Conway the Machine Sticks to His Signature Cadence on 'La Maquina'
Published Apr 16, 2021One of the most important — yet least discussed — tools in a rapper's arsenal is beat selection. A decent wordsmith can elevate himself to greatness with a keen ear. Conversely, a superior emcee can stagnate his own success by rhyming over ill-suited instrumentals.
Conway the Machine prides himself as a workingman's lyricist, the member of the über-prolific three-headed monster known as Griselda who's deadliest with the darts. As Conway spits here, on the anthemic "6:30 Tip Off": "They say Wes is the brains behind it, and Benny is the star / But let's not act like Machine ain't the silliest with the bars."
Keeping in line with that tact, of wanting the listener's emphasis placed on his sticky punchlines, Conway has become an expert at curating grimy beats — and beatmakers — that bang hard but leave plenty of space to let his signature drawl, which comes in part from his Bell's palsy, dominate. "I ain't sparin' no feelings when my pen is movin'/ I been in shootin's and sent men to intensive units," he blurts on "Clarity."
The hustle-first mentality that Conway and co. hardened on the streets of Buffalo has informed Griselda's full-throttle attack on the record release schedule. Invigorated since signing with Eminem's Shady Records, Conway keeps appetites whet for his major-label splash with La Maquina, his fifth solo project in a relentless 13-month span. Unlike recent one-producer projects with the Alchemist (2020's LULU) and February's If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed with Big Ghost Ltd., La Maquina sees Conway leaning on his expanded network of boardsmen.
Familiar talents like Bangladesh, Don Cannon, Murda Beatz and go-to Griselda sound designer Daringer all contribute. And the stylistic variance in sounds — from Alchemist's lazy-hazy "200 Pies" to Cosmo Beats' upbeat, horn-punched "Grace" — gives fresh texture to Conway's couplets, which seldom steers from guns, girls and greatness. Oh, and sports references. Lots of sports references.
It's the lesser-known J.R. Swift who produces two of the most addictive tracks on the record: sparse, head-nodding opener "Bruiser Brody," and the superb "Sister Abigail," a posse cut featuring Conway's Drumwork signees Jae Skeese and 7xvethegenius. Both are Buffalo talents with promising futures.
Conn's Day Ones, Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn, shine on the LP's guitar-licked finale, "S.E. Gang," and our host makes it clear that just because he's branching off with his own imprint doesn't mean there's any ill will inside the family. "I started Drumwork, people think it's beef with my brother / Maybe every endeavour we supposed to eat with each other," Conway raps on "Bruiser Brody." "Fuck what they think and fuck they options / We jumpin' in Benzes."
For the most part, Conway sticks to his signature cadence throughout this tight, 40-minute rip. So, those rare excursions where he stretches outside his vocal comfort range are much welcome. On "KD," Conway flips his take on Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" flow from 2017 and has a blast doing so. More challenging is his flirt with speed rap on the compelling cameo combo "Scatter Brain" with J.I.D and Ludacris. Conway, batting leadoff, may be the least nimble of the trio, while J.I.D.'s effortlessness wins the day. But it's creative pushes like this we're hoping to hear more of when Conway's official Shady splash, God Don't Make Mistakes, finally arrives.
We already know he'll choose dope beats. (Drumwork / Griselda)