“Your class valedictorian won’t be the first to touch a million—but you won’t, either.” — Elucid
Elucid and Billy Woods are allergic to pretense. When the New York vets aligned last year as Armand Hammer, it made for a union that felt well worn and lived in. It’s a far cry from revivalist rap, though—their debut LP RACE MUSIC sits precariously on the brink of chaos, Elucid’s growl an affecting counterpoint to Woods’ collages of dead politicians and off-kilter cultural references; “Willie Bosket” and “New Museum” are two of 2013’s most vital records. Armand Hammer is a project that is cerebral and visceral in equal parts. More importantly, it’s an honest undertaking—even at their most challenging, their most inaccessible, Woods and Elucid circle ugly truths like a dirty drain.
Their new EP, furtive movements, is a new look from the duo. Where RACE MUSIC was a trunk-rattling sensory overload, the new nine-song set is muted and brooding. Woods and Elucid creep through the negative space like Sun Tzu. Lead single “B.E.T.” is a veritable villain’s theme; the Dennis Green-sampling “CRWNS” is a foreboding cut with a haunting refrain: “They are who we thought they were.”
furtive movements might be at its most effective when the rappers turn their focus inward. “Touch & Agree” finds Elucid and Woods each dispensing advice to their younger selves; Woods warns of undercover cops and his father’s death, and Elucid is at his sharpest: “At 12, kissed your first blonde/That story never made it past her lawn/And yours didn’t either.”
In fact, it’s Elucid who’s responsible for much of the downkey soundscape. He and Messiah Musik handle five songs, while Blockhead contributes the lean “F.U.B.U.” The record is cohesive nearly to a fault; the Von Pea remix of “Willie Bosket” plays like a commercial break. (The other RACE MUSIC redux, a version of “Duppy” that features Curly Castro and a new mix, remains one of Woods’ finest verses.) Brief as it may be, furtive movements is a dense, rewarding record that earns its title: The moves may silent, but they’re powerful.