If you’ve been following along, you won’t be surprised that I’m writing about this album. I’ve been fucking obsessed with this duo. Made up of Billy Woods and Elucid, these guys released a record last year called Rome. For those that haven’t dipped their toes into this shit yet, it’s dark and dense. This record uses their previous work as a podium and steps the fuck up. Hells ya. While Rome was all about how the misrepresented and forgotten watch as the society around them falls apart (Rome burning type of shit), this album tells the story of trying to live in the ashes of what’s left.
The beats on this shit come off like they’re trudging through the black viscous mud of a demolished city while shouldering a homemade machete. If you’re one of those that have a hard time understand rap lyrics, listen to this shit for the production alone. It tells half the fucking story. If David Lynch grew up in the ghetto and made beats to conjure demonic spirits, that’s what these beats sound like. Jazz samples come in like spectres whispering macabre threats to dying patients. This shit sets the framework for some of the most compelling, disorientating, and esoteric verses ever made.
For those already knee-deep in the work of Woods, Elucid, or previous Armand Hammer, you’ll know that this shit doesn’t make sense on the first go around. I’ve suggested before that the best way to break into this shit is to read it beforehand. But if that’s not your style, and you just want this shit to flow all natural, you’ll still be having a great fucking time.
Right in the first song you have lines like, “Bless the word. It was first, before earth there was black. Melchizedek face tats on his back.” This line is chock-full of bizarre biblical allusions. You don’t need to understand each line in order for images of barren and destitute lands to come to mind. The earth in darkness and some fucked up guy with some weirdo face tattooed on his back? That’s some strong imagery. If you know your old testament a bit, the line “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was God” (John 1:1) will come to mind (as well as that cool comparison to the “Word” and rap in general). And if you know your bible like a motherfucker? The name Melchizedek and it will either send you into shivers or sighs. The name in Hebrew comes out as “king of the righteous”. And in some Gnostic texts it suggests that Melchizedek is the actual Jesus Christ. What the fuck? More than one Jesus? Jesus Christ. This is the type of shit that rabbis and priest debate about. So for the name to be randomly dropped into the first track of a rap album should warn you of one thing: time buckle the fuck up if you’re digging deep into this shit.
I don’t want this dense lyricism to scare people off or make them feel dumb. That’s not the intent of this shit. What I’m saying is that this album can be enjoyed on many levels. It’s an album that will continue giving years after you bought it. You could be ninety fucking years old and drop this shit onto your antique mp3 player your grandkids make fun of and still find lines that give you pause, turn your head skyward, and make you whisper in that old gravely voice, “motherfucker”. This shit is well worth the trip, at any age.