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Album Review: Shrines by Armand Hammer

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Armand Hammer is a hip-hop duo from New York. The group consists of rappers Billy Woods and Elucid. Their debut album, Race Music, was a huge success for people that enjoyed the underground music scene. While still working on solo music, the two were able to come together again for their fourth studio album, Shrines.

The first track from the album is Bitter Cassava. The track starts off with some string/horn samples, something that has been pretty popular in the hip-hop crowd recently. After looking at the credits, it surprised me that Earl Sweatshirt produced this track. The title, Cassava, refers to a vegetable, which is native to South America. On this track, they make references to other artists like RZA and Capital Steez. As much as I love the beat and their verses, I think Pink Siifu ruins it with his mumble rap verses.

Solarium is a quick track, just a minute and a half in length. This track also utilizes a string feature in the background. Since the track name contains the word 'solar', they talk about being in the sun during the chorus. Even though I'm not a huge fan of the beat compared to the previous track, I really love what Elucid has to offer and his verse.

Charms starts off with a flute-like background and also features KeiyaA, who is a singer and songwriter in New York City. Besides the verses that both of them give, the end of the track has a quick monologue about survival, and how people should be leaving something behind so that people will remember them.

After that, we have Pommelhorse. Besides Elucid opening up the track, you have a high-pitched beat droning on in the background. Elucid talks about where he was in life before he gained attention and popularity. Curly Castro comes in with the hook, and surprisingly, his style mixes very well with the group. Billy Woods talks about the inequality/injustice in the world, as well as the corruption in the government. Again, the track ends with a feature from someone who kept a tiger in an apartment in Harlem for a few years.

Leopards opens up with quick cymbal brushes. I was really hoping that Nosaj meant Nosaj Thing was producing this track, but the rapper Nosaj still meshes well with the group. I find it interesting that Elucid mentions R.A.P. Ferreira (with the vocals reversed) on this track when R.A.P. Ferreira shows up later on the album.

After that, we have one of my favorites from the track, King Tubby. The feature in the background seems familiar, but I'm not sure where I heard it before. The track opens up with a feature that talked about slavery, then Elucid and Billy Woods give long verses and some clever lines in there that are worth checking out.

Frida marks the longest track on the album, a little over four minutes in length. It also features Quelle Chris and FIELDED. This track is about the painter, Frida Kahlo, who was prominent in the early 1900s. I am not a huge Quelle Chris fan, but I think his feature is decent. Billy Woods changes up his flow and takes on a slower approach.

At the beginning of Slew Foot, Elucid talks about how some companies outsource their work to foreign countries that usually have child labor. After that, there's a small interlude from Marshawn Lynch telling the younger generation to take care of themselves, as well as their money. The track ends with an interrogation recording from Odalipo Diya.

The beat from War Stories seems oddly familiar to me. It has some odd bell tones in the background with a muted brass section. Most of this track is focused around Billy Woods. During the chorus of the track, Billy Woods talks about how he doesn't care about this person telling his war stories and that it's just for fake glory.

Next, we come to Flavor Flav. Right off on the first verse, Billy Woods says, "I got a time machine and it don't go backwards," which lets us know they're going to be talking about their interpretation of time. He mentions that time is on his side. There's also a mention of not waiting and that they should always be in "go time." That could be a reference to the protests going on now and how they want change now instead of waiting around for it to happen.

Dead Cars starts out with an eerie and psychedelic beat. It's very electronic in nature. We also get a feature from R.A.P. Ferreira on this track. There's a lot of references to the police from Elucid and Billy Woods from the first few verses. As the track progresses, both of them get more aggressive and louder with their raps.

Parables is definitely drawn back and minimalistic in nature, with the quiet piano and drum kicks in the background. Also, I think it's unique that Elucid almost has a English rap-like style on his first verse. On this track, they talk about parables, which are stories, usually told in the Bible, that have a lesson or moral to teach.

Another one of my favorites from the album is definitely Ramesses II, especially since Earl Sweatshirt is featured on this track. I'm a little disappointed that Earl didn't get that much time on this track when he was rapping. His verse also ends up getting cut into an instrumental interlude in the middle of the track. Because of this instrumental interlude, the beat for the rest of the track is changed.

Finally, the last track from the album is The Eucharist. It's another short track from the album since it's under two minutes in length. The beat is mainly a short part form a guitar and the backing drumset. The track is basically just a closing for the album from Billy Woods.

Overall Rating: 7/10
Favorite Tracks: Bitter Cassava, King Tubby, War Stories, Ramesses II

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