billy woods — Aethiopes — Album Review
Experimental | Hip-Hop | Rap
The last and only real time I had listened to the New York rap artist billy woods, was actually through his collaboration with fellow rapper and record producer ELUCID, under the collaborative alias of Armand Hammer. Together, with the bewitching beats, courtesy of The Alchemist, Armand Hammer created one of my favourite albums of 2021; that being the record titled Haram.
That being said, I was totally on board for any new material that any of the creative minds behind said album would bring out next; those from billy woods included. Luckily for me, I wouldn’t have to wait too long at all for woods’ newest solo album.
Aethiopes is actually the fourteenth studio album from billy woods (if you include a select few of his collaborative ones), cementing that, once again, I am late to the party with a lot of great artists.
But I am certainly glad that, at least, this project didn’t go under the radar for me and my musical year of 2022, as the uniqueness and dark atmosphere that this record exudes, truly reflects the sheer talent and ingeneus creativity of billy woods.
In true billy woods fashion, there were no standalone singles to tease the release of Aethiopes, helping to keep this album exciting and fresh for all that listen to it. However, I could sense a pretty clear narrative and mood from the very get-go. This record shows the struggle the artist had with growing up at home, as brought forth especially well by the albums opening track “Asylum”.
The narrative embellishments on top of this central one include the twisted dreams of a lucracy, and the idea of blackness (from what I built up in my head from my own experience anyway). However, the whole thing has that all-enjoyable sense of abstraction that keeps it exciting and intriguing.
What helps this sense of abstraction and artistry further is (of course) the production, which is top notch in the case of Aethiopes. Through instrumentation, mood, sampling, or perhaps a balanced mixture of all three, almost all of the tracks have something unique and memorable to offer.
This album also proves to be another case of tracks blending into each other incredibly well, to the point where one might have to actually have to check the tracklist to see where one begins and ends. Speaking of which, Aethiopes carries a generous helping of thirteen tracks, and somehow manages to cram all of those in to a runtime of under forty minutes. With both the fluidity and the generosity in mind, this album undoubtedly felt like a more than solid musical experience from start to finish.
billy woods himself that this was one of the most complex ideas he has ever tackled on an album. And by the way it sounds, this sentiment truly shows. Despite establishing his musical career all the way back in 2003, he proves to be an ever-growing and ever-evolving force. The quality of his work seems to get sharper every single time, and Aethiopes is a fine example of such a claim.
Favourite Tracks: The Doldrums | NYNEX | Heavy Water | Remorseless | Smith + Cross
Least Favourite Track: Protoevangelium