Church is the new project from billy woods, produced entirely by longtime Armand Hammer collaborator Messiah Musik. The album is a tightly wound exploration of memory and faith, marijuana and fate, the price of love, and the cost of doing business. Equal parts memoir and sativa-tinged fever dream, Church moves from Jamaica, Queens to Trelawny, Jamaica, Chernobyl to Morningside Heights without missing a beat. Guests include ELUCID (Armand Hammer), AKAI SOLO, Fat Ray (Bruiser Brigade), and Fielded. As we stand now in the twilight of prohibition, Church is a dedication to those who thrived, died, or barely survived under its long shadow—an ode to a city that is long gone and to old friends whose real names we never knew.
billy woods never misses. He truly is a generational lyricist, one of the best rappers active today (and not just in the experimental/abstract subgenre). His writing still seems to get better somehow, and he has really mastered his delivery – his spoken-word style is straightforward but totally commanding at the same time. Not even half a year after the outstanding Aethiopes, billy woods comes with a second project that deserves to be counted among the year’s best. Church is different from Aethiopes but just as good. Whereas Aethiopes is heavier on the experimental side and arguably less accessible, Church – while still firmly left-field – is a more straightforward beats and bars affair, this time with production from Messiah Musik whose instrumentals are more in line with the sounds of Blockhead and Kenny Segal on earlier billy woods projects.
Church is a compelling piece of music, a near flawless front-to-end listen. “Fever Grass”, “Classical Music” (with AKAI SOLO and FIELDED), “Cossack Wedding”, “Pollo Rico”, and “All Jokes Aside” are standouts – but as per usual on a billy woods project, there are no real weak spots to be found on Church. Production is dark and sometimes chaotic, but accessible and relaxing at the same time, and billy woods consistently kills it with his bars and flows. At this point there is no getting around it: billy woods is untouchable, and he is definitely stealing the show in 2022.
Download on Bandcamp and support the artist: https://billywoods.bandcamp.com/album/church
Also read: The Best Hip Hop Albums Of 2022