January 9, 2013

Billy Woods

Billy Woods
The man with no face. The man who would be King. William Woods Esquire. Code name Bodega. History will absolve him. One of Backwoodz Studioz premiere artists, home to albums released by himself, Super Chron Flight Brothers (Billy Woods & Privilege), Vordul Mega (of Cannibal Ox), Invizzbl Men (Marq Spekt & Karniege), A.M. Breakups, Willie Green and more. Google the track “Gourmet”. I met Billy Woods in 2008 and still have no idea what he looks like at all really.

Talk to us about History Will Absolve Me. What’s your two favorite tracks?

Man, that is tough. It changes on the regular and honestly, it’s the type of album that you put so much shit into, and for so long, that picking a favorite song is really a questionable undertaking. But that being what it is, right today, probably “The Man Who Would Be King” and “The Wake”. The former because the idea is something I had been trying to do for a long time and to finally get the execution right was a big moment for me. Plus the fact that the chorus is Kipling and the beat is sampled from one of my favorite movies as a child, and one that also connects to the subject of colonialism…it all just comes together where I really don’t think the song could be better. Or at least, I couldn’t do it any better. And “The Wake” because I think there is an essential truth I managed to grasp there, that again, I had been trying to do for a long time.

A lot of people have HWAM on their Best of 2012 list, what’s it like to have an indie rap album with a buzz in the world today?

Ha. No one knows who I am, let’s be real. That said, I am humbled by the people who have really fallen in love with this record and drawn attention to it. Don’t get it twisted, I am really grateful for everyone who is a fan or even just dug a track. The hope that someone will find some meaning in this is why I do it. It’s also rewarding to have some of my peers tell me they felt the record. Like any artist, I want to be respected in what I do. I am not trying to just be “okay” or “not bad”, I want greatness. So yeah, there are people who I think really highly of that have contacted me or publicly praised the record where it definitely made my day or week or year. But “buzz”? I think that word is probably overstating it by quite a bit. If I have a “buzz” right now, I don’t know about it.

Say something nice about the following 4 producers:

Bond – So underrated. So crucial to everything this label did for so long. We came into this together so there is a way that his beats compliment my rhymes that I will probably never find elsewhere. I’m sitting on what might be our last track together right now. Gotta find a home for it.

Marmaduke – Long time friend and musical collaborator. A guy who I can send ANY sample to, and get a beat back. Some people will be like “I dunno about this one” (and sometimes that is with good reason haha) but he will always make something and send it back. Dude is creative as fuck and is never scared to take hip-hop beats to leftfield. Like that skit on Operation Doomsday, “he sure thinks up the weirdies”

Willie Green – Best drums in the business. Best engineer I have ever encountered. Top 5 beatmaker. Clippers need to sit him down though.

A.M. Breakups – A prime example of what happens when talent meets a willingness to work hard at your craft. Lots of people have talent. Not everyone is down for the grind. Not everyone is willing to set their ego aside and really say, I need to get better and then actually put in the work. AM is a really dope producer who is constantly, constantly improving. Proud of that kid.

What are your feelings on the state of music right now.

Like everything in the world for the duration of my life, some good, some bad.


I couldn’t help but notice that “Lone Gunman” on Deleted Scenes was a diss track to Privilege of Super Chron Flight Brothers, can you shed some light on this?

I guess you could call it a diss track. I was really just speaking my mind on some shit that went down that is all pretty straightforward in the song, and it’s no point to really rehash it because you can just go listen to the track. I don’t think of it so much as a diss thing because that wasn’t just a dude I rapped with, that was like family for me, so the issue really had little to do with “rap”. I write shit that’s on my mind partially so I am not carrying all these feelings around upset about something that is water under the bridge. I don’t think about that shit now really at all. People ask me what’s up with dude and I’m like I don’t know and although I am curious, I honestly don’t care anymore. Life goes on. HWAM was the exorcism of a pretty tough couple years there for me, a lot of betrayals (real and imagined), a lot of losses, a lot of fear and anger, so to go back now seems unproductive. I said it on the opening track- “Broke up on impact/I swam from the wreckage”. It was sink or swim and I swam. At this point I wish dude the best and if he ever contacts me to speak on it, we can do that but honestly we could never be friends or associates or nothing so regardless of what, he is not part of my present or future.

What’s your favorite strain of weed or is that “some white-boy shit” & not make a difference?

Right now? Hmm, I’m visiting cats out on the West Coast at the moment but honestly haven’t been blown away by anything yet. It’s early though and I was in the Pacific Northwest where people never know what the strains are, it seems. But my top 5 in no particular order would be:

Any “pure” Haze (it’s basically impossible to get the real thing nowadays but I got hooked up recently and it was just as crazy as I remembered. Probably won’t see it again. Even in Amsterdam it’s some watered down hybrid fakemeout Haze that just doesn’t have that smell, taste and high of the real thing)
Blue Cheese
Headband (or a dope OG or Sour)
Blue Dream
Grand Daddy Purple

I also really like the Louis XIV strain but only had it a couple times. I really need to try a couple things like the Blueberry Yum or Chocolate Kush but haven’t yet so it might be hype.

billy woods feat. Zesto – B More

Are government trees the best?

It’s pretty clear that the private sector makes the best weed, no? I guess I’m in the Tea Party now…

Are you riding the weed-rapper wave or do you just really like weed?

I was rapping about weed before there was a weed rapper weed and people were asking me if I was riding the “political rapper” wave hahaha. I eagerly await being asked if I am riding the “food rapper” wave in a year or two or the “literary wave” after that or whatever people come up with. I just rap about the things around me or that I think of or my life or other people’s lives but even if I could figure out the next “wave” to ride, I just can’t see myself being successful doing that. At all. I have never been the most popular kid in school, I am not that person that everyone can relate to, no point trying to fit in now when I am old as fuck. What am I gonna do, start riding skateboards or trying to rock crazy kicks or skinny jeans? So, no, I am not a weed rapper or political rapper or conspiracy rapper or food rapper or whatever else.

I hear you’re doing a project with Elucid, very exciting, tell us about that.

Me and Elucid are doing a record as a group called Armand Hammer. The album is called RACE MUSIC. He is one of the best rappers out right now. People need to check his new tape Bird Eat Snake and his shit due at the top of the year with A.M. Breakups, Cult Favorite. It’s been both a lot of fun and a serious challenge working with Elucid, just a really talented guy who never, ever, ever spits an aiite rhyme. Ever. To say he keeps me on my toes would be a significant understatement. The stuff we have recorded so far is really exciting to me, it’s going to be different, if nothing else.

I also heard you’re doing a project with Blockhead, sick, how’s that coming along?

The Blockhead record is basically done. It’s called Dour Candy. We gotta wrap up a couple loose ends when I get back to the city, and hopefully it will be out early next year. It’s my first one producer, one rapper album and it has been a really different experience. Block is a really chill dude, easygoing, and it has all gone pretty smoothly, where it’s like damn, shit is done already! But I am really excited about it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is I am a big fan of his production and discography. It’s also going to be interesting to see how people respond to it because whatever theoretical “buzz” HWAM has created, this record is completely different in concept, structure, mood, guests and even how I wrote my verses. So to drop this project in the wake of a definitive solo record, in collaboration with someone who already has their own much bigger fan base with it’s own expectations, I am very curious to see how people react and who likes or doesn’t like it and for what reasons. I fucks with it though, and honestly, I am really looking forward to finishing it up, mixing it and shooting a video. The lead single is one of the best songs I ever did. Easily.

Sizzla Kalonji, best to ever do it?

No. Peter and Bob. Gregory Isaacs. It’s a few, but in his generation, I would probably say Sizzla, yeah. I’m a big fan of Black Woman & Child, if you want a specific record.