Billy Woods – History Will Absolve Me

Billy Woods – History Will Absolve Me
Backwoodz Studioz: 2012

There is no need to get into Billy Woods’ back story as an underground rapper. His website does a fine job of that. His newest release History Will Absolve Me (I’m assuming named after Fidel Castro’s famous speeches) is a cerebral record that demands awareness and patience from its listeners. There are no big catchy hooks, escapist melodies, or rose colored lyrics. The brooding kineticism of the beats surrounds his narrative about social ills, political turmoil, and personal angst and courage, in ways reminiscent of Def Jux’s nascent days as a label and aesthetic. It’s a style of rap that became very joyless and dogmatic by the late aughts, but through the eye of Woods, his producers, and partners in rhyme carries a new dynamism.

The album’s second track “Crocodile Tears” sounds like rap being delivered amongst a missile and a laser fight. Woods uses his words to paint vignettes of urban plight, change, and survival in a way that they almost swat away the thunderous pulse of Willie Green’s beat. This is Woods’ rap approach: unflinching relentless couplets that mask an intricate accumulation of street knowledge, historical signifiers, and popular references in their apparent simplicity. On “The Man Who Would Be King” he lets loose “walk like Quetzalcoatl amongst the conquered / dick hard, put myself in the stars / his woman in the dirt, face down ass up / doing god’s work” outlining the history of colonial invasion and exploitation in western Africa. Later on the album, A.M. Breakups laces Woods some thing serious with the 8-bit futurist bap of “Duck Hunt” (which even begins with the sound of the Nintendo classic) as Woods goes in to do his vocal work.

The entire album, an unflinching New York long player, carries these themes and sounds proudly. “Freedman’s Bureau”, perfectly paired with Elucid, “The Foreigner”, and “Famous Last Words” are all stand outs amongst records of guttural and analytical rap. Race, culture, white supremacy, violence, and how individuals and communities navigate these systems of power and commerce are handled with complexity and attention to details. Over the course of 18 songs though, the record’s mood can become very stark, and the tone rather numbing. Without a doubt History Will Absolve Me is a style of rap needs to exist, I just believe Billy and company could have edited for greater effect. Some times brevity is clarity. Either way this is a strong statement record that sounds like a bloodied and militant marching band triumphantly playing their songs while avoiding being gunned down by their rival and enemy.

★★★½☆
3.5 out of 5

2 thoughts on “Billy Woods – History Will Absolve Me

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  1. I agree with the PUBLICAGENT. Its better to include more songs. I love this website, but the reviewers often dislike songs that I really like. SO inclusion is better than “editing” or brevity. You can always delete the songs you dont like (and its easy to skip duds).

  2. PublicAgent|

    I am going to have to say that this is the best edited hip hop album of this year. This album is right on time and requires multiple listens, listens blazed listens without being blazed listens in the car headphones walking around alone at night and STILL it will keep saying things and still the layers in the beats come out. This is art without a doubt and it is hilarious to me how so many people put it in the political realm due to the political references. They are there but the man says a million different things about all kinds of different subjects he speaks metaphysics, everyday, comedy, thought provoking LYRICS. This album is definitely dense and all the guest stars are pretty dense too. (ROC MARCIANOS LATEST WORK THOUGH INTO A DIFFERENT TYPE OF BRAVADO IS DEFINITELY DENSE WITH MULTIPLE LISTENS PULLING STORIES TOGETHER) I mean thats how it should be right. Another thing is that this record is NOT corny AT ALL in a time where cornball shit is coming out left and right. (Handle your high and take a breath and LEARN young rappers CALM DOWN) Marciano is another who comes to mind that does not play with cornball records. Woods has gotten better in my opinion. It took time for me to realize his genius. Vordul Mega messes with Woods alot and he is on an extra song on certain discs of this album. He has worked with Woods alot. Vordul Mega is ridiculous. His raps make him sound enlightened and on another plane entirely. Some say that the guy is repetitive and I would say that is like saying a buddhist is repetetive. He DISPLAYS his surroundings and his surroundings are everything in the EVERY DAY CITY. I think History Will Absolve Me is worthy of WAY MORE recognition then it is getting.

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