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Baker's Dozen

Origin Story: Billy Woods' Favourite Albums
Zachary Lipez , May 24th, 2023 08:25

As he releases acclaimed new album Maps alongside Kenny Segal, underground hip hop mainstay Billy Woods takes tQ through the thirteen records that have defined his life, from Goodie Mob to Ghostface Killah


MF Doom – Operation Doomsday

The singles were coming out from MF Doom, the first one I heard is probably the original version of ‘Dead Bent’, then ‘Doomsday’ came out, early versions which sound different. The lyrics have little changes here and there, the delivery is different. Doom sounded a little more drunk. I fucked with those, and I thought they were cool songs, and then when the album came out, I remember just being like, ‘Oh okay, I'm going to check for this.’ It just blew me away from the jump. It was revelatory. Not to say that he was the first person to do them, but so many things really stuck in my mind. One of them was the third person, talking about himself from the point of view of another, like he was a character in the story he was telling. That was something that was crazy original to me. And the deftness of the rhymes, the style of the production, the originality of it all, the humor under which lay this lake of pain and sorrow, and unapologetic radical Black politics which themselves are undercut by some street realism. It just all worked so completely for me. It has so many levels and I could listen to it for so long. I was captivated.

This is the era of enhanced CDs, and I didn't even have a computer. So I had to go to my friend's house to put it in. There was a video for ‘I Hear Voices’ on there, so that was the version I was originally introduced to and remains my favorite version. It definitely directly influenced how I wrote rhymes for the period following it. It takes a little while to realise you can't do it like that. And not only that, I wasn't going to be successful just trying to do Doom. I guess a lucky thing for me is that I had a perspective that I thought – or rather I knew, because it was true – was unique.