Armand Hammer are interviewed in the latest issue of Loud And Quiet. Subscribe to get your copy now
With the possible – and sort of incomparable, given the different commercial scales at which each artist works – exception of Kendrick Lamar, it’s hard to think of a contemporary rapper who commands the same level of respect from fans, critics and fellow artists as Billy Woods. His concentrated flow and meticulous, painterly storytelling make him an MC like no other, able to straddle genres and push his many collaborators in hitherto unknown directions with deftness and grace. The camera-shy NYC artist has already helmed one of 2023’s best hip hop records – Maps, with Kenny Segal – and now, once again working with Elucid as part of Armand Hammer, he’s a key presence on another.
In many ways, We Buy Diabetic Test Strips is an archetypical Billy Woods record, over which Woods looms large, but never dominates or stifles his co-conspirators. It’s a shared experience, not an ego trip. To start with, it is of course an Armand Hammer record, not a Billy Woods solo work, and Elucid’s restless, hungry delivery is again his perfect foil; JPEGMAFIA’s shapeshifting production drives several of the record’s most thrilling moments, from the seething tension of opener ‘Landlines’ to the sleepwalking groove of ‘The Key Is Under The Mat’. Other alt-rap luminaries make welcome appearances here, from unmistakable wordsmith Moor Mother to Run The Jewels’ El-P, Pink Siifu, Junglepussy and more. The textures are caustic and sticky, classic boom-bap dragged through the smoke of industry and rush-hour traffic, yet there are rays of light here, relief accessible via a witty line or smart production lift (see ‘Woke Up And Asked Siri How I’m Gonna Die’ for examples of each, particularly the reverb-drenched melody that pirouettes around JPEGMAFIA’s crunchy beat throughout).
It’s another essential release from Billy Woods’ extended universe – and perhaps the most cohesive, adventurous Armand Hammer album yet. Long may this incredible run of form continue.
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