Armand Hammer @ Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh, 10 Sep
DJ Taye, Kenny Segal and Armand Hammer bring a night of refreshing hip-hop to Sneaky's
“This place is a little sweatbox, huh? ...I like it,” opines Billy Woods upon taking the wee Sneaky's stage, summing up the intimate, charged nature of the venue perfectly. It's an endearing place, but it's hard to articulate exactly why. Before that, DJ Taye kicks things off with a loose set that veers from heavy Chicago footwork (Teklife and DJ Rashad get several shoutouts) to more traditional rap joints, with time for frenetic juke breaks every ten minutes or so.
Kenny Segal follows, entering to the Bob Ross theme music then incorporating samples of the happy little treemaster throughout his set. Like Ross and his art, Segal has an intricate style when creating beats, building each disparate sound and seamlessly bringing them together until his soundworlds take on a life of their own. A few Jefferson Park Boys jams bring us neatly to Armand Hammer, who've been waiting stage-side, eager for their turn.
Elucid and Billy Woods kick off hard with an energetic Rehearse with Ornette, bouncing around the stage and playing off each other with a smoothness that comes from a year on tour (tonight is the last of their UK run). The beats are a little swampy to begin with, and the crowd is oddly thin at the front, though the place is generally pretty full. But the Paraffin bangers keep coming, with the duo's lyrical dexterity on full display, especially on songs like Hunter and Vindaloo.
Pakistani Brain is a rare older cut (from 2017's Rome) that perfectly encapsulates Woods' MC Ride-esque energy, swinging from a chatty, chipper presence to an unhinged prowler yelping quickfire shout-raps. Kenny Segal makes a return towards the end to provide some beats from the recent Woods/Segal joint album Hiding Places, bringing some of the biggest hits of the night. Spongebob, Red Dust and finally Spider Hole find the sweet spot between Woods' anguished delivery and the deceptively dark, wry lyrics behind the howls.
Each performance skirts around the 45-minute mark, making for a lean, concise night with minimal fluff. There's barely time to catch your breath between sets and each artist mills around during the others' shows, and are happy to chat afterwards (and flog a bit of merch). It's a refreshing attitude that's rarely seen amongst the egotistical posturing and dragged-out DJ sets that populate so many UK hip-hop nights.