The rap duo Armand Hammer is composed of two individuals, Billy Woods and Elucid. Armand Hammer have been a force in the underground for sometime, far outperforming many of their contemporaries within the genre.
Their approach to hip-hop is experimental and abstract, often incorporating the use of double or triple entendres with abrasive sounds. Listening to an Armand Hammer project is something that cannot be done without your full conscious attention since you will inevitably miss the subject matter they reference passively.
Woods and Elucid flow between nuanced discussions surrounding race, politics, segregation, and despair, to making references to sports and pop culture. This balance between nuanced and mundane references always keeps their subject matter refreshing, never knowing where their flows will conclude.
Armand Hammer has already released some classic projects from their 2021 release 'Haram' (حَرَام - translating to forbidden in Arabic), which was a full-length collaboration with legendary producer The Alchemist. Their most recent 2023 release, 'We Buy Diabetic Test Strips,' has been hailed by critics and audiences alike featuring extensive production from JPEGMAFIA.
Their visual imagery on album art is some of my favourite in the underground scene, with 'Shrines' depicting an NYPD officer grappling down the side of a building in Harlem looking into a window at a 425-pound tiger (yes this actually happened). The cover of Haram depicts two severed pig heads in a butcher's shop. The two covers have several underlying meanings and contain harsh imagery.
During my briefing for the show, It was reiterated to me multiple times that I could not show Billy Woods' face. Respecting his wishes, every image of Woods is censored, though I was surprised to see him performing without a face mask.
Being a fan of underground music, I see so many talented individuals coming to my city who haven't yet garnered mainstream appeal. It's always a blessing to say I saw an (artist) at a (small venue) before they blew up. You're much more likely to meet your favourite artist in a setting like this and your individual support at this stage goes further than most fans even know.
Once Woods' and Elucid entered the stage, they immediately brought the lights down. I wanted to use flash but out of respect for Wood's wishes, I had to push my camera to its absolute limits. To those of you who understand how cameras work, you need light to shoot photos. I was shooting at 1/30th of a second f/ 1.8 at 12800 ISO (in layman's terms, my settings were completely f***ed) just to get a somewhat usable image. About 30 minutes into the set, Woods again asked the light to be brought down where it was simply impossible to take photos.
Armand Hammer's set sounded fantastic and was a true underground concert experience. The rap duo seamlessly cycled through their tracks, effortlessly performing their music. Woods' and Elucid's crowd engagement was excellent, often interacting back and forth with the masses.
I want to reiterate that it doesn't matter if their music reaches the masses, it has already made waves in the abstract/experimental hip-hop scene and will be used by artists as inspiration for years to come. This is a rap collective that is your rapper's favourite rap duo - Armand Hammer's music is made for someone who understands the psychic influence music can have and only appreciated fully when analyzed.
Woods and Elucid spare no bar and leave no stone unturned.
Likely, I am going to be seeing them again at Levitation in Austin, Texas, and I am stoked to watch another one of their sets.