Aethiopes

by billy woods & Preservation

Released April 8, 2022 via Backwoodz Studioz

Reviewed April 21, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Remorseless (46%), No Hard Feelings (43%), Sauvage (32%)

billy woods has been one of the greatest MCs for over a decade now, and his latest release is his best yet. Aethiopes is the epitome of an album to ponder on slowly, as every line is a complex sequence adding to a grander picture that provides each listen with more meaning than the last. Instrumentally, it’s one of the most dynamic, abstract sets of beats I’ve ever heard. Screeching horns, harmonica fills, Asian based strings, African drum beats, atonal piano, and soul vocals are just a handful of the pieces that stand out, but every single beat has an exciting, off-kilter vibe. This is thanks to the dynamic work of Preservation, whose ear for otherworldly samples and black futurist concepts is nothing short of astounding. woods perfectly accents these abstract instrumentals by spitting the most prophetic work of his career to date; it really is just a case of him getting better over time. Every time it seems impossible for him to outdo himself lyrically, yet he steps it up a notch. The feature list is stacked with eloquently selected guests; everyone from El-P, Elucid and Fatboi Sharif to Quelle Chris and Boldy James meet the challenge of rapping over a truly unique set of beats. Aethiopes is a modern masterwork, a rare case where the hunger from everyone associated with it is felt fully, and only further blooms with each listen. – Jared (10/10)


No stranger to traversing the dimmer territories of simply existing, billy woods yet again throws listeners into a disorienting and enlightening frenzy of overextended verses, dramatic negative spaces, and painstaking lyricism on Aethiopes. This time accompanied by the remarkably unconventional and meticulous production of Preservation, the newest album from perhaps the most underrated M.C. of all time is a juxtaposition of fresh, airy instrumentals and dense writing delving into the dreadful realism and multilayered beauty blanketing the Black consciousness. The intentionality with which woods weaves in and out of Preservation’s masterful sample-work brings a palpable life to the record, turning 40 minutes of pure hip-hop into an experience that’s equally felt, heard, and remembered. The group of artists that feature on the record provide moments of swagger, intensity, humor; grounding elements that pull the album out of its concept to remind the listener that the themes are real and true. As is typical with billy woods records, Aethiopes feels both ahead of its time and like a long lost relic, and whether the sound is old or new, it is unmistakably important. – Pax (9.3/10)


billy woods partners with Preservation in what can only be described as a stripped back, bare bones affair. Void of any listenable qualities, Aethiopes is like dealing with the truth in its purest form: Potentially confusing and unsettling, but ultimately soul-soothing. Aethiopes lives by the principle of “less is more.” When done right, simplicity wins the day each and every time. The complexities arrive when wrapping your head around the material comes into the equation. The barren, desolate beats leave sufficient space for woods’ philosophical bearings to ferment. His words carry a weight equivalent to two tonnes tied around the ankles; dense verbiage in the abstract is rarely done this well. Summarizing something that evades any typical characteristics is a difficult task. Living outside the box, the mind finds it hard to grasp at metaphysical straws. – Peter (8.5/10)


Jared: 10/10 | Pax: 9.3/10 | Ben (Synth): 9/10 | Alan: 8.5/10 | DeVán: 8.5/10

Peter: 8.5/10 | Cam: 8.3/10 | Dominick: 8.2/10