By Adrian Woods, Contributor
[Backwoodz Studios; 2022]
Key tracks: “Artichoke”, “Fuchsia & Green”, and “Pollo Rico”
After dropping Aethiopes earlier in the year, billy woods is back with his second album of 2022, a collaborative album with Messiah Musik and his first collaborative album since 2020’s “Brass” with Moor Mother, Church. It sounds like everyone has said this, but billy woods is one of the best rappers in the underground hip hop scene, and one of the best cutting edge rappers of abstract hip hop. Church is just further proof that aging can have a positive effect on your craft. It definitely feels like, with age, billy woods has just become a better artist.
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It should go without saying, but this most definitely feels like a billy woods album. It includes a jazz rap instrumental with woods’s classic flow that never gets old. To some, having their album sound similar to previous work may be a negative; however, it is a positive here because billy woods, as a lyricist, is one of the best to ever do it. The song keep the listener engaged with focused lyrics and a tight, creative backing.
The first two tracks, “Paraquat” and “Artichoke,” are great openers to the album, but what makes billy woods such a unique artist is his penmanship. The emotion, and how real the lyrics are show just how much passion woods puts into his projects. “Pollo Rico” is one of the best songs on the album for the lyrics alone, how woods can go from acting serious about God to light heartedly talking about getting Cheetos from a hospital vending machine. What billy woods does best is tell a story through songwriting, and on every song, he paints a picture for the audience.
We see the inclusion of many legendary underground hip hop producers and rappers including E L U C I D on “Fuchsia & Green” which has some of the best lyrics on the album and one of the best examples of proper storytelling. The record also includes AKAI SOLO and FIELDED on the song “Classical Music,” another one of the best tracks on the album with a very catchy piano riff to get your head bobbing. Fat Ray gives a great feature on the fantastic song “Schism”. All that’s not to say that billy can’t do it on his own, as the majority of the album (without any additional producers or features) is pretty great.
billy woods is, and will remain as, one of the best current underground rappers today, and one of the most underappreciated rappers of all time. It’s a shame he is not more well known because he is so talented and revered in the underground. With the amount of projects woods drops, hopefully we see more from him soon.