With the shocking cover art of two pig heads completely severed from the body, a butcher shop creates the cloak for Armand Hammer, or rather both billy woods and E L U C I D to thrive under. As they recruit LA’s hip-hop uncle, The Alchemist is able to draw the strings like a smoked-out Wizard of Oz beneath the velvet curtain.
Opening with a sample, “Sir Benni Miles” takes a scene from the film Babylon and determines to fall deeper into the unknown with this glimmering instrumental. billy woods begins the skeletal creep as the warping beat melts over tabs of shine, he describes, “Dreams is dangerous, linger like angel dust. Ain’t no angels hovering, ain’t no saving us.” It becomes instinctual, but the production from Alchemist is ugly mixed with the silver cloth. It is a horror show of muck and mire that is covered with a silk pattern, somehow an elegance to this concrete jungle that the cowboys can step into.
Armand Hammer in the past felt like the hip-hop adaptations of Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, full of speech that covers through that vintage film lens of what New York could really turn into when the roaches and rats scatter. Much like the life of prostitutes and pimps, Haram has the ups and downs. With “Black Sunlight” that features KAYANA, there is an intense high that rides like the Wonder Wheel in Coney.
The instrumentation is a ray of ultraviolet light that politely tans the skin instead of scorching it. Sunkissed and ready for a new approach, Haram hits a complete 180° switch as the sampled vocal is an acapella of full expression while the keys and percussion becomes a hug from the speakers. On the second verse, E L U C I D and KAYANA describes, “Smile niggas, through trials rendered in my full expression, stressor. Pressure cooking then I got your message.”
As the production picks up into this bridge, the new duo illustrate, “I don’t want to explain self, I don’t want to constrict love. I wanna grow kale, I ain’t never hold myself to make the song sell.”
It peels back the framework to Armand Hammer’s inspiration of direction from Babylon and connects their past work like Shrines or even ROME that continued to be illustrative of the constructive power of sound.
While the recruitment of The Alchemist is engaging and outwardly interesting through each track, the mountain of dead pigs lie as a sacrifice to the MPC for chopped religious scrolls.