Armand Hammer & The Alchemist — Haram — Album Review
Hip-Hop | Rap
With the first quarter of the year finally over, I have been feeling eager to find another album that really hits a nice spot with me. And while I tried giving new projects from Iglooghost and The Snuts a chance, their albums didn’t really scratch that itch admittedly.
This was why I was thrilled to ultimately stumble upon this new collaboration between rap duo Armand Hammer, and of course The Alchemist; a producer who I had swiftly come to love after his collaboration with Freddie Gibbs last year. That being said, the main draw-in for me was of course said producer.
But despite the fact that this is technically my first time listening to Armand Hammer, one of the members’ vocal style felt awfully familiar. It was only after doing a bit of digging that it was of course ELUCID; who as well as being half of Armand Hammer, also makes up half of collaboration with R.A.P Ferreira (formerly Milo) that is Nostrum Grocers. This instantly sharpened my hopes that this would be a chance for me to experience a far more abstract-rap spectrum of The Alchemist’s production.
I should also not discount the other half of Armand Hammer, billy woods, as he was part of an album that I gave a quick shout-out to, as part of my Late but Great Discoveries series on Instagram. The album in question was 2020’s Brass, with Moor Mother. I was equally excited to properly hear more of billy’s rap style as well.
With this dynamic trio at the wheel, it was fair to say that the bar I set was quite high, and for the most part, Haram certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Not only does Haram carry a clear sense of memorability, importance, sentimentality, or whatever else you want to call such an attribute, but it also portrays ideas of post-colonial wounds in an embracingly dark way, and the rap duo have left absolutely nothing hidden here.
This is because, lending from the album’s title, which is essentially an Arabic term for everything forbidden/taboo, the main focal point of this album is using extremism to try and counteract discriminatory influence such as homophobia and racism. This narrative felt most clear on a track like “Chicharrones”, where the main takeaway is to “kill the cop in your thoughts”.
This strong narrative, and its attempt to boost a sense of extremism in the listener, is boosted by the highly psychedelic, almost hypnotic instrumentals produced by The Alchemist. And not only that, it’s also incredibly clever in parts. There are multiple examples of the production reflecting what Armand Hammer are rapping about. The most notable of these include how The Alchemist starts clipping the production alongside the bar “the jack keep clipping” on “Wishing Bad”, and also the muffled melody accompanying “I heard voices that I couldn’t make out in the deep end” on the track “Falling out the Sky”. It just goes to show that there are some very big brains behind this project.
For the majority of the album, the Alchemist does an incredible job of creating a number of unique and engaging beats, with enough jazz injection to keep me particularly interested. However, there are a few tracks scattered across this record, that feel like more could’ve been added to them. Namely some of the more dark-sounding and gritty tunes, I can see how they were intentionally made to not sound melodic, but the absence of such a quality made these tracks feel far more shallow in comparison. Perhaps it may just be a matter of preference, but you may probably see, from my favourite tracks this record had to offer, where I would deem the high-points of the album to be.
But with that small nit-pick aside, Haram is a truly amazing album, with dark minds and dark hearts giving this record as much impact as possible. Impact does feel like a key-word here. And given the purpose this project supposedly has, Haram should be deemed as a resounding success.
Favourite Tracks: Black Sunlight | Indian Summer | Falling out the Sky
Least Favourite Track: Aubergine
Enjoyment: 8/10 | Memorability: 9/10 | Atmosphere: 8/10
Uniqueness: 8/10 | Satisfaction: 7/10 | Narrative: 8/10