Only a day after returning from Europe, Armand Hammer took to the stage at Bowery Ballroom for a New York homecoming as they resumed their US tour.
The duo of billy woods and E L U C I D are each at the top of their solo game as two of the best rappers of the underground, but when they come together, they're known as Armand Hammer and they're unstoppable, easily one of the best pairs of rappers in the business. Their level of brilliance was on full display as they came off a run of shows overseas and made it back to their hometown of New York City for a proper celebration before they resume the rest of their upcoming tour. Opening the show was their friend and peer Quelle Chris, who kicked things off with "Alive Ain't Always Livin'," a wonderfully stoic song from his most recent album Deathfame that eased into the night with its steady groove and chilled flow. His set got the crowd hyped as he stretch his vocal work beyond imagination, registering baritone vibes before kicking things up several octaves to give his songs depth and, at times, humor. His warm tones and playful nature was a wonderful set up for the night and he seemed elated to be opening for his two friends. After a quick montage, Armand Hammer descended to the stage and unfurled their wiry rhymes, all full of barbs and shrapnel beats that kept the crowd firmly on their toes as the two rappers busted out dense lyrics full of complex wordplay and skillful deliveries. Going straight into tunes from this year's great album We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, it was an early onslaught of their sinister beats, all brought to life on stage by their clutch producer and collaborator DJ Haram. "Landlines" wasted no time drilling into the details and heavy nature of their set before a transformative "Woke Up and Asked Siri How I'm Gonna Die" put a spellbinding hex on the crowd as the two emphasized "she replied" with more and more force and conviction that left the crowd reeling. In addition to their tracks together, they each supported one another as they dropped solo numbers and when woods dropped into the beat of "asylum" from last year's incredible Aethiopes, his flow became uncanny as if he was pushing the words out of his mouth with the urgency of his life behind it, almost as if he'd choke on the woods if he couldn't get them out with the proper delivery. Watching him find the rhyme and meter in each bar is truly a sight to behold and his ability to command attention while doing so is one of the more remarkable performances you're likely to see. His control and dexterity are unmatched and with E L U C I D cheering him on from the side, it seems as if there's nothing he can't do. As they hit on some tracks with guest verses, they played proper tribute to their friends who couldn't be there and plugged their new albums while also reflecting on the joy of being able to work alongside so many other great artists like JPEGMAFIA, Danny Brown, and Samuel T Herring. E L U C I D flexed his own muscles on his track "Spelling," showcasing his drier delivery methods while still engaging in the crowd through his brutal truths. "Trauma Mic" as a single came across a bit jarring on first listen, but on the album found its place and on stage, the duo gave it the space it needed, the crashing rhythm cranked up to the next level to give it proper authority but it was the record's standout "The Gods Must Be Crazy" that hit with the most intensity as El-P's rocking beats shook Bowery Ballroom for the song's live debut. Another highlight from woods' album of the year contender Maps, was "Year Zero" was slowed things down a bit, once again giving billy new ways to bring his profound words to the crowd. "We played a lot of closers but we always end it with 'Stonefruit'," a highlight and the finale to their 2021 record Haram, they remarked as the brought the night to a finish and capped things off with a bang. On their own or together, the works of billy woods and E L U C I D can be hard to penetrate, but through thorough listening and devoted time, they reveal themselves as some of the greatest works of the past few years and being able to watch them bring the songs to the stage is one not to miss.