Toward the end of my hourlong chat with ELUCID, the crux of his excellent third solo LP I Told Bessie came to me after unsuccessfully reaching for its essence: It’s a New York rap record from the future.
I Told Bessie is a titular ode to his beloved paternal grandmother who passed away in 2017, the matriarch who watched westerns on television, gave her grandson a foundation in the rich cultural history of Blackness, and listened to the origins of ELUCID from a different room in the Crown Heights brownstone they lived in together for a spell.
Moreover, the full-length outstretches past the Brooklyn neighborhood and along the train routes of the entire city. “Jamaica, Queens; Strong Island; JFK; Sonic Boom; all the places I’ve been,” as ELUCID recites over the wobbly grace of the beat for opener “Spelling.” Sections of New York enshrined by the scores of Black artists who have roamed those streets and witnessed the city in all its splendor.
“Bessie heard all my raps,” said ELUCID about his time living with her. “She’d hear me screaming at two in the morning, two in the afternoon. She heard all those spells being cast, you know?” ELUCID speaks of those years being formative for him as an MC, “and Bessie’s hearing the makings of ELUCID in 2022. She’s hearing the formulations right there. She’s smelling the weed brownies being baked. She’s smelling the Chocolate Thai being burned; she’s there for all of this.”
I Told Bessie also serves as an ode to New York, with multiple allusions to city streets like Nostrand Avenue (“Where all the old players get their gators, and their Clarks, and their pastel suits”) and Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, memorialized on the album’s final track, where ELUCID recalls choking on a Starlight Mint outside of the church he attended as a child.
With a laugh, he says he doesn’t remember anyone trying to pat his back or turn him upside down.
ELUCID represents a new generation of New York rappers alongside his Armand Hammer partner-in-rhyme, billy woods, who appears on four of the album’s tracks and is releasing the full-length (as usual) on woods’ Backwoodz Studioz label. When wrapping up our full album breakdown of I Told Bessie, which you can listen to above, we talked about the album being part of the lineage of hip-hop of New York, the birthplace of the genre.
“I would probably [say it’s] a New York record that could have been.”