A legendary pair of hip-hop’s greatest visionaries, Billy Woods and Elucid have spent the last decade molding a platform for themselves built upon meticulous repartee and rhyme-labyrinths, of sorts, that will leave you entangled in confusion as you attempt to decipher what two near-poets have just said. Both artists having incredibly extensive and prolific solo catalogs under their belts, it only makes sense that they would gel so well when put in the same room. It almost feels as if we’ve been watching and admiring the progression of these two artists finding their niche as a group and discovering the perfect middle-ground between the murky/remorseful tales of the rappers’ respective pasts and eclectic absurdities.
Seldom are the dull moments when following artists as ceaselessly inventive and cryptic as Woods and Elucid are. That said, last year’s Shrines was, to me, the weakest link in the duo’s chain; plagued by tedious production that swiftly became jaded. Where Shrines crashed and burned, Haram soars with glamorous, flying colors. Aided by Alchemist’s subtly psychedelic, slick as a whistle production, Elucid and Billy Woods present a lyrical documentary as to where their heads have been since their last collaborative venture. Merely by glancing at the title, “Haram”, a word meaning “forbidden” that derives from Arabic, you can get a vague idea as to what this album is about. Reflecting and pondering on the duo’s pasts which they seem to want to leave where it took place, tussling with feelings of sorrow and regret, and weighing in on the eventful 2020, mostly through diatribes towards the violence that sparked the Summer’s infamous riots; Haram finds Elucid and Billy Woods in top form. The hard-as-nails bars, densely enigmatic wordplay, and strikingly haunting storytelling Armand Hammer usually brings to the table are here in spades. If we are to compare the duo to deadly guns, then the features are extensions on said guns; managing to match the lyrical quality as the main rappers.
As expected, The Alchemist’s production is nothing to scoff at either. Tranquilizing yet tantalizing, The Alchemist manages to make his production sound both from an alternate, warped dimension and directly off the New York streets Billy Woods resides on. One moment, you’ll be faced with a jazzy and glistening instrumental, which will then be directly contrasted by a dreary, caliginous cut immediately after. Not to mention that all the tracks work perfectly next to each other, flowing like water from one to another.
It’s not an immediate hard-hitting brick thrown at your head, unlike some other, more blunt rap project you’ll hear this year, but rather a meditative journey through the psyches of two of the most obscured rappers of the last decade alongside a showcase of the best that Billy Woods and Elucid have to offer. Easy hip-hop AOTY contender, I doubt anything will surpass this for quite some time.
Favorite Tracks: Sir Benni Miles / Roaches Don’t Fly / Black Sunlight / Indian Summer / Aubergine / Peppertree / Scaffolds / Falling out the Sky / Wishing Bad / Chicharonnes / Robert Moses
Worst Tracks: God's Feet / Stonefruit