ALBUM REVIEW: Billy Woods & Kenny Segal Are Razor Sharp on ‘Hiding Place’

This is some raw hip-hop right here!

Billy Woods is an NYC based rapper and one half of the group Armand Hammer (opposite rapper/producer Elucid). With their strong 2018 album still percolating, Woods is already back with his 10th solo album, Hiding Place, an intriguing and mysterious project produced entirely by revered L.A. beatmaker Kenny Segal.

A sample from Little Red Riding Hood at the end of the song “Toothy” encapsulates Billy Wood’s spirit well: “When she was out of sight he grinned a wide grin, showing all of his long glistening teeth.” Billy Woods, the wolf on this project, shows that his teeth are razor sharp, and he sounds hungry as hell.

Woods’ style calls to mind El-P, Aesop Rock and even vintage Ghostface Killah, both in the pattern of his rhyming and in the way his words paint vivid, crystal clear images. “Boxes under the stairs/found some old Nike airs / still tight / dust em off like I still remember working nights for this pair,” he raps on “A Day in a Week in a Year.” When such lines land cleanly, you feel it all: the raw emotion, the hunger, the imagery of the scene itself. But much like those other MCs, these scenes don’t always fit within a clear narrative. It takes some digging to figure out what he’s talking about. Some listeners will be turned off by this, but others will be drawn in.

Kenny Segal’s angular, unquantized beats are sick; they’re the perfect canvas for Woods to tear up. They creep up on you, they trudge circles around you, they lull you to sleep, they knock you out. They sound like they’re coming out of a drum machine on the verge of breaking. They sound like the album cover looks. I would cop these instrumentals without thinking twice.

Ultimately, this is some raw hip-hop right here. “I don’t wanna go see Nas with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall,” Woods raps on “Spider Hole.” Man, neither do I! I love hip-hop for what it is, and don’t need it to be put into a different context to make it more accessible. Hiding Place over Hamilton anyday.

Score: 🐺🐺🐺🐺/5

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