WKNH Music Director
You ever just find exactly what you need at the moment you need it? The feeling of completion to a moment that can be provided by serendipity. I was writing a paper for my finals, just sloggin through it. The words didn’t seem to come easy. My contempt for school, work and writing what other people tell me to write, is boiling over. I decided to hit the bandcamp daily’s as a girl would do when she hates school as much as she would hate a crossbow bolt in the shoulder. Seeing a familiar record cover, something I had peeped on Instagram a month or so back, I clicked. What I clicked on shot bolts of light through my body. My wounds healed, my mind cleared, and I no longer hated school. Thank the universe for good hip hop.
What I had clicked on was billy woods’ (lowercases on purpose) new album “Hiding Places,” produced in its entirety by Kenny Segel. Now for the intros. billy woods is a New York-based underground rapper, one half of rap group Armand Hammer. He’s a jagged rapper, he doesn’t really do soft all that much. Even when he tries, there is just too much swagger and force in his flow. His voice cuts and bends through and around Segel’s production. Now Segel is an L.A beat scene empresario. He’s been making his bones for 20 year now, as of late he’s become the go-to beat man for some of the most raps most daring figures in hip hop (Rory Ferreira and Busdriver), as well as a solo beat maker in his own right.
The formula is simple. One MC, one Producer, one album. This allows for the two to get familiar, to achieve new heights of intimacy and cohesive aggression. There are a surprising amount of messily distorted guitars and crashing cymbals on this hip hop album, these frequencies tend to obfuscate vocal performance and our pop gloss understanding of what hip hop can be (cymbals and guitars both tend to gobble mid range in a mix viciously, the same frequency range as the human voice). Segel’s mixing and production work keeps everything contain. At moments it all still feels like it will spin out of control. But Kenny has you. For all the organic melodic choss, the bass lines bumb and the drums knock. And in this certainty, woods can rap with assurance, and he does. Rapping about subjects broad and understood. His vocabulary and dizzying flow have perhaps obscured the meaning, or perhaps it is not up to me to decide his poetics or their metaphor. In any case, they are rapped amazingly, with conviction and a def sense of urgency. This record has no bad spots. It has one of my favorite lines I have heard all year. “I want to be alone at your home/ I want to suck the marrow out your bones/ I want to show you what I learned from the worst people I ever Know.” That is the level of his language. That is where this record lives. Listen to it.
Coraline Seksinsky can be