Armand Hammer is a duo composed of underground titans Billy Woods and E L U C I D. Last weekend, the New York rappers teamed up with The Alchemist for their first-ever collaborative effort titled Haram. Bringing together one of the most consistent duos with the game’s hottest producer, can Uncle Al, Billy, and E L U C I D create some of their finest work to date?
Through Billy and ELUCID’s morbid songwriting and frightening aura, Haram picks up right where Armand Hammer’s 2020 LP Shrines left off. From the hopeless intro “Sir Benni Miles” to the uneasy closer “Stonefruit,” the chemistry between the two MCs ties the entire experience together prolifically. The way Billy’s war-torn delivery and reminiscent lyricism bounces off the morbidly ferocious approach of LUCID on cuts like “Indian Summer” and “Peppertree” captures this aspect at its height. While these two push hip hop to the farthest foreseeable boundaries throughout the project’s 14 tracks and 40 minutes run time, the ability that showcases Armand Hammers artistry most is the pair’s skill to create the most brilliant of songs through the oddest of structures. “God’s Feet” shows this at its pinnacle as it opens up with back-to-back hooks from the New York moguls and then closes with a brief yet chilling verse from ELUCID. Being able to tear up the mold and find so much success is one of the key factors that makes this record so unique and refreshing. As far as Lucid and Woods MC skills go, they’re as good as it gets. Through interesting rhyme schemes and an array of flows, the underground kings are constantly keeping listeners on their feet with soul-shocking words that pierce into your soul one after another. While the pair’s subject matter isn’t breaking the mold here, their conscious thoughts towards major issues such as police brutality and systemic racism is what makes the storytelling on cuts such as “Wishing Bad” and “Robert Moses” so compelling. Out of all the moments between Bill and Luc, “Scaffolds” was the definite highlight. It fuses all the previously stated elements masterfully and has some of the most vivid imagery in all of recent hip hop’s history. When it comes to peak showings, Armand Hammer seems to be at their best when bringing in a big-name guest. Specifically, Quelle Chris and Earl Sweatshirt deliver some of the most exciting verses on the entire record while also setting up Armand Hammer for some of their best musical moments with “Chicharonnes” and “Falling out the Sky”. Overall, the one-of-a-kind approach Billy Woods and E L U C I D bring to their duel persona has only improved, which yet again shows why their kings of hip hop’s abstract sub realm.
Behind the boards, The Alchemist scores Armand Hammer’s chilling performance with one of his most challenging soundscapes yet. Compared to the approach he took in his collaborations with Boldy James, Conway the Machine, and Freddie Gibbs, Uncle Al makes things much grimier here and rightfully so. Each beat is layered through unorthodox samples, unexpected twists, and haunting drum loops. Cuts like “Indian Summer” and “Squeegee” embody this at its best. Another element the LA-based producer uses to layer these tracks is the insertion of small but meaningful skits that are pulled mostly from films in this case. Whether it’s the snippet from 1965s Darling on “God’s Feet” or the religious monologue from 2017s Reformed on “Robert Moses,” these brief sound bites go a long way in setting up these tracks and others that were built in the same mold. A definite sonic standout was the pace-changing “Falling out the Sky,” which consists of some soothing horns, settled back drums, and an occasionally inserted soul sample. “Stonefruit” was another testament to Alchemist’s greatness as its high-pitched synthesizers are used to glorify the themes of insanity and loneliness the tracks vocal component sets up. All in all, seeing The Alchemist step out of his comfort zone and create one of his darkest scores yet adds another argument for his case as hip hop’s goat producer.
In a year that’s been so dry, Haram manages to blow everything that’s dropped so far out of the water and become the early front runner for the album of the year. Between Billy Woods and E L U C I D’s undeniable chemistry and the masterfully executed production job from The Alchemist, this record thrives in almost every major aspect. Going forward, I’m not sure if we will ever see Armand Hammer team up with Uncle Al again, but I’m sure all three of these artists will continue to release music and have dominant 2021s!
- Armand Hammer’s chemistry is top-notch per usual
- Creative song structures and rhyme schemes
- The Alchemist’s most challenging and unique soundscape yet
- Great features from Earl Sweatshirt, Quelle Chris, etc.
- Topics being addressed aren’t anything new or groundbreaking
Written and Reviewed by: Mr. Fantastic, owner and founder of Fantastic Hip Hop