Longtime fans will tell you Conway The Machine rarely misses, and his previous effort, God Don’t Make Mistakes — a commercial breakthrough for the Buffalo native — more than proved his ability to win by further broadening his gritty sound without sacrificing any of his edge. Now, at a career apex, on the heels of a collaborative EP with his artist Jae Skeese and with a Spring Tour kicking off this June in Brooklyn, La Maquina drops off his third solo studio album, Won’t He Do It.
Where God Don’t Make Mistakes was an amalgamation of tragedy and triumph, his latest album feels like an organic next step. As opposed to peeling off more of the layers of his origins, this LP embraces his current status as a boss — one with the confidence and clout to spit on contracts that aren’t at least $30 million (“Tween Cross Tween”). It also reasserts why his Drumwork imprint (and its roster) should definitely be on your radar.
There is fantastic variety in the production and flow of the LP. This is not to say that you don’t get the grimy Machine bars you’re likely expecting, based on his resume; there are more than a few examples here. Two of the most potent were laced by his longtime collaborators Daringer — who crafted six of the LP’s 14 songs — and JR Swiftz.
Over the twinkling keys of the Swiftz-produced “Stab Out,” Conway trades hard-as-concrete raps with the always bar-heavy Ransom (sonically, it’s reminiscent of Armani Caeser’s “Gucci Casket,” also produced by JR Swiftz). Daringer’s menacing instrumental — co-produced with Mario Luciano — for “Brick Fare” captures that same energy, as Conway exclaims: “Spit in the pot before I cook it up, been a shooter you can look it up.” But it’s in hearing him describe going from “[residue] in the pots and pans to tropical sands” on the drumless Westside Gunn featured “Brucifix” or recalling conversations with Jay-Z on the cinematic “Monogram” (named after Jay’s luxury marijuana brand), that things get intriguing.
Some of the project’s bigger moments come when he completely steps outside his zone. He sounds absolutely at home on the pair of Justice League-produced songs; first over the soulful organ of the Goosebytheway & Drea D’Nur featured “Kanye,” with its ‘you counted me out but look at me now’ theme. Then there is “The Chosen,” which showcases his fluid chemistry with Jae Skeese, fresh off his Drumwork debut, Abolished Uncertainties.
Other gems include “Water to Wine,” where Goosebytheway, Jazzy and Dave East join him for some grown and sexy vibes; in Con’s verse, he celebrates the undying support of his queen. “Believe” is another standout, which features a stellar performance by Drumwork’s first lady, 7xvethegenius. It is a bit jarring to hear him reassert his brickwork or croon about wanting to sell cocaine forever amid songs like “Believe,” which are much more broadly approachable. In some ways, it plays like two distinctly different projects intertwined, with the Juicy J-produced “Super Bowl” serving as an outlier. Still, moments where he stays in his pocket, dropping off familiar tropes, don’t overshadow the upgrades in the Machine’s programming. And to be very clear, when he does stay in his comfort zone, he does so at an elite level.
While the metrics for what constitutes a great MC may not be as universal as they once were — as seen from the endless debates and comparisons on Hip Hop Twitter — it’s difficult not to consider Conway The Machine as one of the better lyricists of the day. Rightfully, that has been a bottom-line takeaway for everything he’s dropped since his 2020 debut studio album, From King To A GOD.
Though his penchant for darker vibes may have once led some listeners and critics to attempt to confine and categorize his style, Won’t He Do It is his best example yet of why that’s impossible.