This is the 6th full-length LP from New York underground duo Armand Hammer. Consisting of Billy Woods & Elucid, they formed together a decade ago already off their only mixtape Half Measures & the debut album Race Music. The pair would go on to release an EP & 4 more full-lengths worth of abstract political hip hop, with the last one Haram fully produced by The Alchemist becoming the most critically acclaimed within their discography. But after signing to Fat Possum Records recently, these guys are commemorating a decade as a unit in the form of We Buy Diabetic Test Strips.
“Landlines” starts off Armand Hammer’s debut with Fat Possum with JPEGMAFIA behind the boards sampling “No Sleep Tonight” by Mýa clarifying that life’s basically tomorrow’s breakfast & they’re doing ok whereas “Woke Up & Asked Siri How I’m Gonna Die” works in elements of cloud rap as well as wonky & vaportrap talking about not seeing the bottom yet. “The Flexible Unreliability of Time & Memory” goes for a more stripped back sound thanks to Child Actor refusing to believe that certainty is a circle leading into “When It Doesn’t Start With a Kiss” brings Peggy back on the boards yet again delivering a glitch hop vibe asking how it feels.
Cavalier joins billy & Elucid on “Keep a Mirror in My Pocket” to tell those who don’t know their place to get up out of their grills over some heavy vibraphones from Preservation just before the lead single “Trauma Mic” featuring Pink Siifu is an industrial, noise rock crossover cooked up by DJ Haram airing out all motherfuckers who don’t keep they word. “N****rdly (Blocked Call)” gives off a cavernous edge to the beat thanks to August Fanonpumping ketamine through their hearts, but then “The Gods Must Be Crazy” gets a glimpse of El-P mixing elements of glitch hop & noise rap talking about money being no good here.
“Y’all Can’t Stand Right Here” featuring Junglepussy & Moneynicca finds Messiah Musikstripping the drums with co-production from Steel Tipped Dove encouraging y’all to follow the flow paying homage to the late great MF DOOM flipping a line from “Rhymes Like Dimes” while “Total Recall” continues to push their experimental sound further courtesy of Kenny Segal referencing “Nuclear War” by jazz visionary Sun Ra on the hook. Junglepussy returns with Curly Castro for “Empire BLVD” as Willie Green whips up a ghostly boom bap groove telling y’all to watch them go down prior to Black Noi$e giving “Don’t Lose Your Job” featuring Moor Mother & Pink Siifu a mellower sonic approach talking about gas being as high as it is.
The song “Supermooned” is a piano-trap hybrid that Elucid himself produced alongside DJ Haram asking if it’s ok or if it’s over while the penultimate track “Switchboard” talking about knowing that something’s coming even though they can’t see it yet over a trippy Sebb Bash instrumental. On the other hand, “The Key’s Under the Mat” closes out Armand Hammer’s official Fat Possum Records debut by enlisting JPEGMAFIA back on the beats once more except this one’s probably the darkest of his batch talking about how that security deposit ain’t comin’ back after all.
Despite still highly recommending Haram for anyone that isn’t caught up on these guys’ discography yet, We Buy Diabetic Test Strips legitimately happens to be a spiritual successor to Shrines & one that I find myself leaning more towards in comparison to the predecessor. billy & Elucid both examine the way people are navigating through this collapsing system with the production being cohesively gritty yet denser than some of their previous material.