Top albums of 2019
Tyler, the Creator
Here Comes the Cowboy
Cage The Elephant
Czarface Meets Ghostface
Czarface & Ghostface Killah
Nothing Great About Britain
woods + segal
The influx of these MC/Producer partnerships is producing some amazing albums. I compare it to Hollywood films. In most of these productions, a screenwriter produces a screenplay and then hands it off to a director to shoot it.
There's nothing wrong with that approach, but it's nice when a talented writer gets a chance to direct the film they've written. You find that the tone and visuals seem to make a lot more sense (e.g. Joel Edgerton with The Gift, James Gunn with Guardians of the Galaxy).
Similarly, when a talented producer and MC team up, the end product is usually a more consistent, interesting, and enjoyable experience.
Look no further than:
- Madvillainy - Madvillain
- Pinata/Bandana - MadGibbs
- Hella Personal Film Festival - Open Mike Eagle & Paul White
- Doggystyle - Snoop Doggy Dogg
- R.A.P Music - Killer Mike & El-P
- Yes Lawd - NxWorries
And then there's this album. This was certainly the most surprising album of the year. billy woods hasn't been on my radar sinceToday I Wrote Nothing (2015). For me, Known Unknowns (2017, produced by BLOCKHEAD) didn't have the same hook that Hiding Places has.
One of my favourite parts of this album is the simple, muted melodies from Ryan Crosby's guitar.
billy wood's vocal style walks the line between spoken word poem and a conventional rap verse. This style can be disorienting to listen to, but when combined with the gloomy, subtle beats - underscored by Ryan Crosby's muted guitar melodies - it becomes something truly great.
The ever-present themes in this album are 1. class and 2. poverty, but it doesn't try to shove them down your throat. Whereas in some albums these themes can come across as overly heavy-handed, Hiding Placesseems to accept that these problems exist and tries to work through the anxiety that comes with them, rather than to prescribe change.
This message comes peaks a the half way point in A day in a Week in a Year. The title seems to mean that this day is just like any other; nothing happens and nothing really changes. This is reinforced by these lyrics in verse 1:
A day, in a week, in a year
Where e'rything exactly as you feared
Lightning could strike me right here
The rest of my lie I'ma be like, "Yo, I was standin' right there."
For billy woods it's certainly more about the pursuit of creating art than fame, money, or material wealth. Given his consistency with producing high quality, honest music, he deserves to be a little high-and-mighty. Throughout the album he takes aim at these negative tropes in music:
Paradise in a gold watch
I was right, the price was a lot
Mildly disappointed that all those guns was props.
I don't wanna go see Nas with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall
No man of the people, I wouldn't be caught dead with most of y'all
"Don't call me again" what I shoula said when he called
Hiding Places is just the right combination of angry, hateful, despondent, and miserable. At 40 minutes long it is incredibly succinct for how deeply it explores these feelings. I find it to be one of the most creatively honest albums with no radio tracks or meaningless features. If it doesn't contribute to the experience, then it isn't featured.