I Told Bessie is the third solo album from New York City rapper/producer Chaz Hall aka ELUCID. The title is a reference to his paternal grandmother, Bessie Hall, a powerful presence in his life until she passed away in 2017. From childhood afternoons running around her apartment in the Red Hook projects, to living under the same roof in Crown Heights when he was a young man, Bessie was an axis on which Hall’s family turned.
“I remember her silver afro like a halo atop her head. I remember the Westerns that were always on television in the living room. I remember. I remember her pouring early ideals of Black consciousness into me. I remember the stories and lore,” ELUCID says.
While best known as one-half of critically acclaimed duo Armand Hammer, ELUCID has also built an impressive resume of other collaborations and side projects over the past decade: Small Bills with multi-instrumentalist producer The Lasso (Mello Music), Nostrum Grocers with R.A.P. Ferreira (Ruby Yacht), Dirtee Deacon with Von Pea (Blonde Medicine), and self-produced experimental work like Valley of Grace, Bernadette, and Seership. His debut LP Save Yourself dropped in 2016 on Backwoodz Studioz and still holds up as one of the best releases in the label’s catalogue. It’s fitting that ELUCID returns to fertile ground for I Told Bessie, a record of such confidence and power that it feels like a culmination.
“I was staying with Bessie in Crown Heights, still early in my music journey—probably leading through the Progress mixtape and up to the Smash & Grab days—and she’d hear me scream rap into a closet at all hours of the day and night. We would read the newspaper and talk shit about Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD. It was a pivotal time in my life and she was an important part of that, even just by letting me live there.”
I Told Bessie features guests Pink Siifu, Quelle Chris, and billy woods. The album’s production is handled by Child Actor, The Alchemist, P.U.D.G.E., Sebb Bash, The Lasso, Kenny Segal, August Fanon, and Messiah Musik. It’s an impressive roster of producers, all of whom add something to the hard-hitting funk of this record’s ever-warping sonics. Add to that the talents of engineer Willie Green, who helped build this from the ground up. Every song was recorded, mixed, and mastered at The Greenhouse, a process that helped shape a cohesive sound from disparate sources. Executive produced by billy woods and ELUCID, I Told Bessie is dedicated to its eponymous matriarch.
“Since she left this plane, I have felt her presence and voice in my life more than ever,” says ELUCID. With this album I want to pay tribute to her and acknowledge her continuing impact on my life path.”