Conway the Machine’s newest album God Don’t Make Mistakes made waves in the music scene when it came out just over a month ago. Conway is a third of the rising underground hip hop trio Griselda, whose other two members are Westside Gunn and Benny the Butcher. In reference to his aptitude and penchant for imagery in his lyrics, Conway’s colleague Benny the Butcher said in his song “Mr. Chow Hall,” “They say West is the brains … Benny is the star, Conway the silliest with the bars … I couldn’t agree more.” Conway’s new project is more personal than any typical Griselda project; the songs’ topics surround the classic Griselda bars about crime and money, and the personal things weighing on Conway’s mind.
The first track, “Lock Load,” featuring Beanie Sigel, gives readers the feeling that a typical Griselda album should: a drumbeat holding down some ominous guitar, static, and the occasional creepy adlib or sound effect in the background. With consistent multi-syllabic but natural rhymes, he recalls the violence of his still recent life as a crack peddler and the remaining paranoia born from it. Sigel’s whispery verse is similarly immersive and generally strong, but keeps with a theme of many of the rappers featured on the album: their verses just can’t beat Conway’s.
On “Tear Gas,” Conway spits some indignant bars about how he is a legend who will go largely unnoticed until he dies, as well as his feeling that he may die young as a result of both his current and past lifestyles. The beat on this one gets the blood pumping and continuously adapts to the tone of the vocals as they progressively intensify. It’s a prime example of The Alchemist’s consistently meticulous production, which makes multiple appearances throughout the album. Lil Wayne comes in for a fiery, topical second verse, while the Rick Ross feature at the end felt a bit generic.
On the more personal side of the album, Conway takes a different perspective on the underestimation he so often receives from others in “So Much More.” Normally, when Griselda talks about being underappreciated, they do it with a confident swagger, communicating that their recognition is not deeply important to them. The bitterness created by the media and the misunderstandings that the public has about him hit him in his heart, and his rapping makes it hard not to empathize with him. The beat is sentimental and inspiring like the last episode of a great show.
In “Stressed,” Conway airs more problems weighing on him: everyone he knows wants his money, most of his friends are in prison or dead, and he conceals his depression, treating it with alcohol. The emotion is palpable and Conway lyrically does an incredible job putting the listener in his shoes. The beat is dynamic; the starry, mystical keys stay quiet during the verses but crescendo and overwhelm the listener during the chorus. Unfortunately, while the chorus is well-written, Conway’s horribly off-pitch singing makes each chorus a tough listen.
Conway’s singing also appears as a painful blow on the otherwise great tracks “God Don’t Make Mistakes” and “Tear Gas.” While songs like “Drumwork” and “Chanel Pearls” are not the most memorable, “Babas” is the album’s only bad song. Songs like “Guilty” and “Piano Love” make for a hard-hitting great listen that immerses the listener into the speaker’s environment, but Conway throws in the occasional filler line that can suddenly halt the immersion he had built in the previous lines.
Despite its few problems, the album stands up as a great piece of art that builds on Conway’s career and puts the listener right in his shoes at the present moment. “Guilty” is a great sentimental track with some organs and pitched-up vocal samples that make the listener feel as happy for Conway as he is for himself in his career. “Wild Chapters,” featuring T.I. and Novel, has three great verses about each rapper’s personal experiences doing whatever it took to get by in their younger days and how lucky they are to have made it. “John Woo Flick,” is an instant Griselda classic with intense, ominous guitar over smooth boom-bap drums and some terrifyingly hard verses from Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn.
The thought-provoking final track, in which Conway considers how his life might have been different had he made different decisions before the night he got shot, hits close to home and ends the album on a strong, emotional note.