Billy Woods and Kenny Segal
Maps


4.1
excellent

Review

by Miloslaw Archibald Rugallini STAFF
May 18th, 2023 | 75 replies


Release Date: 05/05/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Here be dragons, there be gourmet cuisine.

To unfurl the crinkled parchment of Maps and glean meaning from its faded images takes the patience of a seasoned cartographer. Peering at the surrounding musical landscape, the learned listener will notice that Backwoodz Studioz—with woods at the helm—has built independent success and a devoted audience while dodging broader trends of disposability and two-dimensionality, creating chasms of content that you could leap into as if it were the Cave of Swallows, with nary a plop to be heard from those lingering at the entrance listening, trying to gauge its depths.

Maps follows the heavy tread of Hiding Places a very patient four years after the fact, woods citing a need for the duo "to go on other journeys, artistic and otherwise, to come back and do something fresh." These journeys would turn out to be literal. Post-pandemic touring, in its stark contrast to the preceding lockdowns, would provide adequate impetus for fresh artistic musings. Fortunately, our hero's insight transcends such paltry bounds as Post-Pandemic Art; in woods' world everything is lumped into a grey area, both sides of the coin are well accounted for, dichotomies collide with paradoxes, and it's all the kid can do to prevent the world from pulling his very identity apart. We're privy to these internal struggles, but the conclusions we draw are limited by our distance, as if we're trying to infer his behaviour by tracking GPS data. We can only be led, but where to?

YOU ARE HERE
It starts and ends at home. At each end of the album, woods is in his hometown—a place rapidly changing from the New York he remembers, gentrification transforming dope spots into designer stores, bodegas into dispensary hybrids, and his neighbours into connoisseurs of cuisine who feed him a gourmet dish complete with capers and sprigs of thyme with heavy pours of natural wine. woods returns the favour by sharing such mischievous lies that his host is galvanised into suicide by exhaust pipe. The next day, woods kicks rocks down the street while sardonically interpolating Nina Simone's "Feeling Good", then fucks off to Amsterdam. Wouldn't you?

YOU AREN'T THERE
Oohh yes baybee, a relatively well-defined narrative and conceptual framework provides a key to this map (I'll see myself out; are you finished with that carbon monoxide?). We do the whole hero's journey thing, we come back home, but things will never be the same etc. Sounds lame, right? Cool, well, the duo avoid approaching these concepts in obnoxious enough fashion to claim it as a Concept Album proper; instead, themes echo across tracks, a line that strikes you early will be mirrored or contorted later, and whole damn sidequests can develop and resolve within the space of a single couplet. Sometimes something as simple as food can reveal a key theme, signify certain cultures or situations that crop up as the crew go crossmap, or sometimes it just seems like the boiz just love getting their eat on as much as they love smoking and drinking. Fair 'nuff. What goes on tour, uh

WHERE ARE YOU
Somewhere between "Bad Dreams Are Only Dreams" and "Babylon by Bus", life away from home becomes more detached from homelife, and Segal's palette widens, becomes more ambitious and abstract, an orchestra lurches into the fray, and pretty soon we're sampling (I'm pretty sure) Danny Brown's "Nosebleeds" before Brown himself confirms with a fucking long feature that we are indeed in the doldrums (all love bruhbruh). Four tracks loom past cloaked in menace before a gentle piano drives "The Layover" back into familiar climes. Pheeeww, that was testy. Better FaceTime the ol' missus, uh

THERE'S NO ONE HERE TO HELP YOU
"FaceTime", the emotional core of Maps, divulges a relationship that has been reduced to couples' therapy on Zoom, and the subsequent loneliness that woods experienced in an environment supremely ill-suited to his state of mind. The more traditional songwriting here is an effective contrast to the dark run of songs that bait-and-switched its arrival, and also unearths a rare and lovely sung chorus courtesy of Samuel T. Herring from Future Islands. Over an instrumental that weeps a beautiful lament, we're left with the cutting thought: "I don't go to sleep, I tread water til I sink".

ALL CIRCLES PRESUPPOSE
Maps' riddles aren't as simple to plot out as its contours might have you believe. Its concepts are clear, and its narrative somewhat consistent, giving it a leg-up on Hiding Places as far as accessibility is concerned, but certain pieces don't quite fit, certain details remain intentionally obscured. Segal is also more subdued on Maps, giving as much space to the MC as possible, holding off on the electric guitars and crashing cymbals that unsteadied its predecessor. Instead, we float in and out of trouble, as well as narratives, which in reality don't have a habit of simply beginning, complicating, then resolving either; they drift and meander, peter out and sputter back to life in sporadic sequence, observable only with hindsight. It's a rare gift to be able to capture this phenomenon, this complexity and significance of everything, without losing sight of the beauty or tragedy of a specific moment or detail. On their much-anticipated reunion, Kenny Segal, a true and varied talent in and of himself, has a firm grasp on the gift that billy woods possesses, and has doubled down on his instinct to assist, to foreground the whims of a true poet in prime form. billy woods takes the bearing, and we follow.



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user ratings (192)
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
May 18th 2023


3024 Comments

Album Rating: 4.1

Another day, another tardy hip-hop review from yours truly. Here's the interview (no longer) mentioned: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZG6XsQUC7Jc

Edit: slight tweaks have occured, tytyty to Komp and Johnny for feedback

rabidfish
May 18th 2023


8690 Comments


Another billy W. On a roll.

LegalGhost
May 18th 2023


7 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

billy woods - at it since 2002 and somehow his pen is still sharper than many

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
May 18th 2023


1530 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yessss Milo been waiting on this one. Cracking review for an amazing album

PitchforkArms
May 18th 2023


2684 Comments


Aes track slaps. May check out the rest.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
May 18th 2023


47588 Comments


i will not be at soundcheck~

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
May 18th 2023


18854 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

that mischievous lies bar hooked me and there was no going back. album is a triumph

PotsyTater
May 18th 2023


10101 Comments


Here for Kenny

heyadam
May 18th 2023


4395 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the “every victory pyrrhic” hook has been stuck in my head

Deez
May 18th 2023


10313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

album is a triumph'



Always is

Conmaniac
May 18th 2023


27676 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

gonna peep this ASAP yesssssss

anotha AOTY candidate??

Jash
May 19th 2023


4924 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

When two GOATS collide

Ryus
May 19th 2023


36579 Comments


i am kind of tired of billy

rabidfish
May 19th 2023


8690 Comments


too much billy not enough mandy
you could say

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
May 19th 2023


60261 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

i usually fw billy and loved hiding places but am kinda eh on this one. Agriculture/Houdini and a couple of other bits are tight, but nothing here is remotely as good as the Danny Brown feature is one of the most awful things i've heard this year

"Here for Kenny"

as per the last para of this lovely lovely review, uh, good luck with that one

rabidfish
May 19th 2023


8690 Comments


the danny brown ft. is so fucking bad. Collab with shitpegmafia was proof enough danny fell off.

PotsyTater
May 19th 2023


10101 Comments


“I am kind of tired of billy”

Yeah the billy fatigue is real. Too prolific. Overexposure burn out.

Deez
May 19th 2023


10313 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Danny Brown sucks anyway

Beats dope tho



GTFO with that Billy burn out shite I wont stand for it I tell you

PotsyTater
May 19th 2023


10101 Comments


Billy Burnout is a good rap name

Jash
May 19th 2023


4924 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

Y’all tripping, Billy keeps refining his craft with each release



Also, that Danny verse slaps, 4AD better allow him to drop his album soon, it’s been done for a couple years now. Also, he just went to rehab, excited to see what his sound is like post hab



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