Conway the Machine and Wun Two



by YoYoMancuso STAFF
December 31st, 2023 | 6 replies

Release Date: 12/22/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This is the direct New York to Palermo flight they call “The Mafia Express.”

Palermo’s hazy spoken-word prelude and silently stalking stray cat on its album artwork convey multiple perspectives on Conway the Machine’s ensuing bars about the drug trade, urban warfare, and the will to power. The ‘80s-TV-documentary-style opening skit details the perilous journey of Cosa Nostra drug mules from New York City back to the old country, with the narrator musing that any individual on the flight “may have a bundle for cousin Bruno that would choke a Sicilian donkey.” From this moment on, for the rest of its surprisingly brief runtime, Palermo slowly chokes out the listener, constricting their airways with its grimy atmosphere, destabilizing beats courtesy of Wun Two, and pervasive lyricism regarding what it takes to stay on top of the food chain in a cat-eat-mouse world. Despite his consistently professed dominance over all the other rappers and hustlers around him, Conway has not escaped from the food chain unscathed; “Mind Tricks” sees him describing his surroundings as downright “spooky”, with its hook unearthing deep (but likely warranted) paranoia, as well as his propensity to always sleep armed, with an eye open just to be safe. Conway has the enviable ability to demonstrate his point to listeners in an extremely blunt manner with as few words as possible; the beginning and concluding hook of “Cold Dish” is a captivating example, with its repeated refrain of “he said somethin’ wrong to him” illustrating the deadly consequences of making even one simple mistake, while simultaneously lamenting the futility of the social structure that surrounds him. It only takes one moment to transform yourself from a predator right back into prey.

Wun Two’s production establishes the entire vibe of the record from the jump, primarily being a woozy take on an East Coast boom-bap style, while also occasionally leaning into a Rat Pack-esque sound on the interludes or the aforementioned “Cold Dish”. Electric pianos and subdued jazz guitars dominate the mix of nearly every track, with pulsating vibratos and crunchy chord tension determining the musical direction of Conway’s accompaniment. Unfortunately, this formula results in many of Palermo’s cuts being decidedly too barebones, which makes a good half of the album sound unrealized at at least one point or another. Proper opener “Carduni” is the most upsetting example of this trend; it’s a downtempo stank face inducer for its first two minutes, with Conway’s verse being one of his most impressive and evocative on the record. However, after the first hook exits stage left, the remainder of the song (about 45% of its length) is pretty much just dead air, with Conway contributing uninteresting ad libs before randomly deciding to tack on one more chorus for good measure. Other songs like the infectious “Mind Tricks” and “Cosca” simply end at the two-minute mark right when they could go somewhere truly transcendent, and the album as a whole just feels undercooked at a lean and underwhelming twenty-two minutes. I’ve listened to Palermo front-to-back about six times now, and I’ve found myself unable to review it for a solid week, mainly because it never stuck with me upon walking away from it for a handful of minutes. It’s always an enjoyable experience when I’m in the moment with it, but it’s the rap equivalent of sand running through my fingers; a pleasant, yet unmemorable sensation.

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user ratings (10)

Comments:Add a Comment 
Staff Reviewer
December 31st 2023


Album Rating: 3.0

Final review of 2023! Been a good one

January 1st 2024


Conway's a good rapper but he was so much hungrier years back.. I liked that Hall n Nash 2 tape more than any of the recent stuff.

Staff Reviewer
January 2nd 2024


Hall & Nash 2 is so fun

this dude releases at least 3 too many things per year and it's even more frustrating because they're mostly good

January 2nd 2024


Hall & Nash 2 fuckin RIPS.

Staff Reviewer
January 2nd 2024


this is pretty cool but yeah feels unfinished

Conductor Machine is my favourite thing he made last year, combine that and this and you have a really good album

January 13th 2024


Album Rating: 3.5

dope as hell, been jamming quite a bit lately

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