Armand Hammer & The Alchemist – Haram
Released March 26th, 2021 on Backwoodz Records
Ever since I became obsessed with Hiding Places billy woods has been my favourite new rapper. His day job with Euclid as Armand Hammer is a consistently solid art-rap experience that manages to balance being staunchly uncommercial with being memorable. Working with legendary producer The Alchemist brings the best out in both of them. woods’ gnarled verses wrap seamlessly around The Alchemist’s smooth, stoned beatcraft and Euclid rubs against them, challenging them and bringing out sparks. The two forces were brought into contact by one of the album’s standout guests, Earl Sweatshirt, who also contributed some beats. The producer himself knows the score; he told the Washington Post that “if you know Armand Hammer, they’re your favourite.” The crew has ensured that everything is top notch; “Indian Summer” and “Aubergine” contain some of their best wordplay to date, and the closing track “Stonefruit” cops a major reggae feel
The Alchemist is a big name in hip hop and it’s important that everyone involved here is firing on all cylinders. While the duo’s sound seems tailor-made to resist mainstream attention they might not be able to avoid it much longer. It’s not as much of a stretch as you might imagine. Audiences went from listening to grunge to bumping Versace-clad hip hop in the late 1990s; going from, say, Lil Uzi Vert to billy woods isn’t as much of a jump as that. woods especially has a line that can be drawn to a mainstream rapper; he does the “injecting constant food references” bit in his verses much better than Action Bronson ever managed, and his non-food related lines are miles beyond. While the people whose interest in hip hop extends to the verses on pop songs that have replaced guitar solos will likely never take to Armand Hammer’s rough, edgy exterior, real heads should know these two much more than they already do. This record, produced in large part by an acknowledged legend and delivered at the top of their respective games, should put them on every head’s radar.