Industrial Hip-Hop at it's Finest: a Night with Armand Hammer

If you have paid attention to the underground Hip-Hop scene in the past decade, Armand Hammer will be a familiar name to you. The industrial Hip-Hop duo, comprised of New York MCs Billy Woods and Elucid, have been touring their critically acclaimed 2023 release We Buy Diabetic Test Strips since October. Their stop at Bar le Ritz this past Sunday was a fantastic display of the scenes' respect for these two cult legends. 

The sold-out Montreal crowd was a strange one, very telling of Armand Hammer's diverse fanbase; an eclectic mix of fans, some of whom have been listening to both the rapper's solo and collaborative work for over 10 years, and others who had heard nothing past the singles. This made for interesting energy, as the intimate venue was packed from stage to bar, a seemingly rare case for the underground Hip-Hop scene in this city.

What really pulled the crowd together was the electric opening performance from Quinton Barnes, a Montreal multi-hyphenate who is supremely talented in production, singing, writing and rapping. With a sound reminiscent of early JPEGMAFIA works, sprinkled with inspiration from artists like Injury Reserve and Armand Hammer, the young artist blessed the crowd with a brief 15-minute performance. Jumping from the brutally industrial queer anthem “Wild Man”, to the synth-heavy rnb cut “Arouse”, Barnes delivered a performance that reminded me of watching Teezo Touchdown open for Tyler, The Creator’s 2021 tour; a true artist, someone who has put in unimaginable time and effort honing their craft, on the verge of blowing up. By all means, Quinton Barnes is a veritable talent powder keg. 

Barnes' unbridled energy made for an interesting switch to the thought-provoking, gloomy tone that would continue for the rest of the evening. Still, if anyone can pull off a shift like that it's Armand Hammer, and pull it off they did. Coming out of the gate with 4 songs off of We Buy Diabetic Test Strips, then subsequently launching into a wide collection of older songs, features, and both rappers’ solo work, the duo spat bar after bar of profound lyricism accompanied by some of the gloomiest, dirtiest beats to ever grace Bar le Ritz.

The sound crafted by this legendary duo feels violently disjointed and jarring, with both woods’ and Elucid’ flows and lyrics twisting and contorting through bone-shaking instrumentals with a sort of industrial grace. The best example of this was the performance of “Trauma Mic,” off of the duo's newest 2023 release. On the foundation of the blaring 808 patterns that visibly shook the stage, both rappers spit bleak verses, chronicling their own hopeless reflections on the current state of Hip-Hop. Despite the dreary atmosphere, there remained an energy in the venue that I have found present at most of Montreal's underground Hip-Hop shows; an air of respect and appreciation for the pure artistry of the duo's music. While the genre that Amand Hammer operates under is not the type of music to bust a move to or to break into a mosh pit to, the crowd seemed more than happy to nod their heads and absorb the undeniable talent and industrial charisma that oozes from woods’ and Elucid’s hypnotic performance. 

Although underground Hip-Hop may not be for everyone, it would be foolish for any enjoyer of music to write off the genre-bending phenomenon that is Armand Hammer. In the words of a 56-year-old dad accompanying his teenage son to the show this past Sunday, “I had no idea what to expect, but god did those guys kick ass.” Check out Armand Hammer’s new album, We Buy Diabetic Test Strips here, and billy woods’ collab album with producer Kenny Segal, Maps here


Photos by Maureen Elisa


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