Album review: ‘Haram’

Armand+Hammer

Courtesy of ELUCID

Armand Hammer

Jacob Baker, Lifestyle Editor

Dangerous duo of rappers ELUCID and billy woods known as Armand Hammer, link with one of rap’s most dynamic producers, The Alchemist, on “Haram.” Released March 26, Armand Hammer and The Alchemist further solidify the brilliance of the underground rap scene through dark and dreary lyricism and production. 

“Haram” is a perfect example of why listeners should never commit to a verdict on an album after one or two listens. At first, “Haram” is a very relaxing rap project with outstanding production. It’s easy to assume this project might only lend itself to the listener’s only want, a soft and deep rap project, but “Haram” is so much more than that. 

While the production isn’t nearly as loud or as “in your face” as other rap projects, Armand Hammer attacks this project with a killer mentality, much akin to the album’s grotesque picture of severed pig heads. 

Lyrics like “I swore vengeance in the seventh grade/ Not on one man, the whole human race” and “Shifting forms, new resolve, guns go off” can be heard across the entire project with tenacity. 

Armand Hammer locks their focus throughout the album on issues like police brutality and race relations. On “Roaches Don’t Fly,” ELUCID defies white standards of white-washing Black culture and specifically, names given at birth. 

“My new name colonizers can’t pronounce,” ELUCID raps. 

Those themes are worn in an unadulterated fashion on “Chicharrones.” Chicharron refers to a dish consisting of fried pork belly or fried pork rinds, but also serves as a derogatory term used against police officers. “Chicharrones” brilliantly depicts pig imagery while taunting police officers and their abuse of power in a rightfully rebellious attitude. 

Armand Hammer is surgical with their rhyme schemes. The cutthroat style of underground rap being carried by Armand Hammer and fellow rappers Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher and Freddie Gibbs consistently shows the lyrical talent many only wish to achieve. See tracks like “Indian Summer” and “Wishing Bad.” 

What The Alchemist brings to the table as producer for “Haram” is yet another piece of remarkable and abstract work to his already legendary discography. The Alchemist brings a dark psychedelic vibe with a jazz fusion that takes the listener to another plane of existence. The opening track, “Sir Benni Miles,” wastes no time setting the tone through a great voice sample that immediately cuts out to an atmospheric jazz loop. Falling right in line with The Alchemist’s tone is a surprise guest verse from Earl Sweatshirt, which is easily one of the best moments on the album.  

“Black Sunlight” is a little more upbeat with its soothing KAYANA guest vocals and lively jazz instrumental, while “Robert Moses” sees The Alchemist crafting a grim noir jazz track. Both tracks serve as a clear contrast of what Armand Hammer and The Alchemist are able to accomplish on “Haram.” 

The bumps in the road for “Haram” happen to be relatively small. ELUCID and woods primarily sing on “God’s Feet,” and both vocal performances are too drowned out. Immediately following is the track “Peppertree,” which only has woods featured, is the only track on the album where the rapper and the producer work against each other. The album’s outro “Stonefruit” sees ELUCID take a broadened vocal technique that ultimately feels out of place. 

By the end of the year, “Haram” will be 2021’s biggest rap hit. The album only improves with every listen as Armand Hammer and The Alchemist have created a project to behold through its massively impressive lyricism and grim inspired production.