Tag: New York

Nothing is Promised: An Interview with Billy Woods

Last month, I spoke with New York rapper Billy Woods: the Backwoodz Studioz mastermind responsible for some of the best solo hip-hop albums of the decade. Like Dour Candy (2013), like Today, I Wrote Nothing (2015), like Known Unknowns (2017). Woods is also part of the duo Armand Hammer, a group which includes rapper/producer Elucid. The two returned full force at the end of last year with their third album Rome. Then Elucid released a solo album. Then the duo released three music videos as well as a vinyl-only album Paraffin, which dropped in July. Fingers crossed for a digital version down the road. I spoke with the prolific MC about his creative process, his work space, his music rotations, and much more.

 

 

How’s 2018 been treating you so far right now?

Honestly? It’s been terrible. Hopefully some good writing comes out of it because 2018 has been an unmitigated disaster thus far from the moment I opened my eyes on January 1st.


You’ve released solo albums in 2013, 2015, and 2017. Given this two year pace, can we expect your next in 2019?

I never noticed that pattern before and that’s a good question. I have some stuff I’m excited about but currently waiting for some collaborators to clear their calendars, so it’s hard to say. And I hate stopping the middle of a project to work on a different one because I feel like each thing needs to be it’s own chamber, I get worried they will be too similar. Maybe that’s something I need to let go of, who knows.

Your solo and collaborative albums are incredibly consistent. Do you build them up slowly? Or do you create in bulk and trim down the tracks?

Thank you. That’s a complicated question to answer because every one of them was made a bit differently. History Will Absolve Me had lots of producers but also involved a lot of recording and winnowing out the best tracks. It was really about me and engineer/producer/consigliere Willie Green locking in and working in a bit of a vacuum. Dour Candy and Known Unknowns are basically one-producer records, there wasn’t a lot of extra fat to trim, because Blockhead (nor Aesop for that matter) isn’t giving me tons beats at a time and not everything I get is going to fit what I’m looking for. I do still have a couple joints that didn’t make it onto Known Unknowns though, and bizarrely all of them were collaborative songs. Today, I Wrote Nothing was the quickest album I ever made and was a project where form and concept dictated everything. I recorded most of that at ELUCID’s spot and it was intentionally a very un-fiddled with project. I wanted something visceral and unedited, I made songs as long as I felt in the moment, no longer, I rewrote nothing. As for Armand Hammer; collaboration necessitates entirely different processes.

 

 

You have one of the most unique, freeflowing voices in hip-hop. What’s your writing process like

Honestly, it really depends a lot on the project but usually I find a beat and see where it takes me. Sometimes I just down ideas or concept or just a line that I think might take me somewhere and then come back to that list if I am looking for inspiration. I sit at my desk and smoke and drink tea and write and yell at my cats.

What does the future of Backwoodz Studioz entail?

Nothing is promised. I hope we can continue to build, expand our reach, keep putting out records and artwork that I am proud of.


What’s your workspace/studio space look like? What are some studio essentials?

My workspace is a wooden desk I brought to my current hideout in a semi-abandoned building in Crown Heights, awaiting the gentrifiers wrecking ball. I first got this desk off the streets of Brooklyn in the early 2000s and it’s beyond scuffed, it’s probably fair to say “battered”. On top of that are three books: a dog-eared James Baldwin biography,  John Stockwell’s In Search of Enemies, and Homer’s Odyssey- which I have never actually read. There are haphazard piles of bills, random photos, a hard drive, a cup of tea, water, a watch Willie Green gave to me, a big thing full of pens, markers and scissors, some Harpers magazines, scraps of paper with notes on them and a notice from the gas company that I still owe them money from the old apartment. There is an ashtray with a spliff of that Uptown Haze in it. There is a small black cat looking out the window and an even smaller silver laptop. There is an Ironman CD in the case for Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In the Corner. I have no idea why it’s even out as I currently have no CD player. There is an untidy stack of more books and graphic novels and old comics all thrown together from the recent move that I should organize but haven’t. There is a document shredder and a Sunday edition of The New York Times from a week ago. There are two separate broken pairs of headphones.

 

 

If you were to empty your pockets, what would you find?

I have never had a wallet so, keys, cash, ID and bankcard, papers, loose change, some list of tasks written on a piece of paper and folded up in a back pocket a week ago.

 

Outside of your own music, what have you been listening to recently?

Last couple weeks?

Roc Marciano – RR2
Henry Canyons – The Cool Side
Count Bass D – Dwight Spitz
Diplomatic Immunity
stuff Kenny Segal sends me
Mach Hommy – various projects
That new Small Pro/Zilla Rocca
Serengeti – Friends & Family
Denmark Vessey guest verses – was actually thinking who has the best guest verses
Enjoyed the Pusha T record well enough but didn’t love it. Don’t think I’ll ever be able to dig the solo stuff like I did the Clipse.

Listened to that Tierra Whack album, definitely worth it.

 

 

Do you have any advice for artists/rappers working on their craft?

I’m not really sure I am in a position to advise without knowing what the person wants to get out of it.


Any final words / thoughts / shout-outs?

Check out the new Armand Hammer record, Paraffin, I think it’s an interesting project even thought it wasn’t made like your typical album.

 

Ben Niespodziany

Twitter: @neonpajamas

The Walking Miscarriage by Jak Tripper

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The Walking Miscarriage by Jak Tripper/Jakprogresso

The rap community is bombarded by its most recent fads like replicant trap beats and copycat catchphrases but deep down in its core there remains a solid resistance to the bogus consumer hive mind. A veneration for crate digging and complex rhyme schemes.

Jak Tripper aka Jak Progresso is of the latter and his self born Blak Church movement in Putnam County, NY is where he has whipped up product over the last 5 years. The Walking Miscarriage is the latest in a history of audio violence.

From the opening sample on Glum Tree (“Open the gate and let Ja(c)k into the kitchen”) it is clear that came to cook and with bars like (I’m malnourished with flies on my rib cage like third world / I once cut my arm so bad the E.R. intern nurse earled) it’s going to be served up still bleeding, chef’s choice. Cannibal savory wordplay swirling around in a murky stew of self produced, sample saturated, phencyclidine dunked beats. The second track, Parke-Davis is like a paean to (the pharmaceutical company that invented PCP) this angel dusted, demonic celebration of depraved natures.

Red City Knights opens with a Vincent Price soundbite, a dreamy beat and a verse from Lodeck. Monks hit profundo basso notes under Self Indulged where Jak offers a different street perspective (I glorify drugs, and glamorize the cult, they trappin over streets / I trip out in traps and just rap over beats). Psychonaut is a relentless barrage of.. bar rage, so much that he just goes until he quits. On Wallpaper Paste Jak spits: (I’m stoned as a witch trial / from the corner with a lemonade stand in Harlem selling piss vials) and Joel’s Tennis Shoes is book-ended by audio from a docu on serial killer Joel David Rifkin and a William S. Burroughs quip. It’s like an odyssey through lyrical dominance, addiction and dissociation.

One of the many monstrosities from within the Church that Jak built. And if he grabs your ear go and check out his previous releases on Bandcamp. I thoroughly enjoyed every track on this. It would be lazy to categorize his work as horrorcore when it clearly doesn’t abide by those boundaries. You might have seen him with his partner in rhyme, The Buttress and if you aren’t familiar with his work on the battle rap circuits, peep his lyrical homicides on Ibattle, We Go Hard TV, RBE and URLTV.

Next up from him is DARK ENERGY JUDO.

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