Posts Tagged ‘Masai Bey’

“Duck Hunt” – Billy Woods (produced by A.M. Breakups)

The rise of Company Flow and Black Star to prominence on the independent rap scene in New York City in the late nineties gave birth and hope to literally thousands of new artists over the years to come.  From direct relatives like the Def Jux labelmates to other small imprints like Brick Records, Landspeed, and Embedded and on and on a cottage industry of small independent rap labels cropped up, with emcees and producers embracing the dusty-but-digital aesthetic.  The term “abstract” in rap mushroom clouded from Q-Tip to Aesop Rock.  As this movement coincided with the widespread rise of the internet the independent market flooded with DIY artists who watered down this aesthetic with cheap bedroom studio knockoffs and imitations.  As quickly as young hip hop fans flocked to this new aesthetic on the heels of Funcrusher Plus, Cold Vein, and Labor Days, they ran from it as the “nerd rap” moniker and all that came with it threatened their self-esteem.

Billy Woods began to slowly garner a following back in 2002 and 2003 with the release of his first albums, Camouflage, which featured Cannibal Ox’s Vordul Megallah on a third of the tracks, and Chalice, but at the time these limited pressings were lost amidst the slew of Def Jukies and relatives/offshoots like the artists who recorded for the Embedded and Johnny23 imprints.  A lack of promotion, unpolished production, and a crowded market consealed Billy Woods’s talent to a degree, though in hindsight it was clearly there.  It didn’t help that he came out amidst the dawn of the aforementioned anti-nerd rap backlash.  As the market was flooding with artists possessing similar sensibilities, New York mainstream acts like Dipset and Ghostface Killah offered a more polished and accessible alternative for fans who wished to revel in humorous references and abstraction without facing the stigma of being a “nerd rap” fan.  Nevermind that the always diminutive descriptor never really fit Woods (or a slew of other talented artists from that era).  Sure Billy Woods creates cerebral hip hop, and has a flow that’s probably more influenced by Chuck D and great political orators than it is by Nas or Jay-Z, but that doesn’t mean that the music he creates is anything other than hardcore rap music.