Review Summary: Essentially pages ripped from the memoir of societies bleakest moments, told in the most abrasive way possible.
There are times when I just sit, waiting, for some sort of inspiration. A way to begin writing how I truly feel, not some bullshi
t opinion formed through the readings of some other reviewer. And I struggle in these moments. I struggle to figure out a method to convey my voice in the opening paragraph. In a way that’s altogether mine, but will also peak the reader’s attention. So I sit staring at the computer screen until that breakthrough. Then it hits. And when it hits, its full force, because once I get that start it is as though everything else becomes soluble. I’ll look back afterwards and its comedic how easy the flow of thoughts occur once the ice is broken.
Welcome to Race Music
That flow of thoughts, the anticipation and painful wait for a breakthrough, is the very definition of Armand Hammer’s LP. It hits you in every abrasive way possible. With subversive production that fancies itself a medium between El-P and Zach Hill, lyrics hidden in depth and flows that change almost per-bar, Race Music
is a kamikaze mixture that takes listen, upon listen, upon listen
, to finally crack its shell. Armand Hammer’s two MC’s, Billy Woods and Elucid, seemingly pride themselves in the obtuseness of it all. You can’t just look at a line like, “Shackled to a future via padded room/ me and my attitude” at face value and think that it’s another thug justifying his means. Think about a normal portrayal of a person, no race, just human. Now think how antithetical that statement is. It is 2014 and that statement for African-Americans is still thought of as the norm. Oh, another gang shot up a black hood in Chicago? Oh that’s normal. They’ll either die or go to prison anyways. In this age it’s ridiculous to even believe that state of mind is ever still thought about, let alone agreed upon. But it is. And this is Race Music, and every song has a meaning deep enough to stagger you if you care to dig.
And if you have enough time to keep digging, you’ll begin to acquire an ear for the production as well. Whereas the lyrics can be overlooked simply because of how opaque they are, the beats on the other hand scream for your attention. “Sunni’s Blues” is one of the few tracks on here that is actually aesthetically pleasing on first listen, using these handclaps, Christmas bells, sci-fi synths and a single looped bass hit that continue throughout the whole song. Another track, “Willie Bosket” is a true banger, and embellishes itself with a trap styling of high hats and eerie samples constantly looping. And while there is no proof anywhere on the internet of this, that I could find at least, the track is a down-tempo’d, pitch shifted production of Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like.” The albums production as a whole borrows heavily from synths that only El-P would produce and industrialized samples that Death Grips thrive on. It’s a conjecture that is immediately off-putting while at the same time awe-inspiring.
Armand Hammer do not rightfully care that their album is incredibly dense. At least if they did, they have a very abstract way of showing it. Race Music
as a whole is a monster in terms of depth and actual length. It is something that will not be understood on the first listen. It deals in subtleties rather than grandiose, leaving crumbs, not chunks, to try and draw the listener in for one more listen. And with continued listens it unravels and shows more, rewarding the listener with another new tidbit of information or one liner that otherwise might have been missed due to the denseness of it all. Together, the qualities create the best Hip-Hop venture of 2013 that should not be missed on any account.