billy woods - Church Music Album Reviews

billy woods - Church Music Album Reviews
The rapper’s second album of 2022 is a dark memoir about love, memory, and faith. With a meticulous but loose style, it amplifies his capacity for vulnerability.

In 1947, the American minister William Marrion Branham claimed he was visited by an angel who bestowed him with the gift of curing the world of sickness and decay. It began Branham’s worldwide post-World War II healing revival, where he became a quintessential cult figure. News reporters and other ministers accused him of being a fraud, he launched and validated the violent ministries of Jim Jones and Paul Schäfer, and he spread a doctrine based on the restoration of archaic Christian values and doomsday predictions. Branham’s voice, ripped from a 1954 sermon in Washington, D.C., acts as a bridge between the second and third songs of billy woods’ newest album Church. It is measured, striking against the fading instrumental. “Let Him be first of all. Then, the hunger, deep. As David said, ‘When the deep calleth to the deep, at the noise of thy waterspouts,’” he barks. The line invokes Psalm 42:7, a lament that witnesses a call out to God, as the psalmist seeks confidence and hope in the face of trials and tribulations. The grainy recording feels as if it was buried deep in woods’ subconscious: Here, the lessons of faith burned into his memory are brought to the forefront, delivered through the voice of a false prophet.

Church arrives just a few months after woods’ stellar solo effort Aethiopes. With Church's short list of collaborators (Fat Ray, AKAI SOLO, Fielded, and Armand Hammer’s Elucid appear over 12 songs), his voice arrives in relative solitude. It grants him the space to unravel a dense memoir, musing about love, memory, and faith. There’s a heaviness that shrouds the album: Producer Messiah Muzik’s mutation of obscure crate gems like Roger Bellon’s 1977 “Blaknite” makes the entire project feel like a fever dream spiraling out of control. But that chaos and murkiness suits woods; with his uncanny ability to fuse raps to fractured beats, Church is a sprawling personal history, one that ensures that his status as a master of his craft remains unchanged.

woods has previously changed his writing perspective at the drop of a hat, treating his lyrics as puzzles that the listener has to piece together. This time, he writes from his own viewpoint, utilizing powerful imagery and nimble similes to narrate his experiences, often focusing on gloomy themes. On “Paraquat,” woods likens his relationship failures and lack of self-worth to James Harden’s stints on two different teams, then lambasts his brother’s spiritual and moral hypocrisy in the following four bars. In the next breath, as the beat switches to a trodding piano and straining saxophone seemingly lifted from a seedy Harlem jazz bar in the ‘50s, woods veers into political commentary: “Whitey hit Hiroshima, then he doubled back/Black rain baptized, black skies/I’m always waiting on the thunderclap,” he raps, chomping at the bit to put warmongers on trial with his words.

woods’ strength is in the details. He is meticulous and encyclopedic, holding his hat on the boast that his words “gon’ be here when all y’all is gone.” It is impossible not to picture his upbringing in Zimbabwe on “Fever Grass;” he paints scenes of an impolite cousin’s house and the religious sanctum his grandfather built in the jungle, where virulent sermons were doled out with reckless abandon. God and religion are intrinsic to his being, and he’s been grappling with the aftereffects ever since. Even as woods strays from material thoughts into existential ones, as on “Artichoke,” he remains poignant—each phrase opens a window into his psyche. “Hope is an assassin, fear fill up the casket,” he says, as an eerie sample wails above, making his words feel like a twisted campfire song.

Producer Messiah Muzik is familiar with woods, thanks to previous collaborations with Armand Hammer; the intimacy makes moments of instrumental cacophony feel more challenging than unpleasant. The crashing, ascending piano chords and saxophone blaring intermittently on “Frankie” intersect with woods’ delivery, and quick punch-ins and fragmented sentences allow him to find the pockets in the trudging beat. But sometimes, the dissonance can become distracting. The curtailed sample loop of “Fuschia & Green” quickly becomes a whirring, repetitive earworm, providing a frantic setting for woods and Elucid to rattle off biblical and Islamic references. There are moments of serenity, too: The peaceful arpeggios and Fielded’s angelic crooning at the end of “Classical Music” arrive like rewards for the listener’s patience and understanding.

Unlike Branham’s sermons, this record doesn’t offer a grand lesson that beats the listener over the head. Church isn’t a collection of parables: It holds the scraps of a diary with its pages stripped bare. Where Aethiopes could be considered a career peak, this album grounds him atop that summit, maintaining a level of quality, vulnerability, and precision that few could dream of recreating. He likens this stage of his career to the theatrical program Shakespeare in the Park on “Pollo Rico,” which is fitting—through masterful manipulations of language, he’s built a monument to his life and career in one fell swoop, meant to withstand the end times.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
billy woods - Church Music Album Reviews billy woods - Church Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 25, 2022 Rating: 5


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