As one half of the hugely influential and acclaimed rap duo Armand Hammer (with billy woods), Elucid has built a reputation for himself as one of the most out-there creators in hip-hop, often incorporating elements of noise and experimentalism while rapping in a style that’s built around arcane non-sequiturs that don’t seem to connect on the most obvious levels. Simply put—dude’s music is on another level.
And while I Told Bessie may be more accessible to the uninitiated than some of the previous work of Elucid, it’s still a dense and challenging record. It doesn’t venture as far into straight-up noise as some of his other music, but it’s still an intense 40 minutes of music that demands your full attention and expands Elucid’s surreal dreamworld into something that’s a bit more nuanced and autobiographical.
In the title I Told Bessie, Elucid’s late maternal grandmother Bessie Hall is evoked, as well as his time living with her in Brooklyn. Elucid grew up in Queens, but he’s a Brooklyn boy. For a while, he lived with his grandmother in a Crown Heights brownstone. She taught him about history and listened to him make beats and rhymes upstairs. Now she’s passed on, but her spirit lives on in I Told Bessie.
Both Bessie and New York loom large on the whole project. At times I Told Bessie definitely sounds like a New York rap record, but it isn’t really just that. An exercise in both rap music and experimentation, the album is the latest in a string of recordings that reflect Elucid’s growing interest in abstract lyrical and musical styles. That’s not to say Elucid doesn’t spit hard on this album, because he does — he can still murder a mic—but there’s more to it than that.
With I Told Bessie, Elucid lures us into his world. He guides us along without quite knowing where we’re going and leaving us there to figure out what’s next on our own. Overall, it’s also very reflective of Elucid’s own growth. He continues to improve his craft and broaden the intelligibility of his voice, while still experimenting with song structure and themes, but with more subtlety and nuance than ever before.