Sometimes it is easy to tell when a rapper is just in it for the fame. The opposite can also be evident, when a rapper raps for the craft of it. Balancing the two of these pillars is often the most difficult task an artist can have when they achieve some kind of success. One route is to ditch the fame and go anonymous, allow no pictures or videos of your face to come to light and attempt to direct people solely to the music. Perhaps made most famous by MF DOOM with his trademark mask, there are others who hide from the limelight as much as possible. Rapper Billy Woods, real name unknown, does not allow his face to be published, despite a now fairly lengthy and prolific career in music. As a result of his reclusive habits, Woods plays shows fairly rarely. Thankfully, Billy Woods came to his hometown of Washington D.C. to play a show at DC9 with frequent collaborator ELUCID and local D.C. artist Nappy Nappa.
The evening began with Nappy Nappa’s performance. The Southeast D.C. native managed to hype up the small crowd of a couple dozen people with his music and energy. The set helped set the tone for the show to come, with big energy in the relatively short time period. A notable moment of the set came when Nappa accidentally stepped on the cord to his microphone and unplugged it. He managed to keep the set going by shouting his lyrics into the small venue as he slowly fixed the microphone.
Next up was New York rapper and frequent Billy Woods collaborator ELUCID. Together, the two artists make up the rap duo Armand Hammer, which has been releasing music since about 2013. ELUCID’s esoteric flows and lyrics match well with his instrumentals to create a hip-hop lecture-type experience. Understanding everything in either ELUCID or Billy Woods lyrics requires close, repeated listens, as well as years of experience and knowledge. ELUCID’s performance was what one might expect listening to his records, nearly pitch perfect to the recordings. Despite ELUCID’s winding flows and intricate style of delivery, there were still some in the crowd who were capable of mouthing nearly every lyric, demonstrating that there are plenty of fans willing to put in the effort it takes to accomplish this with such a style.
Shortly after ELUCID finished his set, Billy Woods took the stage with him, and they performed a few Armand Hammer tracks, much to the audience’s liking. Afterward, ELUCID sank to the corner of the stage and watched most of Billy Woods’ set along with the rest of the audience. Unlike most audiences, very few of the people in attendance chose to watch the concert through their phones. Of course, a few videos and photos were snapped by members in the crowd, but mostly the audience was respectful of Billy Woods’ camera shyness. Even after the show when Billy Woods stayed around to speak to the audience, no one asked for selfies. Performance-wise, Billy Woods is as sharp as one could imagine. Dancing over his instrumentals with dark, yet witty stories and rhymes, Woods is clearly a veteran rapper, regardless of how often he shows up in any given city.