Run The Jewels aren’t the only all-star dystopian rap duo with a great new album out this week. Armand Hammer, the team of New York underground veterans Elucid and billy woods, are back, too. Two years ago, Armand Hammer released Paraffin, a disorienting avant-garde masterwork that was one of 2018’s best rap albums. Last year, billy woods released two truly great albums, the Kenny Segal collaboration Hiding Places and the solo LP Terror Management. Elucid, meanwhile, has been making freaked-out experimental records like Every Egg I Cracked Today Was Double Yolked and SEERSHIP! Today, Armand Hammer have reassembled and returned with a stunning, head-spinning new album called Shrines.
Both members of Armand Hammer come from the furthest-out wings of the New York underground, and Shrines, on first listen, is a dizzy and difficult record. Armand Hammer aren’t exactly making their sound easy for new listeners to approach. The production is musique-concrète boom-bap — stretching rhythm in strange directions and keeping you off-balance. The rapping is dense and elliptical and angry. But this is one of those albums that picks up steam as you keep listening, and it rewards close attention.
Shrines is a real statement record, a piece of art that demands real engagement. It features contributions from guests like Earl Sweatshirt, Quelle Chris, R.A.P. Ferreira, Moor Mother, KeiyaA, Pink Siifu, and Akai Solo, as well as production from Earl Sweatshirt, Kenny Segal, Navy Blu, Steel Tipped Dove, Messiah Muzik, and Fog mastermind Andrew Broder. (Fog making rap beats! Amazing.) Stream the whole album below.
Shrines is out now on billy woods’ Backwoodz Studioz label.