billy woods & Kenny Segal – “FaceTime” (Feat. Samuel T. Herring)

billy woods & Kenny Segal – “FaceTime” (Feat. Samuel T. Herring)

For years now, the New York rapper billy woods has been on an absolutely historic run, both as a solo artist and as one half of Armand Hammer. In 2019, woods teamed with producer Kenny Segal on a truly great album called Hiding Places. Next month, they’ll follow that LP with a new one called Maps. When woods and Segal announced the album a few weeks ago, they didn’t share any music or even any details. They’ve now dropped the tracklist, and Maps features appearances from Danny Brown, Aesop Rock, Quelle Chris, ShrapKnel, Benjamin Booker, and woods’ Armand Hammer partner Elucid. On first single “FaceTime,” woods and Segal team up with Future Islands leader Samuel T. Herring.

Samuel T. Herring is a whole lot more tied in with underground rap than most indie rock singers. Herring makes rap music under his Hemlock Ernst alter-ego, and it’s not a fuck-around side project for him. In 2019, Herring and Kenny Segal released a very good collaborative album called Back To The House, and Herring has also collaborated with a lot of important rap figures. On the new song “FaceTime,” though, Herring sings the hook, while woods does the rapping.

Kenny Segal’s “FaceTime” beat is a dazed lope. Over that track, billy woods gets impressionistic with the wordplay, describing the disorienting effect of life on tour. Herring’s hook is soulfully low-key. There’s a lot to analyze with a track like this. Below, listen to “FaceTime,” check out the Maps tracklist, and read woods and Herring’s stories about how the song came to be.

On the subject of “FaceTime,” billy woods says:

I started writing this song at a festival in Tucson in 2023. I was staying in this old classic Southwestern hotel in the center of town, and the festival was actually taking place inside and directly outside the hotel. I had been on the road for a long while at that point, and the song had been brewing inside me, but I got it written during the two days I was there. Then I finished it and recorded it at Kenny’s when I got to LA. Both of us know Sam, and once I finished it I just knew his voice would be perfect. I also knew that with as much as he has been on the road over the years, Sam would be able to bring some personal experience to the collaboration.

Samuel T. Herring says:

I was posted up in Toronto when woods hit me about working on “FaceTime.” It was late summer 2022, and most days I was stuck in my hotel room wondering what was happening with my life. I had been cast in this TV show and I had never acted before — so I had to learn how to do this whole new thing, in a whole new city. The waiting around in hotels I understood, but doing months of it all in one place was another beast. So I was there, on a new journey, with the same tools: torn bags filled with emptied out food containers, exploding ashtray cans by the window, a busted suitcase, and a pen, pad, and mic setup on the desk in the corner.

When woods hit me, I didn’t know it was coming, but I had an inkling. Prior to that, woods and Kenny had both hit me individually to say that they were working on a new record and that at some point they were gonna come to me for a hook. This was all good news to me at the time, but it was months before and far from my mind.

So when I got the track and woods explained to me what it was about, I dug in and sent them a demo sketch a couple hours later. And that was that. That’s the chorus, that’s the track.

I believe in first, second, and third drafts, but this one worked out the first time. I asked for notes and sent some more sketches, tried some extra harmonies and things, but we kept the take. They loved the first sketch. They knew I could relate.

All of that being on the road and living remotely, feeling alienated, alone, missing people back home, but also feeling at home living that way. I understood it deeply.

I think from my own perspective, in the chorus, I was even able to add to these ideas. “I can’t take you with me, but I’ll be on your phone” speaks to the disassociation that it sometimes takes me to get through a long stretch. Writing that reminded me of all the people I’ve asked to be strong for me while I’m away, so that I can be strong. And maybe just writing those words helped me realize how messed up that was to expect that from someone. It’s why the song hit me. It’s why they hit me. That song is my life and I was living in it.

Of course we’re talking about two of my favorite musicians so I couldn’t really go wrong.

Here’s “FaceTime”:

01 “Kenwood Speakers”
02 “Soft Landing”
03 “Soundcheck” (Feat. Quelle Chris)
04 “Rapper Weed”
05 “Blue Smoke”
06 “Bad Dreams Are Only Dreams”
07 “Babylon By Bus” (Feat. ShrapKnel)
08 “Year Zero” (Feat. Danny Brown)
09 “Hangman”
10 “Baby Steps” (Feat. ELUCID & Benjamin Booker)
11 “The Layover”
12 “FaceTime” (Feat. Sam Herring)
13 “Agriculture”
14 “Houdini”
15 “Waiting Around” (Feat. Aesop Rock)
16 “NYC Tapwater”
17 “As The Crow Flies” (Feat. ELUCID)

Maps is out 5/5 on Backwoodz Studioz. I have heard the album, and it’s great.

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