Spanish for ‘the machine,’ La Maquina is the second mixtape Conway The Machine has dropped in 2021, following his February collab album with Big Ghost LTD, If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed. The project serves as a precursor to his Shady debut God Don’t Make Mistakes which he revealed is releasing sometime this month.
The 11-track mixtape had two singles, “Blood Roses” featuring Drumwork signee Jae Skeese and “Scatter Brain” featuring JID and Ludacris. A native of Buffalo’s West Side, Conway has come a long way since he started his music career and La Maquina represents just how far Conway has come.
The album marks the MC’s sixth major label release in two years. On the track “KD” Conway says, “I only been here for maybe five years / They already speak on my legacy (Woah).” Woah indeed, especially taking into account his backstory. In 2012, Conway was shot in the back of the head and neck, permanently paralyzing the right side of his face. Conway’s cadence and flow sounds like a buttery combination of Dave East and The Game, and is especially audible on “Clarity.”
The mixtape’s central theme reflects Conway’s astounding ability to turn nothing into something. El Camino’s chorus on “Had to Hustle” delivers some bone chilling pathos to this idea through his high-pitched tone and smooth cadence reminiscent of R&B type vibes.
Conway’s lyrics on this mixtape reflect his lived experience as someone who is no stranger to violence, luring in his listeners in the same way that misery keeps company hostage. Each song is a narrative that depicts Conway’s experiential knowledge about the realities of drug dealing and violence in Buffalo before ultimately addressing his relationship with his peers in the rap game as well as the friends and lovers who came and left his life. His lyrics are offset by a grainy, down-tempo boom bap sound evoking feelings of resilience and wisdom gained from 20/20 hindsight as Conway looks back on the his journey this far.
Of course, Conway didn’t make it this far in his career all by himself. In 2014, Conway’s half-brother Westside Gunn founded Griselda Records, through which Conway and Westside Gunn would self-release their own projects and the works of artists such as Benny the Butcher (Conway’s cousin) and Tha God Fahim. After releasing the Machine’s first two official mixtape projects through Griselda Records, The Devil’s Reject and Reject 2, the Buffalo-based label signed a deal with Eminem’s Shady Records, a subsidiary of Interscope. Conway has since released projects that have been produced by Griselda’s in-house producer Daringer and The Alchemist, and featured Royce Da 5’9“, Raekwon, Prodigy, Styles P and Lloyd Banks.
Conway gives a shout out and comparison to his fellow Griselda rappers Westside Gunn and Benny the Butcher on “6:30 Tip Off.”
“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 (Woo).”
Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn join Conway on “S.E. Gang” which is the last track on the mixtape. From this song alone, it’s evident that Conway is the best wordsmith out of the Griselda trio. His rhymes are equally up to par with Westside and may even surpass the skill level of Benny (in my humble opinion). Benny and Conway’s rough and rugged voices perfectly compliment Westside’s high-pitched, nasally vocal inflections over the dark and spooky beats Griselda fans love so much.
Conway has made a name releasing frequent and well received mixtapes and La Maquina is no exception. Despite his growing popularity, the 39-year old rapper’s uncompromised authenticity is still very much alive within his music, giving me hope that he won’t let commercial fame get to his head or change his signature flow in an attempt to reel in mainstream listeners.
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