Conway the Machine ain’t playin with y’all.
And yet, some would say the Buffalo-rhymer is a rapping contradiction; he has something to prove as he’s just getting started, and yet his raps come in stellar form, reminiscent of a seasoned vet; he’s a gritty NY-rapper from Buffalo – a descendant of a historic era – yet “not NY enough” (to some) to be considered a part of the NY culture shift and the Boroughs synonymous with the classic sound. It’s these kinds of conflicting characteristics that make the Machine one of the more interesting rappers to wave the Queen City flag. Well, that, and the fact he has a knack to jam-pack strife into each of his boom bap-inspired raps. With God Don’t Make Mistakes, that strife becomes a monumental step forward in Conway’s artistry.
Interestingly enough, the seeds for God Don’t Make Mistakes were planted earlier than fans may think; in 2018, Westside Gunn was featured in an interview with Exclaim! and was asked about his partner-in-rhyme’s debut album. Westside stated that the Shady Records project was “90% done,” and it would give fans a litany of surprises once it finally came out. It’s been four years since that Westside Gunn prophecy and, after receiving the Drumwork released From King to a God – a project that would serve as an audio foreshadowing into what to expect from Conway’s Shady debut – we have finally reached the release of God Don’t Make Mistakes – an album that was more than worth the wait.
The Griselda spitter delivers on the promise in the form of a 12-song LP, oozing with production from the likes of Daringer, The Alchemist, Justice League and more, supporting gun and drug metaphors, and a gaggle of features that help provide an added oomph to the project’s cachet.
Beginning with “Lock Load”, featuring a guest verse from Philly’s Beanie Siegel, Conway sets the tone from the jump. “You can go and ask them other niggas, they’ll tell you what’s up / I already been through there and hit one of them niggas up / They gon’ start thinkin’ I’m crazy, baby mama think I’m nuts” he recalls as he shifts his thought process from first, clearing his opps. He then seamlessly transitions into detailing the traumatic experience of getting shot, a reference to the 2012 shooting that left his face paralyzed and left an impact on his mental health; ”ever since them niggas shot me, I just stopped givin’ a fuck”. Beanie doubles down on this menacing imagery as he spits grisly depictions of getting one over on his competition, sold by the unsettling haunt of his new voice – a result of the legendary rapper now having one lung after also getting shot back in 2015.
Continuing the focal point of his life-altering shooting, Conway brings us into the Rick Ross and Lil Wayne assisted “Tear Gas”. It’s a track that details the social fallout from the 2012 attack, bluntly articulating how supposed loved ones were quick to switch their allegiances after falsely thinking Conway was finished.
Calling in the gang for a 2015 Golden State Warrior Championship performance, Conway the Machine taps his Drumwork signees 7xvethegenius and Jae Skeese for the aptly titled “Drumwork”. The posse cut is practically a no-holds-barred wrestling match with each of the Buffalo natives relentlessly slamming their opponents to the mat, hungry for that coveted three-count. If you’ve never heard of Jae or 7, I would confidentially place any wager on FanDuel that, after their stellar displays of talent set up through Conway’s perfect lob here, you would find yourself hard-pressed to find a reason not to begin listening to their respective discographies – it’s that good.
But witty wordplay and impressive flows aside, God Don’t Make Mistakes truly shines through Conway’s continuing narrative about his son who died, which runs through the album. From afar, you might expect the album to be the usual affair that we’ve all come to expect from the rapper, but through a closer examination, we begin to see a man struggling with the lingering effects of PTSD, the horrors of child-loss, and the constant reminder of his own near-death experience.
In a revealing song about his many life obstacles, the Machine uses “Stressed” to peel back a layer of his psyche as he expresses to the listener how he had to move differently due to PTSD, the overwhelming amount of responsibility he carries for his loved ones, depression, and the silent lynchings of alcoholism. In a sobering moment for both the listener and Conway alike, he paints a picture of a being who seems to be on his last ounce of hope. Teetering on the edge of a mental breakdown, Conway uses the booth as a confessional, unloading his pithiest pains in the process, preaching, “People stressin’ ’bout real life shit, you stressin’ your bills/ And not too long after my cousin hung his self / I never told nobody, but I lost a son myself / Imagine bein’ in the hospital, holdin’ your dead baby / And he look just like you, you tryna keep from goin’ crazy / That’s why I drink a bottle daily / For all the shit I keep bottled in lately.” “Stressed” is the moment that Conway the Machine separates himself from his peers; that raw, visceral storytelling meshed with a level of frankness places him into a different conversation as an MC.
Closing out the album is the title track, which takes every element heard thus far and summarizes the themes through a journey of ‘what if?’ scenarios. Revisiting every moment of his life, we witness the MC delving further into his trauma as he details fighting to stay alive and stay positive in the face of these excruciating moments. The literary technique of repetition is utilized throughout the song to drive home the anxiety behind survivor’s guilt, which cripples him and prevents him from moving on. Conway masterfully captivates not only through his ability to paint a picture, but also through his willingness to be vulnerable and open up about moments that he has rarely, or never, shared with his fan base before – and his art is better because of it.
After all the pain and suffering the Buffalo-rapper has endured, God Don’t Make Mistakes serves as the triumphant moment – the grimy underdog has become the seasoned vet. Conway himself says it best as he defiantly spits on “Guilty”; “After this album, bet a critic can’t slight me ever.” God Don’t Make Mistakes is a complete body of work, Conway’s best to date, and one of the best rap albums to come out in 2022. Consider this the moment where Conway became that guy; consider this body of work his origin story.