billy woods & Kenny Segal ft. ShrapKnel: Babylon by Bus

A fresh drop from billy woods and Kenny Segal, as they gift us a new video from their recent album. Babylon by Bus is just one of the gold plated features on Maps, with woods drafting in label mates and blade sharpeners, ShrapKnel, on the assist. The video was made by Probable Voltages and the album is out now on Backwoodz Studioz.

billy woods & Kenny Segal: Maps

This week sees the arrival of the latest album from billy woods and Kenny Segal, reigniting the fire they first set ablaze back in 2019, with the release of Hiding Places. From the outset it’s apparent that Maps is not Hiding Places 2. woods himself has stated that neither of them wanted to make a part two, they wanted to make something fresh. But you don’t need his word for it as Maps is clearly its own entity, with its own energy that still smacks of a distinctly woods and Segal collaboration. The album is about journeys, both personal and business. New faces and old stomping grounds. The solitude of tour life and the accompaniment of weed (both good and bad). The trip away and the subsequent return home.
As with last year’s offerings from woods, the features are plentiful and all welcome. Quelle Chris, ShrapKnel, Aesop Rock, ELUCID, Samuel T Herring, Danny Brown and Benjamin Booker, all bring just the right sound to the proceedings, while the solo joints are bolstered by their own strengths. They include Segal’s production which is heavily jazz influenced for the most part, with that style perhaps peaking on the free-flowing excellence of Blue Smoke. In contrast to that, the Danny Brown assisted Year Zero, is at the other end of Segal’s scale and sounds like it was made specifically with the Detroit rapper in mind, thanks to a bassline that shook me to my core. Hangman is another track that stood out in terms of its beat and probably the only time on the album that I felt echoes of Hiding Places.
So there is variation on Maps, but never at the expense of cohesion. It all works beautifully and ends with a moving verse from woods that felt particularly poignant for me as a new father. The album is out in full this (Bandcamp) Friday, with pre-orders available now. Maps is streaming in full below.

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Backwoodz Studioz: High Bias (Stream)

A surprise release here to coincide with Bandcamp Friday, as Backwoodz Studioz flex their collective muscle with a new compilation. Billed as lying “somewhere between a label sampler and woods’ curated mixtape”, High Bias features mostly new and unheard tracks from familiar label dwellers like Armand Hammer, AKAI SOLO and ShrapKnel, as well appearances from extended family members – and possible new additions to the roster? – including Fatboi Sharif, Breeze Brewin and Cavalier. The production is up to its usual standards as well, with August Fanon, Messiah Musik, Sebb Bash and DJ Haram among the contributors. High Bias is available to stream below, with downloads and cassettes over on Bandcamp.

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Ockham’s Blazer: The Message

A riotous explosion of rap and jazz here, thanks to the latest single from Ockham’s Blazer. Having raised the bar high with the release of their self-titled debut last year, the ensemble make a return to the fore with The Message. PremRock was already the front man for the group, but now he also brings in Curly Castro to give the added strength of a ShrapKnel feature. The music itself comes courtesy of Fresh Kils, Anthony Rinaldi, Guido Spannocchi and July Skone, who all continue to shine as brightly as they did on the debut.

Steel Tipped Dove: all the weight feathers don’t have (Stream)

A somewhat surprise new album from Steel Tipped Dove, which finds him lining up another superb list of guest features, to carry on the tradition that began with his 2021 LP, Call Me When You’re Outside. This time round, Dove is working with the likes of MC Paul Barman, R.A.P. Ferreira, Zilla Rocca, ShrapKnel, Darko The Super and AJ Suede, while also managing to slip some instrumental interludes into the proceedings, resulting in an early favourite from 2023. And I’m pretty sure this isn’t all that Dove has up his sleeve for this year, so keep those ears to the ground. You can listen to all the weight feathers don’t have below, with downloads and cassettes available via Bandcamp.

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ShrapKnel ft. billy woods: Mescalito Remix (prod. by DJ Haram)

How do you improve on greatness? Well if this latest release from ShrapKnel is anything to go by, then the answer is to get DJ Haram involved. The 700 Bliss producer and Backwoodz affiliate brought new vitality to PremRock and Curly Castro’s Mescalito track, which also includes a feature from billy woods. Now the remix has been given the ideal accompaniment, thanks to some visuals from Modungoa Sebokholi AKA Mo Sebo. You can hear both the remix of Mescalito and the original on Metal Lung, which is out now on Backwoodz Studioz.

Slim’s Pickings 2022 Pt. 2

Following on from last week’s continued roundup of some of my favourite releases from 2022, I’m back with what I thought was going to be my final selection. The original plan was to cover 30 EPs and albums, but as time has gone on my mind has decided to trigger more musical memories from the year. Add to that the fact that the last breaths of 2022 brought us a few more releases and I realise now that I could easily do a top 40 (shout out to 80’s Sunday evenings on Radio One). So without further ado, here are my next ten choices, and as usual they arrive in no particular order beyond the sequence my memory brought them to the surface. The third and final instalment will follow shortly.

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ShrapKnel: Lazy Dog

A brand new video from the equally new ShrapKnel album, as Curly Castro and PremRock reconvene in their faultless combination to deliver another essential set of raps. Lazy Dog features production from Steel Tipped Dove, while the video was made by Owen Taylor and Mike Petrow. The album, Metal Lung, is out now on Backwoodz Studioz.

Career Crooks: Never at Peace (Stream)

Last month gave rise to a flurry of new releases, including the latest from Career Crooks. Never at Peace marks the end of a superb year for Wrecking Crew, as well as a strong finish for Zilla and Small Pro, who dipped back into the same winning formula that had made their earlier projects so successful. Features come from the likes of ShrapKnel, iAlive and Blueprint, while the release itself was accompanied by a bunch of merch and physical options, including a very limited Mini Disc version. You can listen to the album below, then check Bandcamp for the full array of goods.

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Wrecking Crew: Steel’s Kitchen (Stream)

Wrecking Crew assemble in full for their new project, which channels the spirit of the crew and label compilations that came before them. Every aspect of the album is on point, from the production picks and the artists they’re paired with, down to the song titles and artwork. Some stand out moments for me, include the Alaska assisted ShrapKnel track, Broken Handstyle, which features some rousing production from Steel Tipped Dove, and one of two fresh new Career Crooks joints, Looks Easy When it Works, which is further bolstered by Marcus Pinn’s precision cuts. The whole thing is worth your attention though and you can peruse it at your leisure below, with downloads, physicals and merch stacked up over on Bandcamp.

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