Conway The Machine is on a roll right now. Easily one of the most productive, creatively fluid figures in American rap, his journey – from a near-fatal shooting to immense acclaim – is one of his generation’s most notable arcs. Even amongst his crowded, storied catalogue, however, ‘WON’T HE DO IT’ shines out, a work of muscular bravado, creative daring, and – above all – soul.
Musically, fans of Griselda and the label’s soul-soaked approach to hip-hop sampling will have much to feast on. Yes, he’s left the label behind, but this isn’t a radical overhaul; instead Conway opts to finesse his sound, and as a result the emphasis is then placed on lyricism, and songwriting. ‘Brucifix’ is an early highlight. Constructed alongside peer Benny The Butcher, it’s a dense, complex web of funky horn samples, reminiscent of ‘Madvillainy’ in its potent virtuosity.
‘Monogram’ is all vinyl crackle and sweeping strings, Conway’s lyrical flair evident throughout. ‘Stab Out’ rolls on that spine-tingling piano aspect, before switching it up once more on funky, rock-edged roller ‘Flesh Of My Flesh’.
There’s an innate physicality to the Griselda sound; much has been made of the label’s Buffalo origins, the poverty and other barriers these artists have faced, and this grit still permeates Conway’s work outside the collective. ‘Kanye’ however is overtly beautiful – a stunning piece of gospel rap that even outdoes the titular Chicago icon. It’s a highlight of this, or any other, Conway album.
Jae Skeese delivers the album’s punchiest feature on ‘The Chosen’, while ‘Water To Wine’ is a soulful posse cut. Indeed, soul becomes an over-arching feature of the record – ‘Brooklyn Chop House’ may be a swaggering head-nodder, but the dank production feels worthy of Axelrod at his 360 best.
‘Tween Cross Tween’ is magnificent, a sustained mood piece, while knockout finale ‘Super Bowl’ switches away from the vintage palette towards skittering trap snares and a helter-skelter feature from Sauce Walka. Part of his subtle evolution, ‘WON’T HE DO IT’ easily ranks among Conway The Butcher’s best work.
Words: Robin Murray