Random Record Review: Armand Hammer “Shrines”

Usually these reviews are done in a pretty timely manner. I don’t usually sit with the project for too, but this project is different. The bars are too deep to just give a quick review off of the intial listen. Deep music requires more time to absorb the work. It seems like this type of Hip Hop has been coming back in style. Well it’s hasn’t really gone anywhere but for sure mainstream is taking notice more so than ever. That’s a definite good thing.

Ok, so in order for me to really get you to understand where I’m coming from, I have to start with Vordul Mega (of Cannibal Ox). I’m not sure if you’re familiar with music from that era, but if you’re you should dig a little. What you’ll find is some of hip hop’s best, coming of age and really making their mark. Def Jux was a prominent underground label at the time, but there were most definitely other labels of note doing their thing. I don’t want to get to deep into that because I’m trying not to wander off subject though.

So anyway, Vordul Mega was coming out with solo projects pretty regularly and there was this guy who was featured on a few songs. If I remember correctly he was heavy on Megagraphitti, but he went by billy woods. His style was almost spoken word. Like, you could read it on paper and it would be just as well executed without the beat. So I started to delve into his catalog. I usually do that when I come across music that stands out to. He also did something I really appreciated. Like MF DOOM, he made it a point to conceal his face. I don’t know how others view it, but to me it speaks to the fallacy of ones image. Instead having no face and no definable image allows the music to make ones presence known. Don’t get it twisted though, he is definitely not just another faceless emcee.

When I came across Armand Hammer, I had an idea what to expect, but what I didn’t expect however was Elucid. His beats and delivery were a great compliment to a style I was already familiar with. I’ve always been a huge fan of lyrics that transcend the perspective of street life and hustling. I like that shit don’t get me wrong, but the “urban” experience is so much more than that. It’s refreshing to hear crews when they articulate sociopolitical issues with such care. To speak on the black experience in America in a way that is personal to them. That shit is important. Unique perspectives help weave the tapestry that is Hip Hop culture into something tangible. Maybe even relatable.

I remember there was this quote about one of my favorite rock bands (Sonic Youth). The quote said they were “too art to be punk rock, to punk rock to be art.” Ironically I feel like quotes like these also fit groups like Armand Hammer. They represent a part of hip hop that expresses with intelligence what so many feel. I related to the tiger on the cover. We have been quarantined after all. A primal energy kept under close watch in a tenement building, yea i relate to that. The art work like their music is based on real life. Art eloquently imitating it.

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