Conway the Machine
If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed


4.0
excellent

Review

by checked zapruder CONTRIBUTOR (94 Reviews)
February 16th, 2021 | 68 replies


Release Date: 02/05/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Time to bend the knee.

The Machine is on the warpath. Viewing back to 2012, it’s very likely a reality such as this seemed improbable, yet Conway transformed the impossible into a mission statement. The resilient Price, brought to the brink by a shooting that impacted his head and neck, managed to survive against the odds. Now, that which had been used to take his life fueled his resurrection. By channeling the grit of the Buffalo underground into prose that never shied from undisguised veracity, he ventures to connect his personal realm with the observations he accumulated as he wandered about the criminal landscape. It’s a style that was perfectly complemented by Demond Price’s hypnotizingly smooth flow, his voice stoic versus a world that actively strives to knock down those struggling to reach the top. A stray listener would never be able to perceive the fact that the charismatic MC suffered from Bell’s palsy as a result of the shooting; Conway’s ironclad control over a provided tune is unquestionable, managed with commendable strength, wordplay, and confidence to eliminate doubt of the young artist’s ascension. No matter where rap aficionados turned in 2020, the Machine was there, unleashing From King to a God to conquer the East Coast scene, simultaneously revealing No One Mourns the Wicked months prior. Whereas the former sported a more minimalistic approach fitting for Griselda’s typical output—the label Demond called home—pushing Conway’s vocals to the forefront as the primary feature, the latter hooked up with Big Ghost Ltd and delved into a more theatrical realm. Harmonizing with two different methods and nailing both seemed sufficient proof of Price’s attainment of the underground crown—but history has shown already that Demond is not the kind to sit still and accept circumstances. Thus, the victory lap begins: Conway reunites in 2021 with the bombastic flair of Big Ghost Ltd in If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed, building off the seemingly unstoppable momentum that now propels the Machine towards the apex he craved to achieve.

This second collaboration with the enigmatic blogger-turned-producer marks a return to dramatic beats. Naturally, Conway’s primary prowess—detailed, genuine descriptions of existence in the backstreets of Buffalo, branching off of it to inject commentary on societal inequalities, all of which are packaged alongside his distinctive delivery—is what inevitably receives the most attention in the mix. However, as opposed to being completely subservient to the writing, Big Ghost assumes a much larger responsibility, joining forces with Demond to supply much more vibrant beats, both forces merging to craft a disc that augments the rapper’s flow. Harkening back to motifs of the 90s while also taking cues from contemporaries, Price and Big Ghost supply orchestras, pianos, guitar riffs and synths aplenty, twisting disparate elements in a rapper’s playground that lets Conway flourish beyond his normal zone. In “Kill All Rats,” the producer opts for a relatively more subdued role, offering an ominous, growling synth line to support the writing. Put in such a setting where electronics hum like saws, Demond sounds suitably vicious, accruing intimidating momentum that opens the door for a feature by Rome Streetz. Both rappers match the tone of the tune by using their respective voices to instill fear in those that attempt to question their authority. Placed opposite of such an aesthetic is “Losses to Blessings “; Big Ghost is far from the ensemble cast in this particular show. As Conway enters the scene with a despondent refrain, his characteristic drawl sounding lost when seeing the departures around him, horns sneak into proceedings, melancholic keys included to complete the noir landscape. Halfway through, Ghost executes a beat change that seamlessly transitions to a more pensive, positive state. Both modern themes and past techniques are brought into the fold without being jarring to Conway’s bravura.

A set of great beats by themselves would be incomplete if not for how well they accompany the man at the helm. What makes a track such as “Losses to Blessings” click, for instance, is the chemistry evident between Conway and his latest partner in crime. As soon as the aforementioned shift is executed, the rapping alters its approach accordingly, delving into lamentation while struggling to find positive news in overwhelming negativity. It’s obvious that both individuals are comfortable working with each other; Price runs amok in a variety of different contexts, interacting directly with whatever instrumentals Ghost brings to the table. The gravity of reality that the MC can imbue into a given number is perfectly encapsulated in “Red Beams,” the foreboding delivery of the verses intermingling with the threatening, low synth line. Lurking underneath Conway’s trademark confidence, the electronic component adds an even darker atmosphere to the formation—an environment the bars thrive inside, relishing in career success and edging out detractors. Adding further depth are the dramatic swells of string instruments that Ghost slips into the background, putting an element of the histrionic into the entry. Placed into the more lively, energetic “Sons of Kings,” the Machine capitalizes on the rocking piano beat, detailing his increase in prestige and resources, making moves in the rap scene as his voice barges through the instrumental passages, setting the stage for another solid feature crafted by Knowledge the Pirate. Across all tracks, composure is discovered in droves. Given that he’s known for his booming, commanding sound, possessing a sort of street wisdom belying his years, pairing Conway with equally vivacious beats seems a natural connection. Be it the cascading, glittering synth of “Toast” or the understated thrill of “Kill All Rats,” Price and Ghost are consistently on the same page. Keys, orchestras, and choirs erect towering buildings, alleyways, and populate them, laying out the Buffalo Demond was forced to navigate, never avoiding the full scope of the danger.

If there was to be any knock against the power of this partnership, it would be the disconnect that can be felt when all cuts are amassed for a complete disc. The variety of musical subjects that Big Ghost dabbles in can make for jagged movements between separate entries. Conway is generally the very model of consistency, leaping from slower cadences to more upbeat forays, the liveliness of his conveyance unfaltering. When describing drug running escapades, false friends, and defending turf, the rapper spits out phrases with palpable force. Though a one-trick-pony in a certain regard—gangster tales, all of which are rather similar, are the order of the day, right beside f*cking hoes and movin’ moolah—the lyrical content Price arranges is par for the course at this juncture; it is who he is, the life he lived, and where he is most relaxed in his flow, for better and for worse. However, the producer backing him, experimenting with the old-school and the new-school, doesn’t often concentrate on the progression of the LP in its entirety. Individual songs can be impeccable earworms, yet when linked to fellow numbers, the album loses drive. Stepping from the menacing “Red Beams” straight towards the concluding “Forever Ago” is a poor decision when assessing the pace of the release. The shadowy air surrounding the former track and its eerie beat clash immediately with the longing, choir-infused compositions of the latter. On a lyrical level, “Forever Ago” avoids the braggadocio and intimidation, instead exhibiting Conway at an unexpectedly genuine state, opening up about self-doubt and paranoia. The same divide is observed to a degree between lead single “Toast” and the preceding “Kill All Rats.” While undeniably compelling individually, the songs do not always make for a smooth listening in total.

Specific other avenues fail to pan out as amicably as intended. The incredibly slow rhythm of “Highly Praised” leaves much to be desired, Conway’s voice stumbling about the plodding tempo, and the introductory monologue-style tune “Commencement” is absent of the strength that generally carries the LP—the less said about the “deez nuts” drop, the better. It may not equate to a magnum opus, but Price’s second rendezvous with Big Ghost is nothing short of a home run by an artist nearing the apex of their game. With now his third straight project in a row, the Machine has demonstrated that nothing short of a John Connor wannabe is capable of breaking his stride. It’s not even possible to allege that Demond has in any way discovered the exact formula to his success; each consecutive record has maintained a separation from the last, preventing any work from falling into a stale routine. Bounding between Griselda and his newfound synergy with Big Ghost Ltd, Conway displays his more potent traits in a multitude of contexts. What remains consistent throughout, regardless of precise presentation, is the poise that buttresses nearly all verses that emerge from the MC’s mouth. Having survived the very terror he now injects into his lyrics, Price is unafraid of challengers. If he wants to crown himself the current God of rap? Provided his bourgeoning body of work, there’s a claim to be made. The man rose from a life-or-death scenario and prospered when all signs point to the opposite. Comparatively, this rap sh*t is a walk in the park.



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user ratings (45)
3.5
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2021


12747 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Surprised to see this get zero attention here considering his last one turned some heads. This is more bombastic in its approach, but it do be bangin' all the same.



Check on bandcamp: https://bigghostlimited.bandcamp.com/album/if-it-bleeds-it-can-be-killed



Discussion starts below! I think.

Digging: Hundreds of AU - Acting from Remote Satellites

bloc
February 16th 2021


65507 Comments


Looking forward to hearing this. From King To A God was probably my favourite rap album from last year

Digging: KOTO - Bye Bye Teens Lullaby

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2021


12747 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The beats are a lot more prominent, but Conway himself sounds fresh as usual.

ian b
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2021


1973 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

excited as fuck to listen, aoty contender incoming?

ian b
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2021


1973 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great rev by the way, little long though i will say

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2021


12747 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I appreciate it. And I feel I took the time I needed to, but I'll keep that in mind for the future. Thank you : )

EyesWideShut
February 16th 2021


5502 Comments


Conway is dope, he's always got the guns loaded but he's at his best on the more introspective/underdog songs.

Reject 2 is my fav joint from him

rufinthefury
February 16th 2021


3233 Comments


About damn time someone wrote a Conway review on this site.

"Viewing back to 2012" did you mean "Looking back on 2012" or "going back to 2012" instead?

"That which had been used to take his life now fueled his resurrection, channeling the grit of the Buffalo underground into prose that never shied from undisguised veracity, connecting the personal realm of the rapper with the observations he accumulated as he wandered about the criminal landscape." This is a little much, don't you think?

Conway is by far the most heavy hitting of Griselda. WSG does some really cool shit, Benny is def the most lyrical, but Con always smacks. By far the most consistent when it comes to releases too.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2021


12747 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Glad I could write one then! : )



And I dunno mate, he was literally shot in the neck. Doesn't get much closer to death's door than that. Nothing wrong with that bit to me.

rufinthefury
February 17th 2021


3233 Comments


No I mean you hit the thesaurus way too hard lol.

"That which had been used to take his life now fueled his resurrection, channeling the grit of the Buffalo underground into prose that never shied from undisguised veracity"

The first part is fine, but "undisguised veracity"? No one talks like that. Just say "Hard truths." It feels like T.I. ghostwrote that sentence lol


Nocte
Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2021


14080 Comments


There’s descriptions like that all over this site lol.

Digging: ACAUSAL INTRUSION - Nulitas

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2021


12747 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That's how I write mate, what I'm most comfortable with. We can agree to disagree. I don't think it's that absurd at all.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2021


24321 Comments


Probably not my thing but good read as always, Mars.

Digging: Bala - Maleza

rufinthefury
February 17th 2021


3233 Comments


"There’s descriptions like that all over this site lol.

And it should stop. Words for the sake of words is not good, that's bad writing. Why use many words when few do better

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2021


12747 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That's your call mate. This is how I like to write and I don't think it's bothersome. I don't write it because I'm searching for validation, I just like using those words because I like words. We can agree to disagree.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2021


24321 Comments


@rufin With all due respect, telling someone how to write to adapt it to your reading preferences is pretty twisted if you think about it.

There's plenty of reviewers on the site and everyone has his/her own style. This is Mars', so I don't know man, take it or leave it?

rufinthefury
February 17th 2021


3233 Comments


@Dewinged This website exists to critique other's writings and reviews. So I'm doing that lol. It's not as if telling someone that they should cut down on verbosity is somehow personally attacking them and telling them to trash their Word docs lmao

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2021


24321 Comments


Critique is perfectly fine, encouraged even, but you're saying that "words for the sake of words" "should stop" because it's "bad writing", and I'm telling you some people here like that style, and on top of that if Mars' style relies on abusing a thesaurus then why not, right?

You're not telling him to thrash his word docs but you're demanding him to change his writing style to fit your taste, innit?

rufinthefury
February 17th 2021


3233 Comments


@Dewinged so some people like that style and some people dislike it. Wow, what a revelation. So I guess no one should voice anymore opinions. Cmon, I get it, he's your friend and you've known him for a long time. Sorry, but that doesn't make him immune from criticism.

"You're not telling him to thrash his word docs but you're demanding him to change his writing style to fit your taste, innit?"

Where did I demand anything? You are really weirdly offended by all of this.

MarsKid
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2021


12747 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm fine if you disagree with my writing, but we'll just have to leave it at that since I don't personally have an issue with it, haven't seen any trouble with it previously, and am comfortable in this style. It's all good on my end but I'm not looking to make changes.



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