Last year, the New York underground rap duo Armand Hammer released their album Paraffin, a jangled and anxiety-driven masterpiece of sputtering, angular rap music. It was one of last year’s best rap albums. This year, billy woods, one half of Armand Hammer, has once again teamed up with a comrade and made one of the year’s best rap albums, at least so far. On the new album Hiding Places, woods joins forces with the Los Angeles producer Kenny Segal. And together, they’ve made a dizzying, layered ode to late-capitalist stress.
Segal and woods have worked together before, and Segal even produced a couple of tracks on Paraffin. But on Hiding Places, woods and Segal find a whole new chemistry, with Segal’s cluttered, evocative splatter-drone beats and eerie horror-movie synth melodies making an ideal backdrop for woods’ fiery, driven, articulate anger. This is an album all about money, and about the kind of dehumanization that you can expect if you don’t have enough of it. It’s also another powerful work about blackness in America. An underground rap veteran, woods has plenty to say on both. He’s also full of lines like this: “I don’t wanna go see Nas with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall / No man of the people, I wouldn’t be caught dead with none of y’all.”
Hiding Places features guest appearances from LA underground-rap legend Self Jupiter, electro-pop singer Mothermary, and woods’ Armand Hammer partner Elucid. But don’t think about it as a rap album. Think of it as a deep, unflinching dive into everything that divides us. Stream it below.