Album of the Week: billy woods & Kenny Segal - Maps | 2023 Week 18
Two of the hip hop undergrounds finest have done it again on album number two + new records from Fred Again.. & Brian Eno, SBTRKT, Flume and more!
For a minute there, it was starting to feel like lightning wouldn’t strike twice when it came to one of the freshest producer & MC collabs of modern times, with four long years passed since billy woods & Kenny Segal linked up for their modern classic album Hiding Places.
Luckily in March this year we learned this wasn’t to be the case, with the prolific underground legends announcing their second album, Maps, and now a few short weeks later it’s here and it’s spectacular.
Having dropped two awesome full-length albums last year, woods continues his purple patch of quality and quantity, being absolutely match fit when it comes to both writing and spitting bars in the booth. His stream of consciousness, of the wall rhymes chop and change from his signature metaphors and mysterious messages through to some of the more frank and straightforward bars we’ve heard from billy as he explores the records broader themes - life one the road touring, but deeper, the record is “ a story of the road, or roads, taken and untaken; of living the dream and dreaming of another life. It is an album about trying to find your way home, after making your home wherever you lay your head.”
Meanwhile, Segal is as jazzy as ever in his productions, with beats ranging from woozy, laidback affairs to overblown electro influenced styles and his unique brand of breakbeaty boom bap styles and even some drumless, spacey affairs that allow woods even more room to lyrically flex. Layered with all manner of majestic keys, strings and horns alongside other samples that shouldn’t work on paper, Segal takes some seemingly disparate sounds and turns them into aural glue for his masterful productions.
A monster record with 17 tracks, woods isn’t alone on the lyrical front as the duo welcome a whole host of the who’s who of the hip hop underground. The likes of Danny Brown, Aesop Rock, Quelle Chris, ELUCID, SharpKnel, Benjamin Booker and Sam Herring (Future Islands) all step up to the mic to compliment billy. Elsewhere, English modern avant-jazz legend Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming) lays down flute on Baby Steps.
“Kenny and I made more songs together before Hiding Places than we did after,” woods says. “I think we only collaborated once over the last four years and although we didn’t talk about it, I think we wanted to let that energy build again. Neither of us wanted to make Hiding Places 2. We needed to go on other journeys, artistic and otherwise, to come back and do something fresh.”
With Maps, woods and Segal cement themselves as one of the most exciting collabs in modern hip hop and have remapped their status as heroes of the underground, and here's hoping they're back for round three in the coming years.
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