by Dan-O & PremRock
I realized Elucid was the FME MVP for 2020 while I was voting for the next president of the United States. I really didn’t want another term for our 45th president. My state has rank choice voting so I buried his name beneath all the other options. Looking at the write in box I thought about Kanye and shook my head. If I could make any rapper the president, who would I pick? A silly exercise, maybe, but it’s my third pick so why not? I kept hearing Elucid’s voice swirling bits of verses in my head. The end of Solarium off the year’s best album Shrines by Elucid and Billy Woods (as Armand Hammer):
Riding shiny rims and tires out the muck and mire
Blues for a new birth, cool world, red earth
They who thirst quench first, faith without works
Dead in the hearse, never under-tally my worth, church
At the same time listening to him close out Safehouse from Don’t Play It Straight, his collaboration with The Lasso (as Small Bills):
Pushin’ through a paradigm with vision into privilege
I’m black satellite, patterns flashin’, move of my volition
A luxury of stillness, for wellness of our children
And just because you have the force on deck
Doesn’t mean that you should wield it
I thought about Scrapes on An Unknown Infinite (Amani + King Vision Ultra) where he talks about the clear blue sky and drags his voice along the scratchy insular beat. “My neighbor drinks Coors in a can and cleans chicken. No red light…they listening.” My inner voice concluded: Elucid cares about people, about us. That’s why he challenges the form. That’s why Small Bills is so purposefully sonically different, why Shrines sounds like nothing else. He cares enough about us to be historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, and musician…griot (credit Bloodmoney Perez for the griot observation). Life doesn’t always fit in the space the art form has available.
So sometimes he chants like on E.T. Diamond (Small Bills). Other times he’s locked in rapping as well as anyone on earth like right after Nosaj’s boisterous hook on Leopards (Shrines). Does he have a great voice? A legendary rapping rasp or buttery singing chops? I…don’t know. No one else has a voice like him, or even close. He sounds like the spirit of Frederick Douglass pulled through a Ouija board. When Billy Woods explained that Elucid writes his verses alone/never with people that made a ton of sense to me. His jokes, anger, references all grow from within that luxury of stillness he spoke about on Safehouse.
So I voted for Elucid and it makes sense. Shrines is my #1 album of 2020. Small Bills is my #5 album of the year. That’s pretty impressive but not complete. My #9 favorite album is Wrecking Crew’s best album ShrapKnel where ten out of the thirteen songs are Elucid beats. This includes the best first song on any album this year, Ghostface Targaryean. The story is that group members, PremRock and Curly Castro, were driven to do the album because of Elucid’s production style. I reached out to PremRock for this reason and asked what specifically ,about that production, spoke to them. His response in full:
For starters I do believe that ELUCID is one of the most important artists of our generation. At times it feels challenging to properly rate people we’ve come to know personally and have an affinity for but there’s no mistaking this with ELUCID.
I have been a fan of his work for close to a decade now and I think he continues to evolve and push himself in ways that produce great results. I noticed his production chops rising during Armand Hammer’s Furtive Movements and then his blueprint is all over “Save Yourself” which for my money is still the definitive project for any parties interested in delving into his work for the first time. I thought his stock as a producer was going to keep rising and not many have rapped over his beats so it made all the sense in the world to step to him with the idea. He’s not a producer with Ableton, two turntables and multiple machines. He’s a natural. He’s a classic example of ear over gear. If he hears it then it’s a keeper, man.
The explanation puts things together. On an old Call Out Culture episode Curly Castro was effusive about the value of Save Yourself (Elucid album from 2016). Once you’ve really listened to it, you can’t go back to before. You know how important he is building as well as leading the song. The masterful cinematic gloom of his 2020 instrumental release SEERSHIP! Is to be expected.
Over the course of the year my timeline was flooded with people speaking respectfully of what he has been able to do. The smartest critics began turning their eye from Woods to Elucid. The artists I know admired him on a deeper level. Beyond the griot status and the ear for production he remained absolutely fearless in his decision making. The best of the best get to trust themselves and keep being right. This is the first year in the history of FME I’ve been able to interview our MVP candidate and I did it before Small Bills even dropped (https://freemusicempire.com/2020/10/28/5-questions-for-elucid/). I heard the singles and knew it was special. I got a chance to stand close to the Launchpad and watch it lift off. We had a shared sense that the artistic “high bar” of 2020…the one that pushed so many artists to new heights, was hefted there by Elucid.
Elucid makes the third straight MVP out of New York. Last year was Griselda, year before that Roc Marciano. You can go back and check, this is not a site with East Coast bias (Gucci Mane was 2012 MVP, Fiend was 2011 MVP) but something is happening. A whole generation raised off indie rap heroes with no drive to fit in because their heroes never did. Elucid could be the next Gil-Scott Heron. Someone with a discography that sticks to you for the rest of your life and resonates well beyond.
Check out Elucid projects below: