Rap Duo Armand Hammer delivers at ViCE Weekly Concert

Image courtesy of Sam Shelly ’26.

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending ViCE Weekly’s first concert of the year, a performance by rap duo Armand Hammer. The group consists of NYC-based rappers billy woods and ELUCID, familiar names for those who follow the city’s alternative hip-hop scene. As a fan of their 2021 album “Haram” and billy wood’s solo release “Aethiopes,” I was thrilled by the show’s announcement and the chance to delve further into their music, this time in a live setting. 

The duo’s songs make impressive use of sampling, encompassing a unique range of styles often informed by both abstract and East-Coast hip-hop styles. Best described as passionate, political, introspective and thoroughly poetic in form, Armand Hammer’s music draws on a range of influences that are hard to pin down but culminates in its own distinctive voice. Throughout the week I listened to more and more of the group’s material, exploring areas of its discography which was previously unknown to me. I was gearing myself up for the concert, growing evermore enthralled at the prospect of listening to their music in person. 

On Thursday, Sept. 29, a solid turnout had gathered in the warm, crowded Mug, patiently awaiting the first ViCE Weekly show of the 2022-2023 school year. I slowly worked my way toward the front left of the crowd, positioned to take in the concert as best I could. The show opened with an hour-long DJ set before transitioning into Armand Hammer’s performance. ELUCID began the show with a solo track, delivering bars with precise punctuality and amazing stage energy. His rapping was especially skillful for a live setting, staying true to the tracks’ complex lyrics. Shortly thereafter, billy woods entered through a door behind The Mug’s stage and joined his other half, requesting at the end of the song to blur any photos of his face posted online. ELUCID was decked out in a Raiders Bo Jackson jersey, whereas woods wore an Armand Hammer sweatshirt in the style of a collegiate seal (which was quickly removed due to The Mug’s humid atmosphere). 

From there the show pressed on, featuring a mix of collaborative songs and solo tracks. “Asylum” was woods’ first pick for a solo track, heavy bass and blaring saxophone playing out of the speakers directly to my left. His rapping was equally as outstanding as ELUCID’s, diving into his material with unending enthusiasm. Oftentimes, the duo would back up one another on their solo works, serving as each other’s hype men and doubling their partner’s lines. Another one of my favorite tracks from woods was also chosen for performance—the curiously titled “Spongebob.” Opening with a smooth bassline that vibrated throughout The Mug, the song contained many familiar elements of the duo’s style: difficult vocal rhythms, fantastic beats, complicated rhymes with regular references to geopolitical affairs and an intense passion for everything they vocalized. The crowd quickly caught on to the song’s main refrain, shouting, “You promised” in synchronization with woods. I had been previously unacquainted with ELUCID’s solo songs, but his strong performances and fascinating instrumentation left me with the desire to explore his catalog after the show. 

A majority of the night’s tracks were the group’s collaborative work. Standout songs like “Falling Out the Sky” and “Stonefruit” caught the attention of the crowd, performed with virtuosity and zeal rarely found in concert settings. I was once again amazed at how true they were able to stay to their studio recordings, executing their rhymes without hesitation or exhaustion. My favorite moment came during ELUCID’s verse in “Stonefruit,” proclaiming triumphantly during a beat pause, “I really came in on a cyclone.” The crowd recognized more songs from “Haram,” with the duo’s distinctive vocals and multifaceted verses backed with soaring, lush beats. 

The pair would also often pull back the performing energy after their songs to make more casual conversation in front of the audience. They recalled being pulled over on their way to the show due to issues with their car lights and joked about exhaustion from standing so long. Frequent collaborative producer The Alchemist received shoutouts, and woods complimented ELUCID’s work, calling one track his favorite song of the year. billy woods also announced “Peace to JPEGMAFIA,” and then proceeded to use a beat in the distinct style of JPEG’s production—very likely created by him. This was notable for Nick Tillinghast ’25 [Disclaimer: Tillinghast is the Assistant Humor Editor for The Miscellany News], who attended the show with me. We discussed after the show how Armand Hammer had previously beefed with JPEG over a beat he produced, described by a Genius annotation on the Armand Hammer track “Leopards.” According to Genius, the ELUCID song “Oblivion Reflex” was removed from streaming services, with the lyrics of “Leopard” suggesting that JPEG threatened legal action regarding its use. The beat was instead reused for IDK’s track “HELLO FREESTYLE (PT.4).” According to New University, JPEGMAFIA’s lyrics on the 2021 album “LP!” clap back at Armand Hammer, although a message per JPEG’s twitter (retweeted by ELUCID) indicates that the fighting has been resolved for nearly a year, hence woods’ message to the crowd. The duo also responded to an audience member’s demand for Earl Sweatshirt’s track “Tabula Rasa,” which features guest verses from the duo, stating that if they could receive the beat from Earl in time they would perform it, “no joke.” A setlist was present but not strictly followed, with the group bouncing between songs as they wondered aloud on stage which to do next. They went on for about an hour, continuously delivering stunning work while maintaining their intense musical vigor. 

The crowd was very receptive, offering applause, cheers and hoots at the end of every song and occasionally during particularly astounding moments within these tracks. The previously mentioned audience interactions were a unique aspect of the show, a connection between viewers and performers I don’t always see at concerts. As the show came to a close, the duo thanked the organizers and the audience for their presence, exiting the stage as sweaty students emerged from the heat of The Mug. Like others who waited around after the show, I had an opportunity to express my gratitude to woods and ELUCID for the concert on their way out; they responded gratefully, leaving the College Center after taking a promotional poster off the wall to keep with them. As an audience member I thoroughly enjoyed the show, singing along whenever possible with a wide grin across my face the entire time. I plan on attending future campus shows whenever possible, but it’s hard to believe that any will come close to this experience. If you’re on the hunt for new music, make sure to support Armand Hammer’s work and check out woods’ and ELUCID’s new 2022 releases, titled “Church” and “I Told Bessie” respectively.

 

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