Billy Woods, 'Known Unknowns'
Rapper Billy Woods is a familiar but under-appreciated name, with a catalog dating back to the early Aughts and New York's pre-Beast Coast underground. Known Unknowns alludes to Woods' unheralded reputation while also announcing his intentions to finally reach a wider audience. He casually raps about "zero merch sales," clueless undercover cops and diehard fans who "know every verse" on the whimsical "Police Came to My Show." He flips the names of rap icons like Nas and Kool G. Rap into a lament of fading hip-hop values on "Superpredator," and trades bars with fellow NYC heads Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman on "Wonderful." He rhymes in knotty language and makes twisty narratives, and producer Blockhead adds a muddy boom-bap element, making sure the music bumps even as Woods' verses whizz past. Mosi Reeves