Look Alive Killa!:Vacationland

A shameless personal note to start this one, i’ve often joked that me,MF DOOM and billy woods are all the same kinda person in that we’re all african-caribbean weirdos who read alot, overthink things and hate showing our faces on the internet. The difference with woods being that his reasoning is more out of circumstance rather than paranoia about about the internet.

That paranoia, the distrust, seeing friends go down paths where you know the conclusion of it all before they do. He can be as caustic and bone dry as Mark E. Smith circa 1984,whip smart but at the same time would advise you not to take him as some kind of wise sage.  dead politicial figures,specters  not only that but he’s got the kind of sports refferences that i know certain armchair pundits would lose their minds over. Hes like Gerard Manley Hopkins if instead of Jesuism was raised on historical geopoilitics,ESPN,Battle of Algiers and dark web listings of old weed strains.

The albums he did as one half of Super Chron Flight Brothers was filled with these kind of allusions,contradictions and dicotomies, it’s reflected through the concept of a day sat infront of the TV but that lens is warped and refracted to talk about the 2009 financial crash & memories the grimey,nasty days of 42nd Street pre-cleanup.

On “Stay Schemin” you get the sense from Rick Ross and co. that the fun and games of being bastards getting away with heists and crime capers is over, Ross’ doesn’t want to go to court but at least he can afford to get a good lawyer, at least French Montana can stash his krills up on the roof for next time, for the dealers in woods’s world they’re on pins and needles trying to make it to next week and if not they’re lost in the grinder of the system doing the same numbers under the jail that old Charly Wingate is doing.

That’s the beauty of his work it’s political but only in the sense that he talks about politics the same way somebody would talk about fixing the piping in your bathroom. Everything is covered in politics but not in the way Paris did with Sleeping with the enemy. There’s an acknowledgement of the wider world out there always looking slightly over the border, part of that is because he spent time in Zimbabwe as a child before coming to America so there’s always the slight tinge of the outsider looking in.

Thats not getting into his is ace in the whole as a writer,how he toys and jumps with perspective. In the same verse he can switch from being the friend in the passenger seat to t, DOOM did this but DOOM always kept it between his first and 3rd person “he talk to himself when he needs someone to hate on” woods will switch between the neoliberal plunderer ordering PRC’s not to open fire until he says so, the native whose home has been devastasted expansion polution.

 Camoflague woods debut is very much a rap album of it’s era but its surprising to go back to now just in terms of how on the money it is about the crimes and seeds sown by the Bush administration as a result, “Dirge” is the first song where he touches on the death of his father but it isnt the last.

The Chalice admittidly is his most hit and miss album but the best songs on that album are some of the best songs of his career “B.B.C” sees him adopt the role of a news reporter pronounced English accent and all, omly for his perspective to switch to that of a elderly man solemnly adressing the devastation of his village. “Maryland” starts off with him reminisicng about him and a old friend trying to make money off mowing lawns and spending that money on weed cause they didn’t want to get jobs come for the novelty of somebody rapping over a Velvet Underground riff stay for the affecting advice and realisation on the impermanace of friendship.  “Vacationland” talks about a place of no worries,labour or exploitation but there’s the feint sense of unease that says that this isn’t permanent.

The fact that he’s a long time friend of Vordul Mega out of Cannibal Ox shouldn’t be a real surprise because they’re both at their best and most strikingly vivid at their most focused. Despite all this the most appealing factor with woods is despite how gushing somebody can get about him is that at the end of the day he’s a guy who still has to get up and go to work in the morning.

There’s a old documentary video on youtube where these people spend time with the Def Jux alumni you have Pre- RTJ El-P making jokes about how we need to run and hide cause the apocalypse is coming, Aesop Rock talking about depression in a cramped flat,music equipment strew about the place. Once underground rap folk hero Vast Aire kicking a freestyle while looking like he’s shivering. It taught me more about the kind of people who make that music than all the “why isn’t this getting played on radio?” youtube comments and gushing reviews about certain rappers being an “antidote to mainstream rap” ever could, and thats what i get from woods.

 

Look Alive,Killa! : Dead N***a Poltergeist

LP and Bass Odyssey firing off tunes and juggling dubs in the Biltmore,online news articles of up and coming rappers shot dead in expensive cars,sinners waiting for the hell hounds to come,the celebration of black women being the bedrock and at the forefront of radical action. Forgotten saints residing in old burnt out tower blocks.

This is what it feels like coming into close contact with an Elucid song, the confident jagged sound of the future fused together with the teachings, asides & hard fought battles with a very old ancient past. Its easy to call his music Afrofuturistic if youve listen to a few Sun Ra albums but black music has always looked towards the future from a rich traditional center.

Long Island has played a big part in NY rap history,so much so that people often forget the more conservative branches rap forget that The nephew of unsung rap hero DJ Stiches (the original DJ for De La Soul) Elucids music is part of that lineage, you could call it psychedelic but its psychedelic in the way where somebody asks the question what if you crossed ESG with Arthur Doyle.

It has been stated before that, space is a constant theme and concern within his music but its how these spaces are often punctuated by different people who gets to be championed in these spaces, what gets built up what gets brought.

Of course its easy to get wrapped up in the thickets of texture,topics and mood of his music but the fact of the matter is he is a rapper first and formost and with his instruments at his disposal. Chuck D was never this limber. Beanie Sigel at his best was able to express pathos trying to find beauty in the gravel but not enough to keep him out of jail & KRS One could never come up with a lyric as subterraen vibration funny as “i eat too much pussy to be a rasta” because he’s too busy using the same muddled rhetoric and delapadated ragga flow trying to be one.

He’s got this incredible ability to string you on by images alone sometimes getting more gnarly as they go along but feel just as poingiant if he were to issue a statement outright. Some rappers can have entire careers built off of that but its when he pulls the rug out and makes you face the hear and now like on “Omega3” that makes it devastating.

For Madmen Only felt some kind of doomsday screed that slashed through the lines between the hypocricies of the church,surviving as a black man in the western world. His music often wrestles with his relationship with the black church but in a way it doesn’t feel like he’s undermining his own point to sound “down with the youts”, Hope Dealers this isn’t. Can’t fault Lecrae for trying to engage in a way that deviates from the norms of christian rappers but i feel like most people wern’t checking Make The Trap Say Amen for his scriptures.

Save Yourself  felt like the last warning from a close jaded friend before he tells you “youre on your own”. An ode to a rapidly changing New York that doesnt mourn the loss of its old slumlords but looks on with uncertainty to the changes that are coming from over the horizon, certain punks will talk to you smugly about how Fugazi were talking about gentrification when it wasnt the word on everybodies lips or one of 4 topics that reappeard on your twitter feed inbetween all the shitposts. But “Cashout” doesnt get in your veins the same way a track like “Bloodflow” does. “Piano Wire” off of Valley of Grace feels like barreling down a motorway at 166mph while seeing a burning car pile up on the side of the road.

“If you Say So” felt like you was witnessing somebody writing down their last will and tesament as the fires were engulfinging it and that was only the first half of the song. The smart ones know how to swim and have found a way to mop aboard a shakey ships deck with Sonny Rollins. The cards are stacked up against those who’ve been on the outskirts for too long.

He never proclaims to have the answers but will work together with those who chose to find them.