time things going good or having a laugh, have to remember God's a hater

That’s so true. I love it. The song is kinda short, but I think it works really well as an intro. I don’t really have any gripes with it. The weird production is fantastic, and woods killed it. The one thing I will say is that I don’t necessarily think this track is representative of how the rest of the album sounds. This beat sounds a lot less jazzy than most of the other instrumentals in my opinion. There are some exceptions though. Anyway, I really love this track. I think it’s dope as hell. The following song is even better in my opinion. It’s called Soft Landing, and it’s one of my favorite songs of the year.

I love this shit. The melodic production from Kenny Segal sounds absolutely gorgeous. It sounds like a really beautiful Summer day in the form of music. woods killed this shit too. Especially that second verse. I even love the hook on this track. There’s really not a single aspect of this song that I don’t love. I wish y’all could’ve seen my reaction when I heard that line about how the spliff could jump your car battery. That’s fire. The opening couplet of the second verse is also fantastic.

My daily routine narrated by an Attenborough
Over the instrumental to Keep It Thoro

Bruuuuh. That’s so fire. Gotdamn. I also love the way he ends the verse.

Maybe Suicidal Thoughts was the Everyday Struggle
For a brief, sweet moment it was nothing in the thought bubble
From up here the lakes is puddles
The land unfold brown and green, it's a quiet puzzle
Before we take off, I call mom and say, "I love you"
Complimentary beverages
When we land, I text my ex and say—

As you have probably noticed from the lyrics that I’ve written, there’s a theme of traveling throughout this project. The song titles also reinforce the theme. Again, there’s not a single aspect of this song that I don’t love. The production? Fire. woods’ rapping? Fire. The hook? Fire. The song overall? Dope as fuck. I love it. The following track is called Soundcheck, and it features a verse from Quelle Chris. I really like the chill, jazzy production, and woods killed the first verse. My favorite lines are the ones about beef.

I will not be at soundcheck, but I might check in to keep 'em honest
I reserve the right
Is it rap beef or is it on sight?
Talking out they teeth, don't even know what I look like
I think I'ma be alright

Quelle Chris fuckin’ killed this shit though. I have to admit that I wasn’t immediately hooked by his performance on my first listen of the album, but after returning to it I realized just how great his verse is. That line about how his DJ scratches records like there’s lice in it was fire. I also loved the Jay Electronica reference. Honestly, I think I like Quelle Chris’ verse even more than that of woods. This track honestly grew on me a lot with repeat listens. I think this shit is dope as hell. Track 4 is another highlight entitled Rapper Weed. I love the lowkey, jazzy production, and the lyrical content is a big part of why I love the track so much. If you know me, you know I have a strong affinity for marijuana, so songs on the subject of ganja excite me. The first verse is really great. Every single line is about weed, so I was pretty much hooked. The hook on this track is fire too. This might actually be my favorite hook on the album. Okay, that’s probably not true actually. It’s definitely top 3 for me though.

Colorful packaging, pack 'em in
Fly like gold on Africans
Cover my tracks with backronyms
If the track slaps, in the back you can almost hear the black cackling
When it's my time, no need to pass the hat
Just throw me in when the fire good and crackling

The second verse is kinda short, but it’s really great too. My favorite part of this song is definitely just the first verse, but everything else about it is really good as well. I love this track. I will admit that I don’t adore it as much as I did on my first listen—the production grew off of me a tiny bit—but it’s still a highlight on the project for me. I think it’s dope as hell. The following track is another highlight entitled Blue Smoke. Once again, the jazzy production is phenomenal. I feel like I’ve been talking a lot about woods himself, but I should mention that Kenny Segal is another one of my favorite producers, and it’s because of albums and songs like this. The percussion and upright bass on this track sound amazing. woods killed this shit too. I don’t know if it’s just me or not, but I feel like woods’ flow is a lot more impressive on this album than it has been in the past. That’s not to say that his flow was ever anywhere near bad. I just think it really stood out in a positive way on this album—particularly on songs like this. This track is short as hell, so there’s only time for one quick verse. It’s really fucking good though. I love the opening line about symbols eclipsing the things they symbolize. This quatrain right here is probably my favorite part of the song…

So much tape hiss, FBI agents narrow they eyes
Frustrated, asking to be reassigned
"Been on this n-word for months, I think it's all just rhymes"
I'm still peaking, and if it's just us speaking, these n-words is on the decline

Again, the song is really short, so it’s pretty straightforward structurally. I love it though. I think this shit is dope as hell. Track 6 is called Bad Dreams Are Only Dreams. I think this track is pretty good, but I have to admit that it’s probably my least favorite song on the album. It’s just nowhere near as exciting as most of the other tracks in my opinion. I really like the dark, jazzy production, and the verse from woods is of course very good. This track is barely over a minute long though, so it doesn’t really have time to really hook me, ya know? It’s funny because it’s followed by what is arguably my favorite song on the album, Babylon by Bus.

This shit is fucking fire. On my first listen of this album, I was playing it out loud on my friend’s Bluetooth speaker, and one of my other homies who doesn’t even listen to that much Hip Hop was like “goddamn, this is fire.” I agree. This song is so good. The opening verse from woods is incredible. He was rhyming his ass off.

Opera glasses clutched front my ugly mug
I administer the food and drugs
Monsoon love, oxytocin flood
Red mud ran out the hills like blood
Glistening water bug on clean counter
Plague mask gave the place a curse and glower
He ran away, I gave chase but gave up
And sat on his gate for hours

The song was already fire, but then ShrapKnel came in and fucking tore it down. They sound so good here. I don’t know who I’m more impressed with between Curly Castro & PremRock. The way Castro came in was so awesome. Their flows and rhyme schemes on this song are immaculate. The closing verse from woods is fire too. It has some of my favorite lines on the album.

Caught 'em lacking on 9/11
I lied down like V.I. Lenin
People don't want the truth
They want me to tell 'em grandma went to heaven

This is definitely one of my favorite songs of the year. I think it’s dope as fuck. I don’t even mind how short it is because it hits so hard. It’s short and sweet. I love it. Track 8 is another major highlight entitled Year Zero. This is another one of the best songs of the year. woods absolutely murdered the first verse.

Apes stood and walked into the future
March of progress end hunchbacked in front the computer
Sooner or later it's gon' be two unrelated active shooters
Same place, same time, great minds, Tesla & Edison
Selling pussy 'cross state lines, they veterans
Hangman, one look all it take to take they measurements
My taxes pay police brutality settlements
Quicksand every direction so go ahead and step on in

The hook on this track is pretty nice too. The beat is pretty dark & hard-hitting. With that said, I definitely wouldn’t say this is one of my favorite instrumentals on the album. It’s cool though. I definitely like it to some extent. Anyway, what really pushes this song to the next level for me is the feature from Danny Brown. He absolutely annihilated the verse here. The way they set his performance up was crazy. He spit a long ass verse on this track. It kinda reminds me of the way he killed Ride Slow by Ab-Soul back in 2014. I’ve been waiting for a billy woods & Danny Brown collaboration for a long time, and this track gave me exactly what I wanted. My favorite part of Danny’s verse is when he starts laughing, and it sounds like the verse is about to end, but then he just keeps going. I love it. This song is fire. I think it’s dope as fuck. The following track is another highlight called Hangman. I really love how slow and dark the production on this one is. woods’ voice sounds really good over it too. The rapping is just incredible. The first verse is so good.

My shell mechanical
People paralyzed by the lies they tell theyself to make it manageable
I know the count right, but I recount on sleepless nights because it's tangible
Any day could be the day they frogmarch you in manacles

What’s crazy is that the second verse is even better than the first one. The way he compared the past to a black Rubik’s cube is just crazy. That’s such a fucking cool line. Goddamn. This dude, man… He’s on some other shit. Honestly, this song grew on me with repeat listens. I think the slow, creeping production is phenomenal, and woods absolutely murdered it. The song’s dope as fuck. Track 10 is called Baby Steps, and it’s another major highlight for me. You know, this might actually be my favorite song on the album. The production is amazing, and woods absolutely killed the first verse. His flow is so fucking good, man. He sounds fantastic here. He gets bonus points for namedropping a medication that I used to take. I don’t know why, but that always excites me. These lines right here are probably my favorite part of the verse…

I don't check in, but if you feel a disturbance in the force, you already know
Somethin' wicked in the wind
Just picture me sittin' with a pen in a cloud of smoke
Front row at your live set just to determine if it's a hoax
My love languagе an obscure dialect
Pulled mе aside, explained she was just doing a bit, I was like, "Oh"

That’s so fire. The hook is sung by an artist named Benjamin Booker, with whom I was previously unfamiliar. I love their performance on this track though. They sound amazing honestly. The stripped back, breathy vocal performance sounds really haunting. I love it. Elucid absolutely slaughtered that second verse too. I fucking love this song. I think it’s incredible. The next song is called The Layover. Once again, the jazzy production sounds phenomenal. The piano sounds really fuckin’ good. The first verse is of course superb.

Nine lives, whitey wondering how many I already used
Devil may care, but inside I'm wondering too
Finally got it to where lies is the truth and the truth is a ruse
Original sin, unopened, nеar mint, to grin in the gloom

The hook is pretty good too. The second verse is also very enjoyable.

Before History, I made fire in the cave
Midwifery, delivery a ball of rage
Hide and go seek, some never find a hiding place
Some kids hid so well, they never found a trace

I hope I don’t sound like a Stan or anything. I just realized that I’ve pretty much been doing nothing but praising this album throughout this entire review. It’s really that good to me though. Anyway, this song is dope as hell. It’s followed by FaceTime, which I believe was the lead single to this project.

Honestly, this is one of the weaker tracks on the album in my opinion. That’s not to say it’s wack or anything. I still think it’s really dope. I just don’t love it as much as most of the other songs. The opening verse from woods is fire though.

My evil eye ward off hex though
FaceTime declined, I'm trying to live in the moment like death row
The sunset in the desert, red glow, redness in the west
I sip Mexico's best slow, Mezcal Negroni
Sittin' atop the corral smokin', watching unbroken wild ponies
Run wild at sundown
Only the lonely big tree like a sundial

The one aspect of this song that I’m just not really crazy about is the hook from Samuel T. Herring. I don’t think his vocals are bad. I generally like him as an artist. I just personally don’t really care for the melody itself. The production is fire though, and I will say that the hook has grown on me since my first listen. I like it more now than I initially did. I’m just still not crazy about it. Thankfully the stellar production from Kenny and great rapping from woods keeps me invested. The way the second verse ends is pretty fucking awesome. That’s definitely my favorite part of the song.

Butter wouldn't melt, I gave 'em margarine
I'm lookin' like the help or someone who just wandered in
The vibe is animal pelts
Chunky rings, clunky shoes, lots of ink
Dudes who order everybody's drink
Really I'm just waiting for my phone to ping
I'm thinkin' 'bout you when I'm supposed to be thinkin' 'bout other things
I don't go to sleep, I tread water 'til I sink

His flow and rhymes are so cold, man. I love it. This song is really dope. Track 13 is called Agriculture, and it’s another highlight for me. The song’s only a minute and forty seconds long, but I love it. The production is absolutely gorgeous. I think this is probably the prettiest instrumental on the whole album. The verse from woods is absolutely stunning too. I love this shit.

I say I'm at peace but it's still that same dread
It's a funny feeling like knowing your enemies is in the feds
It's hard to live when before you was dead
Cup bitter at the bottom, I had to learn to toss the dregs

I know I didn’t really say much about this track, but that’s just because it’s so short. There’s only one verse, so there’s not much to break down structurally. Everything here is just really well done. I love the production, and woods killed it. I think the song’s dope as hell. The next song is called Houdini. Once again, I love the melodic production here. The lyrical content about marijuana is much appreciated too. The second verse is even better than the first one in my opinion.

The earth is a sphere
You don’t have to believe it, I do work
The cats working with mirrors, I disappear
I was never there
Walked into the forest filled with fear
Couldn't see it coming, but I could hear
Something lumbering near
Woke up sudden in armchair
Cousin like, "Yo, you good to drive?"
Nigga, I'm the tip of the spear

Once again, the structure of this song is fairly straightforward, so that’s why I haven’t said much about this track. It’s just a great instrumental with really good rapping, and a relatable hook. I love it. The song’s dope as hell. The next track is called Waiting Around, and it’s another highlight for me. On my first listen of the album, this was my most anticipated track just because it features one of my favorite rappers of all time, Aesop Rock. His verse certainly did not disappoint. He fucking killed this shit. His flow and rhymes were on point.

When you was asking ‘bout touring, I get the crux of the question
It's just the bulk of the answer is of another dimension
If I close my eyes and think of reconstructing an essence
That isn't functional at present, I can't fuck with the premise
It's like the act itself would almost undercut the intention
If I show up for attendance, I'm just unplugging the message
Tell me somethin’, what's a sheep when everyone is a shepherd?
Or better yet, what's a student who ain't rough around the edges?
Using music to confront the gunk that's gumming up his engines
I ain't judging, I ain't nothing if not buffing out a blemish or ten

That’s one of the best verses on the album, just from a technical standpoint. I love it. Unfortunately I’m not as crazy about the hook on this song as I would like to be, and I’m not really in love with the production either. I think the beat is fine, but it’s probably my least favorite instrumental on the project. The actual rapping is what keeps this song so engaging in my opinion. woods really killed this shit. I guess he really had to go beast mode since he was following Aes. I like how he started the verse with a reference to In Bruges, which has become one of my favorite movies in the past year. I also appreciated the Diplomats reference even though I personally never got the hype for Dipset. I think Aesop Rock’s verse is the best part of this song, but woods definitely killed this shit too. The song’s dope as hell. The penultimate track is a major highlight called NYC Tapwater. This song has one of my favorite beats on the album. I love how chill and jazzy the instrumental is. It actually kinda reminds me of something August Fanon would produce. I love it. The rapping from woods is obviously top tier. The first verse is great; I really like the O.C. reference that he begins the song with. The end of the second verse is my favorite part of the song though.

Cops ride by and be in the breeze
No need for stop and frisk, it's cameras everywhere, they got your IG feed
Come scoop kids after they do the deed
Death in a top hat dance a jig in the street
Don't get it twisted boy, the city wicked, it'll crush you with its feet

As far as structure goes, the song is pretty much just two verses with a short break in between. There’s no hook. This shit is amazing though. The production is boiling hot fire, and woods killed it. He was rhyming his ass off, and his flow sounds great. I love it. The song’s dope as fuck. Same goes for the closing track, As the Crow Flies. This is another one of my favorite songs of the year. The beat is really pretty, and Elucid absolutely fucking slaughtered the opening verse. I think it’s even better than the first verse he contributed to this project.

The rep grows bigger
I took out my gold fronts
Split a rack of rib with the illest, not counting myself
Baggage on the carousel loop, big body blur, side of the truth
Landing somewhere in the middle
It's a physical experience, a realist ritual of niggarati lineage
Rooted, but I roam free
Dopp kits and QR codes be all I see
The WiFi's weak, smoke detector beeps
In between the takes, I rap like good daddy
Sweating out my silk shirt, asking, "What's the real work?"

What’s crazy is that the following verse from woods is arguably even better despite its brevity. It’s only about 8 bars, and it’s some of the most straightforward writing I’ve encountered from woods, but it just hits so goddamn hard. The lyrical content about parenthood had me hooked. I love this song. Shit. This might actually be my favorite song on the album. I don’t know yet. I haven’t decided what my favorite track is as of 7:44 PM EST on May 22nd. I’m leaning towards this track though. This shit is fire. Elucid killed it, and the production is incredible. woods of course blew me away too. I love it. This song is dope as fuck.

This album is amazing. Again, this is my second favorite billy woods album behind History Will Absolve Me. It’s close though. Hiding Places & Aethiopes are also amazing. I’d say I like this one marginally more than those two. That’s just a testament to woods’ consistency though. It’s rare for an artist to have even one album that I’d call “amazing,” so the fact that there are three or four woods albums that I would describe in that manner is really impressive. This album just solidifies him as one of my favorite rappers of all time, as well as the contemporary king of underground Hip Hop. This album also solidifies Kenny Segal as one of my favorite producers. These beats fit woods perfectly. There’s not a single instrumental here that I would call wack. One thing that I really appreciate is that this album sounds completely different from their last collaboration. This isn’t Hiding Places 2. It’s a very different project. This one is much jazzier and less in-your-face in my opinion. Shoutout to the features too. Damn near every single feature came through with a show-stopping performance. ShrapKnel, Danny Brown, Aesop Rock, Elucid… I don’t know which one of them I’m most impressed by. This is easily one of the best albums I’ve heard so far this year. Check it out. I think it’s dope as fuck.

Favorite Song: As the Crow Flies
Least Favorite Song: Bad Dreams Are Only Dreams


Watch the videos below for more thoughts on this album.

Grade: A

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