Moor Mother is a poet, musician and activist from Philadelphia. Her music is wildly experimental and disorienting in the best way, like an acid trip in the woods. billy woods is a straight up-and-down New York rapper with a beautiful turn of phrase. Their collaboration on their new album, BRASS, brings the best out of both of them. billy woods serves as the anchor to stop the album being swept away by its own excesses, while Moor Mother’s Afrofuturist trip brings a snarling beast out of him.
The music is oblique and unsettling, which was two things ticked off the checklist for me. It sounds claustrophobic and agoraphobic simultaneously. Moor Mother delivers her rhetoric in a way that hits you hard and leaves you needing a minute, while billy woods drawls menacingly over each track, lending an overall sense of crushing doom. Needless to say, it’s a release which demands a certain level of engagement.
The collaborators on BRASS are prestigious to say the least. Alchemist, John Forte, ELUCID, Franklin James Fisher (from Algiers), Mach Hommy and numerous other luminaries drop through to contribute. Wolf Weston gives a blunted beat some neo-soul sheen on early track “The Blues Remembers Everything The Country Forgot” before Moor Mother and billy woods swarm in to unceremoniously fuck up the vibe. The music constantly mutates and evolves throughout like Covid in London. Moor Mother drops poetic interludes while billy woods casually slings off esoteric references from the hip.
“Bad vibes in the vestibule, in your head it’s a time share,
Madame Bovary with the good hair, I shoulda stopped right there”
ELUCID drops his winding flow and dark vision on a deathly bare-bones beat for standout track “Arkeology”. The unsettling mood remains harsh and consistent throughout, despite the many contributors. The blunted beats, vocal effects, distorted samples, guest vocalists and segues create an immersive experience which takes very few if any prisoners. It’s definitely not one for getting yourself in the Christmas spirit, it’s more one for when you want to take a brutally honest and unflinching look at your true self and its relationship with society as a whole.
The album closer “Portrait” acts as a cool-down session, the old-school Last Poets-style instrumental and the playful flute sample providing the closest the album gets to a chill-hop beat to relax and study to. Moor Mother’s cathartic verse talking about decapitating demons seems at odds with this, but this fits nicely with the nature of the album. These two artists clearly relish the status of outliers and don’t look to be switching up any time soon. If music isn’t difficult, is there really any point?
Get the album here.