Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Album Review: billy woods & Kenny Segal - Maps

billy woods & Kenny Segal
***and1/2 out of *****

Maps is the second collaborative album between New York City based MC billy woods and LA based producer Kenny Segal, following up on 2019's Hiding Places. The smooth grooving, full length affair gives room for woods words to flow over Segal's mellow sounds. 

Developed by woods as thematic full length, revolving around a travelogue diary, he records and reminisces on his overstuffed, massive touring schedule after Covid-19 lockdowns; woods has released perhaps the first post-pandemic "over it" album. He isn't looking to go back to quarantining, but he is beat from the travels, as stated on "Bad Dreams Are Only Dreams", he is jetlagged and can't catch the old version of himself, all flowing around late night jazzy horns.

"The Layover" is great and describes just what his title suggest as he has time to kill and just wants to get on with it around skittering jazz piano and standard beats. The most interesting musical wanderings arrive when Segal fully embraces those jazz tendencies, "FaceTime featuring Sam Herring" uses flutes and muted woodwinds expertly while "Blue Smoke" finds woods expertly rhyming over a full on jazz tune, a trend which could be expanded upon in the future.

"Baby Steps" is one of the better efforts as woods directly addresses the modern gig life struggles with a deep bass and weed colored audio swirling as guest EUCLID delivers a verse and Benjamin Booker puts breathy vocals behind the scene. Unlike a lot of hip hop albums, some of the guests detract from the flow and theme, "Sound Check featuring Quelle Chris" and the pairing of "Babylon By Bus featuring ShrapKnel" and "Year Zero featuring Danny Brown" all feel disjointed and angular, interrupting the road weary tales which have been established by woods.  

However, like a majority of modern hip-hop, woods and Segal suffer from ADHD when it comes to the tracks, as there are very few full songs here; the emphasis is on brief scene setting verses over slow understated musical surroundings. When the scene seems to be coming into focus, the track usual wraps up, such as the slow and ominous "Hangman". 

The laid back flow works, but so does efforts with more urgency like "Waiting Around featuring Aseop Rock" which drives forward with more soul samples and deep beats. Returning on "NYC Tapwater" woods comes back home and lights up as the album wraps up easily, woods and Segal have taken inspiration from efforts like De La Soul is Dead, telling stories and linking the album as whole successfully throughout Maps.     
Support the artists, buy the album and peep some video below:

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