Billy Woods - Aethiopes
May 5, 2022
100
Aethiopes is a record that’s hard to put into words. The dark sound compliments Woods as he finds comfort throughout the record no matter how strange the instrumentals become. He encounters all these unusual beats like it’s any other day, yet all of them seem like they’re tough to approach in the first place. Most rappers couldn’t pull off what Woods was able to achieve on this record, and I think that’s the reason why this album is worth taking time to break down and review.

Billy Woods is one of the most acclaimed abstract hip-hop artists in the underground. From his flows, to his wordplay, to the unique tone he sets, Woods eats and leaves no crumbs. However, it took me a long time to finally enjoy his music. To elaborate, vocalists are make or break for me. I didn’t understand how Woods’ voice was enjoyable to people. Sometimes it seems like he’s interrogating on beats instead of rapping, but that’s obviously not the case. As I mentioned in the intro, the production is truly something else. The resonating topic that everyone seems to mention is the fact that the album becomes more accessible as it goes on. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, but in this case, the album stayed just as consistent.

Asylum makes me feel ambivalent. This was my first Billy Woods album, so the fact that Asylum was basically my first glimpse of his artistry wasn’t a great approach. On first listen, the track worried me that the album wouldn’t be up my alley. Now that I’ve listened to the record multiple times, I can happily say that the track placement is stellar. The first two tracks, Asylum and No Hard Feelings, gave the listener a couple minutes to get used to Woods’ style, but after that, it was game time. During my first listen, I was home alone, and my room was fairly dark. Hearing Wharves for the first time with noise canceling headphones was terrifying. The repetitive bell sound gave me chills while Woods was rapping bar after bar throughout. The transition into Sauvage kept my blood pumping as I was floored by Boldy James and Billy Woods’ chemistry. El-P, Breeze Brewin and Woods all shine on Heavy Water, a fast and hard-hitting track. The spitting doesn’t stop throughout the two minute and twenty-three second runtime, and I’m all for it. As I mentioned before, the track placement is absolutely flawless, and the last two tracks prove that. The instrumentals are quite emotional, but Woods sounds hungrier than he was when the album began. The fact that Woods doesn’t slow down for a second on this record is the main reason why it deserves all the praise.

I’ve given Woods most of the acclaim so far, but this album wouldn’t be complete without the guests who performed at the highest level possible. With help from Boldy James, Quelle Chris, El-P, and even his Armand Hammer partner in crime E L U C I D, Woods had a crew behind him. Even the features I didn’t mention who I haven’t heard much about personally have received major praise as well. What I loved was the fact that the guests had such great verses, but Woods was able to maintain balance as his talent shined track by track.

The album’s final verse includes the phrases “Sugar, molasses, rum, Sun blasted bastard's son.” Sugar, molasses and rum references the triangle trade which played a major role in slavery. The sun blasted bastard’s son possibly refers to the slaves themselves because of the countless hours of outdoor work, and the sun beaming on them while doing so. Adding on to that topic, the cover is a perfect representation of the album. The artwork was made by a Dutch Golden Age painter named Rembrandt. The title seems to be “Two Moors,” but many sources call it different things. The 1661 piece is currently in the Mauritshuis Museum in the Netherlands. Woods chose a gorgeous piece that is historic, meaningful, and bold, just like the record.

Overall, Aethiopes is a landmark for abstract hip-hop, the hip-hop game in itself, and music as a whole. It’s hard to find flaws in this record as every strength that Woods and his guests portray are truly top tier. I hope people are able to see the vision that I saw in this record, and I’m excited to explore his other projects in the future.

3 Comments
1w
babe wake up new ryan review and rating ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜
seriously though incredible review! agree for the most part and really wanna revisit this project.
1w
@xavier Much love! I write my reviews so people who haven't heard it can understand, so I hope it was beneficial to you even if you have heard it <33
6d
Great review. You've come a long way since not being able to sit though it cause of his voice
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