The combination of art rap pioneers Billy Woods and ELUCID, duo Armand Hammer carved their way into rap’s underground with thought-driven lyricism and experimental production styles. A consistent fixture alongside their solo careers, the Armand Hammer moniker produced three albums in the 2010s, winning the pair significant critical praise with the expansive and progressive LPs Rome (2017) and Paraffin (2018), followed by the Alchemist collaboration Haram (2021).
Through his work on the 2012 LP History Will Absolve Me, D.C. rapper Billy Woods had found a promising partnership with New York’s ELUCID: choosing to feature him on 14 of the album’s 18 tracks, Woods’ synergy with the New York MC was immediately apparent. Working together under the Armand Hammer moniker, the duo were quick to expand their chemistry on the 2013 mixtape Half Measures, pushing each other to experiment in both flow and narrative. Their debut album, Race Music, followed just a month later. Featuring production from the likes of Marmaduke, Messiah Musik, and DOS4GW, the project pushed at the boundaries of hip-hop’s sonics, discarding bang-for-your-buck boom-bap in favor of unique textures and grimy off-kilter instrumentals. Their bars, shrouded in dense rhyme schemes and double-dipped metaphors, addressed everything from poverty to philosophy, coloring snippets of lived experiences with thought and fiction to create a collage of poignant social bits.
Race Music was bookended by a third project, the Furtive Movements EP (2014), which cemented the collaborative moniker with a series of additional tracks, remixes, and re-imaginings. This was to be the duo’s last project for some time; despite dropping features on each other’s solo albums, Today, I Wrote Nothing (2015), Save Yourself (2016), and Known Unknowns (2017), Woods and ELUCID would not team up under the Armand Hammer banner again until late 2017. In November that year, the duo made their long-awaited return with the Rome LP, which added a crisper, slightly electronic-led direction to the pair’s earlier work. With features from contemporaries like Quelle Chris, Mach-Hommy, and Denmark Vessey, the album garnered significant critical praise, finding placements in many publications’ year-end lists. Spurred on by this success, the duo produced a third studio album, Paraffin, the following year, which continued in the vein of its predecessors’ modernization of the underground sound, and won even greater critical acclaim. Shrines, the pair’s fourth album, arrived in 2020. The duo teamed up with producer the Alchemist on 2021’s Haram. ~ David Crone, Rovi