Duo projects in rap are more of a balancing act than some people might realize,how do you work in a situation where you have to reign in some of your idiosyncratic solo ticks to fit in with another persons style but still retain enough where you dont get overshadowed or lost in the mix. In some ways we kinda take collaboration in rap for granted because of what feels like an oversaturation of all the people within rap despite their claims of not being too friendly and doing it “for the culture”.
Its a open secret that everybody wants the Jay Z feature not because hes still rapping at the same level he was back in 1998 but because more often than because its the gateway ticket to being able to do such shocking things as own a house,make money off of your work in a rapidly and increasingly corporatised streaming focus music industry.
Theres a high chance that one of your favourite rappers of the moment already has a collaboration with Young Thug becuase rappers like him work non-stop add that to the fact that ever since 2013 theres been many immitators and sub immitators in his wake what was once exciting and unorthadox becomes stale. Imagine if in the 2000s instead of Notorious B.I.G. everybody was trying to mimic Saafir and you would be some what close.
This isnt just something that confined to the arena of “mainstream” rap music what once used to be called the underground isnt much better,its not that hard to go looking on Youtube or one of the many comps on HipHopisRead where around 2012 it felt like the biggest achievement of every 4th rate “golden age” inspired rapper was to get that Roc Marciano verse. Only reason you dont hear Mach Hommy on every bandcamp “grimey” rap album is because he purposfully makes himself difficult to track down something of a revelation these days where so much of of experiencing the internet is dealing with the noxious sense that everybody has “seen everything and played anything” and the best they can do with all the time they feel they wasted is turn it into shit posts.
But for the best duos in rap were able to communicate with themselves and their listeners a wide array of thoughts feelings and experiences whether they be harsh,crass,life affirming,hopeful,bleak sometimes all in one song. E-40 & B-Legit could do it, Scarface & Willie D could do it, Rae & Ghost may be husks of their former selves but their spirits loom large and bold within every tag team and in some sections still seen as the benchmark for that kind of almost psychic relationship and so do the subjects of this potential series billy woods and Elucid a.k.a. Armand Hammer.
Ill admit that i didnt know what to title this but then again,as i often repeat to people im very bad when it comes to giving titles to things but then i remembered the little expression at the end of “Soft Places” probably the most celebrated song off their Furtive Movements EP. *The title coming from a survey by where police officers were asked what reasoning did they most often give for stoping and searching black men suspected of illegal activies. The cover of the e.p. a orange husk of a car frame standing out from the overwhelming black shadows was taken from the scene of the murder of 17 year old Jordan Davis who was shot on Friday, November 23, 2012 at a gas station by 45 year old Michael Dunn over a complaint of loud music coming from his SUV.
“Soft Focus” is one of the best songs the two have done and its the one that ends the most abrubtly it leaves you dangling off the clifface of what is an already dizzying song where the rapidity and gut level uncomfortable feeling of displacement that gentrification emanates buildings collapse and are replaced,you see images of wandering ronins, devastated gangbangers holding eviction notices shuttered faded record shops and alien new neighbours.
In a way the title serves as a warning and sort of a call to arms telling you to keep focus alert a reminder to prepare yourself for whatever new and darker horrors lie beyond the horizon.
Hopefully through this journey you’ll grow to understand why i feel this duo are diserving of your attention, 3 albums, 1 mixtape,1 EP and a world within each other i would like you to join me on this venture to observe,learn,understand and grow through this.
*I don’t want this to be a “spot the refference” kind of ordeal but as their songs are dense with the kind of imagery and subject matter i’ll go into them because micro or macro these asides are stories unto themselves and they matter even if they are not the artists own