Conway the Machine

In praise of: Bullet ep, Conway the Machine, prod. Mil (Effiscienz, 2016)

Start with the voice, then.

Often non-Black, or more accurately journalists from the middle-class (ie the vast majority of writers writing on the genre it often seems to me, and yep I'm included in this bracket) writing on rap/hip-hop, get themselves twisted up in knots when faced with an MC taking on the voice of the criminal. Or 'gangsta until the day I got to go’ ...

They quote lyrics that sound strange out of context, wonder about authenticity and the lived experience and sometimes worry about the artist's negative influence. 

Let's skip all that here, though, as it's the voice of Conway that makes this ep - alongside the restrained production, offered up by Mil (the Paris/Brussels-based engineer, Miloud Sassi). What matters is not only what Conway says, but how he says it. Conway’s delivery sounds straight, so unaffected. And this simplicity makes this release different from so many others, operating within the same trajectory.

It’s almost as if the music operates like a surface; you can choose how you relate to it because the elements, the raw material are allowed to breathe.

The first track that I came across, 'Just Gangsta (No Mercy version) ... 

Slowed down, starting with what seems to be the fall-back inclusion of the static that has come to represent the past, the snap-crackle-and pop of the ‘vinyl effect’ (listening to it now, I can't hear this, maybe I'm starting to imagine things) and the epic Nosferatu-Quasimodo bells, slotting in perfectly with the very nice beat. The record label's promo material refers to Mil as having a touch that is 'clinical' - makes sense here. 

Of course, the gangster stance is an essential part of the story-telling tradition that animates hip-hop. But rather than all those Blaxploitation echoes you find everywhere, where the gangster is some kind of exaggerated buffoon, or wearing some kind of mask, Conway's delivery is unadorned; unschooled (the kind of patter you might hear at a bus-stop maybe).

Note how the first 'Just gangsta' is really different, much more cinematic as they say. You can hear the Bullet ep on Bandcamp. 

Slight diversion: below the YT video you can find one of the funniest and sweetest exchanges to be found on any hip-hop video ...

KURUPT KALHOON2 months ago

i can only listen to conway and westside gunn nowadays. problem is i am white and german, so i turn it down at the traffic light

            Alexander Hyacinthe2 months ago

It's not about what you are ethnically, it's about what you want to hear. These guys are all I bump and I'm from the suburbs, but the production is on point, the vibe is straight gutter 90s, and the feeling is immaculate. I love it all!

Farrukh R2 months ago

don't be so insecure bro. let that music be heard.. turn that shit up! the only ones getting mad are mostly fuckboys and old ass people. you good...