Review

billy woods & Kenny Segal

Maps

Backwoodz Studioz • 2023

The fact that »Maps« is greeted with rapturous applause wherever it is heard is both justified and problematic, as it gives the impression that something is just being waved through. But billy woods’ new album, recorded with beat maker Kenny Segal, is the NYC underground rap icon’s most accessible record to date, following his decolonial »Aethiopes« (2022) and the autobiographical meanderings of »Church« (2022). 

This is due in no small part to the clear narrative arc that weaves its way through billy woods’ hectic touring life in the aftermath of the pandemic. Woods once again becomes an observational artist, the mosaic of dry, politically illuminating juxtapositions of disparate scenes complemented by his probing ruminations on what he has seen, his role in it all, his love. The lyrics are characterised by a dazzling, fascinating absurdity, both humorous and tragic. 

Producer veteran Kenny Segal has been working with billy woods for a long time. He produced tracks for Armand Hammer (the duo between Woods and Backwoodz label mate ELUCID) and 2019’s hugely successful »Hiding Places« with billy woods. »Maps is not Hiding Places 2. The music follows its own dynamic, it thrusts and booms. It is alive, not only because digital and analogue instruments crowd into the mix, but also because it refuses to embrace constant change. It rolls over in feedback excesses, erupts with roaring trumpets and suddenly segues into gentle bebop piano loops. If you don’t care for the lyrics, it’s worth listening for the beats alone.