ELUCID Makes It Weird and Wild on I Told Bessie

Chaz Hall, aka ELUCID, grew up in Queens, Jamaica and currently resides in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. But in the interim, he lived with his grandmother. So his latest release, I Told Bessie, is a tribute to her influence on his musical development. And what a tribute it is. Experientially, this album feels like spending 40 minutes on the hallucinogenic water-ride in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if David Lynch produced a hip-hop album, this is it.

ELUCID is one half of the rap duo Armand Hammer, who along with billy woods have released some of the best hip-hop of the last several years including 2021’s Haram and 2020’s Shrines. Both woods and ELUCID dropped solo joints this year, with billy woods’ excellent Aethiopes released in April.

ELUCID serves as both producer and emcee on I Told Bessie. Production-wise, this album is a trip. Listening to it feels like taking a grimy, sonic acid trip through ELUCID’s mind. ELUCID has tapped into some of the more avant-garde production styles of artists like The Alchemist, who collaborated with Armand Hammer on Haram. In the process, he created something darkly exciting. I Told Bessie is a twisted, disorienting experience that begs repeat listens to fully absorb everything.

As with modern hip-hop production trends, some tracks heavily feature drums while others let the absence of a beat act as the beat itself. For folks who listen mostly to mainstream hip-hop (or no hip-hop at all) this aesthetic might be uncomfortable. But it’s been a feature of underground hip-hop for at least the last few years (see the aforementioned Alchemist and R.A.P. Ferreira as great examples).

I have to talk about the track “Smile Lines.” The drumbeats and guitar parts sound like a warped version of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” Take a listen and tell me I’m wrong. Since hip-hop uses samples as an artistic tool of expression, there’s no way this was accidental. It takes an especially brave and eccentric mind to translate a Sabbath track in a way that sounds like underground hip-hop rather than rap-rock.

There’s not a lot of narrative connective-tissue in ELUCID’s storytelling on I Told Bessie. The lyrics are mostly free-verse exploration of his life and surroundings Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t pay attention to the words. Musical poetry doesn’t always need to make immediate sense to resonate with impact. Just try to briefly explain any of Kurt Cobain’s lyrics without diving deep into his various biographies and journals. I’ll wait.

The Guest spots are calculated and intentional, which make their appearance especially powerful. billy woods shows up four times. Pink Siifu and Quelle Chris drop some especially impressive bars on “Sardonix.” The guest rappers compliment ELUCID in a way that highlights everyone’s talents. But this is still very much an ELUCID joint.

If willing to try something different, I mean really different, then give I Told Bessie a shot. It’s a wild, unsettling ride. But who doesn’t need to be unsettled from time to time? Otherwise, life gets boring. Follow ELUCID on Instagram and stream I Told Bessie HERE.   

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