Album: “La Maquina”
Artists: Conway the Machine
Label: Griselda Records
Release Date: April 16
Buffalo rapper Conway the Machine has been busy lately, dropping six albums since the start of 2020. As one of the forefathers of Queen City hip-hop, Conway mixes classic gangster rap with lovingly relaxing beats that feel like an ‘80s crime flick.
Only two months after his last project, “If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed,” Conway brings another tale of arrogance-induced cinematic hip-hop with “La Maquina,” which lets his wacky yet assertive persona shine across 11 tracks.
On “6:30 Tip Off,” Conway raps about his hard work and difficult upbringing. The 39-year-old ponders where his grinding will take him, while still finding time to shout out his fellow Griselda rappers.
“I went from king, now they consider me a God, we not equivalent at all / I’m not from this Earth, I'm visitin’ from Mars / They say West is the brains behind it and Benny is the star / But let’s not act like Machine ain’t the silliest with the bars.”
Conway is as lavish as ever, and his album includes an extravagant cover: a bird’s eye view of a large mansion, which represents how successful he has become. Featuring expensive cars, a large pool and symbols cut into the lawn, his album cover represents how much the rapper is enjoying his success.
Although the album includes several features, the most prolific guest on “La Maquina” is undoubtedly rising Buffalo rapper Jae Skeese, who gets three features on the album. Acting as a villain-rapper of sorts on songs like “Grace,” Skeese provides graphic bars with metaphors so clever listeners forgive the otherworldly rhymes.
But even with Skeese’s exceptional lyricism, he is still unable to outshine Conway, particularly on “Blood Roses,” an anthem about how going “God Level” is only for the most eccentric people, and a reminder of what individuals can accomplish when operating at peak performance.
“You know you gettin’ lit when b----es use your lyrics for a caption / In that black on black Rolls when I’m starin' through Manhattan / They pray on my downfall, want something terrible to happen / Legends sayin’ I'm the illest in this era with this rappin’”
The album’s best beat is, by far, “KD.” Produced by Murda Beatz, “KD” invites fans to a trap beat that could easily have made room for a Drake or Offset feature, giving a glimpse of what Conway will likely sound like once he inevitably breaks into mainstream hip-hop within the next few years.
Like his Griselda brethren, Conway always finds time to pack emotion into his music, as he discusses the friends and lovers who came and left his life, heartfully asking, “What happened to them n---as that told me they always here for me?” Backed with a serenading vocal sample, Conway is at his most honest, giving listeners a look into the mind of a tormented man.
Even with Conway’s top-tier rapping ability, not even The Machine can outrap hip-hop mainstay 2 Chainz, who is featured on “200 Pies” with a grave reminder that he is the kingpin, providing clever bars any rap fan can appreciate over a softly high pitched R&B sample.
“Two hundred pies in the trunk on 285 / Valley of death, you’d be surprised if you make it alive / They won’t collide when they find out I’m the chief of the tribe / So much dope under my mattress, have to sleep on my side”
The album also features an excellent fast-tracked song, “Scatter Brain,” that will fit on any bodybuilder’s playlist. Backed by hip-hop pioneer Ludacris and Dreamville signee JID, the trio effortlessly deliver an aggressive headbanger that will likely fill many mosh pits in the near future
With Conway’s Shady Records debut, “God Don’t Make Mistakes,” set to be released in June, the rapper shows no signs of slowing down, and “La Maquina” perfectly exemplifies what to expect in the future: dark, smart raps accompanying ‘90s NYC-rap inspired production that would make even Nas giddy.
Alex Falter is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com