Armand Hammer and The Alchemist headlined Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage on Sunday, August 15, showcasing underground rap from their latest record Haram. The lineup for the day was rounded out by an opening DJ set from GENG PTP, followed by short sets from Moor Mother and Fielded.
As with most SummerStage shows, the evening started off with a series of short films, including a two minute short Pumbucha in which a low-level influencer tries to push a disgusting beverage that only causes them physical and emotional pain. After the film, DJ and producer GENG PTP took to the stage to spin original songs and classic hits, including “All Caps” in tribute to the late MF DOOM (remember, all caps when you spell the man’s name). During the set, underground rapper AKAI SOLO joined in and performed “Nebula” and “True Truths” off of his records Eleventh Wind and Mad Space respectively.
Next up was genre-defying poet and multi instrumentalist Moor Mother. Blending spoken word poetry with avant-garde and jazz influenced beats and soundscapes, Moor Mother delivers a powerful and thought provoking performance. Standing at the front of the stage, she fervently echoed the mantra “WE ARE STANDING ON GRAVES,” echoing a similar plea from the SummerStage public announcer before the show to honor the native lands and burial grounds our cities are built upon. Moor Mother is currently putting out and featured on some of the most cutting edge music, much of which is available on her BandCamp page.
Fielded took the stage next and delivered a short set of lighter pop tunes. The three-piece band provided a bit of change of pace for the night, but sandwiched between the high energy and cerebral performances of Moor Mother and Armand Hammer, Fielded soothed the crowd and allowed the evening to take on a different atmosphere as the sun was setting. The singer from Fielded would also later make an appearance to provide vocals on a song for Armand Hammer.
Armand Hammer is the collaborative project of underground rappers Billy Woods and Elucid. The duo occupy a really specific sub-genre within the rap umbrella. Cerebral and relenting lyrical flow is delivered over more minimal but psychedelic beat patterns laced with horns and ambient loops. The instrumentals here serve more of a mood-setting purpose while the lyricists engage in a “stream of consciousness” rap style.
Making their LP debut in 2013 with Race Music, the group hit a major stride with 2018’s Paraffin. Hailed as an underground rap opus, this LP brought the duo’s unique style to the forefront and began inspiring a wave of new rappers in the genre. With their latest release Haram, Armand Hammer is joined by heavyweight producer The Alchemist. His inclusion is apparent right at the start of the record, delivering a dark and hypnotic beat on “Sir Benni Miles” to set the mood of the record straight away. Haram explores, in startling detail, the wounds and fear still experienced by African Americans today as a result of colonial slavery and oppression in America. This fear is embedded in the lyrics and instrumentals across the 40-minute runtime of the record.
The group love sharing the stage with their peers, allowing fellow rap duo Shrapknel on stage to perform a couple of their songs. The whole night was a showcase of the exciting artists on Backwoodz Studios, all the artists who performed tonight have releases on the label.
Concerts right now are nothing short of a spiritual experience. After 18 months of isolation and fear due to the pandemic, being at a concert today is both daring but rewarding. Getting back to the enjoyment of a concert while being safe and cognizant of what is still going on is incredibly important at this time. Artists on stage are acutely aware of this, and seeing these artists take the stage again after all this time you can’t help but feel the energy emanating from them. After a couple of songs, Elucid was so caught up in the performance he desperately pleaded to the sound engineers, “I need more volume up here man, this is a physical experience right now,” a sentiment that was on clear display amongst the audience.
Next up for Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage is a very special benefit show with Common this coming Sunday, August 22nd. The show is supported by exciting hip hop artist Rapsody. We will be there – make sure to check back for a photo gallery and review of that show. All upcoming SummerStage shows will require proof of vaccination along with a government issued ID to gain entry. Make sure to check the individual requirements of any show you plan on attending as vaccine and testing requirements begin to take shape.