Far too often reduced to “one half of Armand Hammer”, New York MC Elucid is phenomenal artist in his own right. While his deep flow might take some getting used to, his abstract lyrics are always pregnant with meaning, as displayed on 2016’s Save Yourself or his collab with Milo, Nostrum Grocers. Elucid’s newest solo project is a change of pace however; I Told Bessie is dedicated to his late grandmother, someone so formative in his upbringing, beliefs, and even musicianship. The album’s tone and themes reflect this well, and make for a grand artistic statement by esoteric MC.
A woman in love
I was choking on a church mint
While the production (many beats courtesy of Sebb Bash and Childactor) might not be particularly jarring to Armand Hammer listeners or other underground NY artists, its actually a major departure from Save Yourself (possibly his most acclaimed, iconic solo project). Given what Elucid is rapping about on here, its fitting that he would lean more into soulful, lofi boombap than that dark, industrial style, but it also combines for something haunting. I Told Bessie sounds at once nostalgic and chilling; Comforting, yet distant, soundtracking memories and gratefulness for a something lost.
The album opens with “Spelling”, a record most notable for its hook: “Just got to heaven and I can’t sit down”. While Elucid raps about his formative years and past on this album, he still looks to the future and is always gonna grind and get better. Or perhaps, he sees Heaven as somewhere that might not provide the respite and peace we had hoped.
The next song “Bunny Chow” sees him break down the stubborn rebelliousness of his youth, and how that defines his music today. The hooks on I Told Bessie are technically simple yet so evocative.
ELUCID – Spellling
Another standout track is “Sardonyx”, a posse cut featuring frequent collaborators Billy Woods, Quelle Chris, and Pink Siifu. Simply a lyrical bout – which Woods arguably steals with some of his most casual, fun wordplay in recent memory -, its great to see yet another track with all of these artists who have dropped album of the year contenders already (check out our reviews of Aethiopes and Deathfame). Meanwhile, Woods also appears on stellar tracks produced by Kenny Segal and The Alchemist, further defining not only the duo’s constant connection, but an entire scene’s.
Other highlights include “Split Tongue”, a slow, harrowing track where Elucid seems to narrate his artistic process; “Old Magic”, which addresses recent shootings and tragedies, especially the hate crime in Buffalo as he mentions in an interview with KEXP; and “Smile Lines”, where he chronicles the ups and downs of life in the hood.
At this point, anybody who discredits Elucid as a rapper and artist needs to wake up. His solo catalog hangs with the best of the best in abstract hiphop, and I Told Bessie is a prime display of versatility and introspection.