Writer: Frank B ( @youngkarlkani )
On one of the year end wrap up episodes of the Joe Budden Podcast, the On Top Music artist mentioned how the year 2020 in hip hop had been the year of underdogs in terms of of musical releases. And no artist encapsulates that more than Conway the Machine (and the Griselda camp at large). Fresh off two dope collaborative EPs with two of most active producers around (LULU with Alchemist and No One Mourns the Wicked with Big Ghost Ltd) and song-stealing guest appearances on Freddie Gibbs and Royce da 5’9’s Grammy-nominated albums in first half of the year, Conway capped of his 2020 with the release of his solo album titled From King to a God.
The good news is that Machine has not lost that hunger he rhymed with a years ago on Reject 2 and the bad news is…that it’s about to be very quiet for these wack rappers for a while. Conway has given us yet another reason as to why we should not fuck with some of the fuckery that masquerades as music. This project further cements La Machina as one of our foremost lyricist and storyteller, a position he has occupied for a while now, at least since his verse in The Cow (probably one of the most important hip hop verses in the last decade).
Over immaculate production from the likes of DJ Premier, Alchemist, Havoc, Daringer and Beat Butcha, Conway delivers some of his most compelling raps yet on FKTG. On Lemon, one of the album’s singles, he partners with Shaolin’ s own Method Man aka Johnny Blaze to let you know what time it is when it comes to this rap shit. Although our worlds have been flipped upside down by COVID-19, Conway lets you know that’s not why the homies had on masks on Dough & Damani. Conway even manages to bring Lloyd Banks (aka the pen of G-Unit) out of retirement on the Havoc produced posse cut Juvenile Hell. And for those who have been doubting his versatility, Conway gets political too on Frontlines where he describes the visceral reaction of constantly seeing your own kind being brutalized and dehumanized with very little consequences by the biggest gang of them all: the police. Machine also gets emotional on Forever Dropping Tears while reminiscing on the life of the late DJ Shay, a mentor and friend of Conway and his Griselda brothers, who recently passed away from COVID-19.
This project is certainly rooted in our reality. COVID 19 and the continued police brutality and marginalization, the two biggest tragedies the Black community faced in 2020 (and continues to face), serve as the backdrop from which Conway’s gritty, poignant and passionate lyrics emerge.
With his relatable raps, Conway is that real nigga from your block who has been through a lot, who is finally catching that break and is now getting what seems like back to back rings. Unless you’re a natural born hater, you can’t help but root for him. And I’m rooting heavy.
Favorite track: Lemon, Frontlines and Nothing Less.
Least favorite track: Maybe the interludes but they serve an important role in the album which is to honour the late DJ Shay who played a pivotal role in the foundation of the Griselda movement and in the personal growth of Conway himself. RIP.