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BILLY WOODS ‘Aethiopes’

Apr 11, 2022 | Hip Hop, Reviews

woods makes an artistic leap of faith, and lands firmly on his feet

A new billy woods album is an event. Yes, we’ve had remarkable collabs from the founder of Backwoodz Studioz before, but this is the first solo material since 2019, and part of thrill is the anticipation of what is up his sleeve. Working solely with Preservation as producer, woods makes an artistic leap of faith, and lands firmly on his feet. Together they’ve assembled an intricate examination of the African diaspora – hence the title – and explore its cultural impact across the globe. At least that’s where an initial interpretation will take you. Drilling down into the dense lyrics reveals more personal perspectives, and a multitude of strands, akin to a twenty first century beat poetry. We observe the “domino effect” as generations carry historical scars: from slave ships, to automobiles, to the Nebuchadnezzar, we’re invited on-board and transported through a reclaiming and redefinition of blackness – check Kongi’s Harvest, a film which Ossie Davis directed in 1970, adapting the work of the Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, for further reference points.

Guests are frequent, representing a who’s who of underground hip hop and dancehall, with El-P, Boldy James, Quelle Chris, Fatboi Sharif, Despot, Breeze Brewin, Gabe ‘Nandez, Mike Ladd, Denmark Vessey, Shinehead, and Elucid, all rising to the challenge to provide a compelling juxtaposition to woods’ world weary, emotive raps.

Preservation employs a global wide palette imbued with a gravitas this project deserves. Setting flows to fluid Monk style melodies, loops of guitar & flutes, dub echo, and flourishes of mouth organ, outweigh the use of beats in the main, but build cinematic vistas of their own. Witness Christine toying with the themes and words from Marley’s Mr. Brown as it segues into the rumble & scratching of Heavy Water, and you know these guys are peaking.

Aethiopes is a wild patchwork of themes and directions that’ll have you reeling in its detail and erudite delivery.

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