woods: But also: What are you gonna do after that? [all laugh] Are we gonna have another song? If you write it, then cool, but don’t make it my job to come up with another song after it.
Being physically separated, was it hard to get on the same page in terms of topic, theme, mood?
woods: I’d say it’s the same as always, man. It runs the gamut. Sometimes there’s been no conversation; sometimes there’s a conversation that the other person seems to have ignored [laughs]. And then other times it’s just a title: with “Sir Benni Miles,” Elucid just said the name.
Elucid: Then something like “Black Sunlight”: we had that Terror Management release show, and MIKE played. I saw MIKE on stage and was like, ‘MIKE is a star.’ The way he moves, his pocket when he rhymes… and he smiled a lot. He smiled a lot. I remembered that. Like, ‘Damn, he has the best smile out here!’ That’s originally how “Black Sunlight” came to be. [Elucid raps the opening bar of his verse: an impassioned “Smile, niggas”] I was talking about MIKE. That was the inspiration.
And then, Al, when you’re getting these demos back, are you talking to them to get at the root of what they’re saying, or are you taking them in more impressionistically?
Alchemist: I think it’s both. Sometimes I’ll ask ‘em questions, or sometimes I’ll talk to Thebe, who’s my translator because he’s as lyrically inclined as they are. These guys are incredible writers, but don’t get it twisted, because they make it bounce on the beat. Elucid’s rhythms is like…
Elucid: That shit is so important, man.
Alchemist: I describe him to people as dangerous all the time. He’s just dangerous. He’s cutting and slicing in ways, rhythmically and melodically, that are so different.
Elucid: It’s gotta be funky. I grew up in that era of, you know, late-90s, early-2000s type of rap, where I love wordy, knotty, dense rap. But a lot of times you listen to that and go, ‘Oh, it’s just too much: y’all not as funky as you could be, with the delivery and how you’re landing on the beat and how you’ll stop and start.’ I’m really into that. I think loving both sides is getting at what Al’s talking about.
Yeah, speaking of that sense of danger: on “Indian Summer,” woods opens with a verse that alludes to this mounting dread, then Elucid comes on like that dread manifested.
Elucid: I was summoned.
woods: That’s one of my favorite songs on there. I remember when we got that beat I was like––
Alchemist: Qadry Ismail?! I’d never heard a Qadry Ismail reference before.
Elucid: Oh man, that’s one of my favorite wide receivers as a kid!
All three of you have catalogs going back years, but it seems like the pace of work is accelerating [this is the fourth Armand Hammer album in 40 months], and you’re on such runs––
woods: Al’s on his own run. Al is Marlon Brando in the flower garden. It’s all done! It’s all in the books! [all laugh] From here on out it doesn’t matter. He already won it all. All the enemies are vanquished.
Elucid: They’re drafting apology emails right now.
Alchemist: I’m excited for this album to come out, I can’t front. I’ve been telling them for weeks. It was ready toward the end of last year, we were just getting it mastered and mixed, and I was like, ‘Damn, we’re sitting on something great.’ For me, I want to fuck people up. This is exciting to me.