Conway The Machine has cemented his spot. Over the past several years, the relentless Buffalo emcee, perched alongside his Griselda brothers Benny The Butcher and Westside Gunn, has ratcheted up the pressure on some of the biggest names in the rap game to up their lyrical skills. Conway’s sprawling extensive discography ranges from certified cult classics like 2015’s Reject 2 to shorter projects like his 2020 EP with The Alchemist, LULU.

Although he’s still putting together striking bodies of work full of unrelenting lyricism and storytelling, like last year’s Shady Records debut, God Don’t Make Mistakes, it’s becoming clearer and clearer with each release that he no longer feels like he has something to prove. Now, he’s working to showcase his artists from his DrumWork label, with a priority on his protégé and first signee, Jae Skeese. Pain Provided Profit, Conway’s latest offering with Skeese, balances his veteran presence without stepping on his mentee’s lyrical and technical abilities in the process.

The skit on “Cocaine Paste,” sets the tone for the EP. The soundbyte is pulled from a post-game 2009 NBA Finals interview with Kobe Bryant: “Job’s not finished. Job’s finished? I don’t think so,” Kobe replies matter-of-factly when asked by a reporter why he’s not happy with a 2-0 finals lead. The skit serves as a metaphor for Conway’s mindset, showing that he has no plans of slowing down anytime soon; his job isn’t done until the artists that he’s taken under his wing are able to shine too.

Throughout the EP’s 24-minute runtime, Conway is his usual gritty and reflective self; “Look, Jae Skeese my accomplice and we leave evidence / A trail of n****s blood on the floor, a couple set of prints / I’m Heaven-sent, God of the grimy, this the New Testament,” he spits with ease on “Metallic 5’s.” He slows down the pace on “Stefon Diggs 2” to reflect on his accolades and now global reach. “My story is the motivation,” he proudly declares repetitively on the track’s hook, before Jae Skeese comes in to riddle off tightly-rapped stanzas about how far he’s come. “It’s hell that I made it up out of with the one-liners / Had Justin Credible askin’, ‘Who you bring to Leakers?’,” he raps with pride and appreciation.

As the Buffalo duo exchange 4-bar stanzas on “Le Chop,” Conway raps about his longevity in the game, while Skeese reflects on his desire to accomplish the same and become regarded as one of the best. “I just won another race / Ain’t no more room on my mantel for no trophy, shit, I’m runnin’ out of fuckin’ space,” Conway spits. Conway is effectively passing the torch to a deserving emcee, but also letting it be known that he’ll still be here to stay for a while. With the biggest look of his career thus far, Jae Skeese shines as a gifted storyteller and stellar technical rapper.

Over the triumphant beat of “Promise,” which sounds like a proud homecoming moment, Conway boldly declares his spot as the best of his era. “Conway and Skeese, can’t nobody fuck with the chemistry / This team I built is a dynasty, we on winning streak,” he raps with evident pride, but by this point, this reaffirmation begins to feel repetitive. And that’s one major critique of this EP, the subject matter–a victory lap for mentor and mentee–can get tedious to the point of becoming pedantic.

Pain Provided Profit serves as further proof of Conway’s greatness, while simultaneously displaying Skeese and DrumWork’s future prospects. When placed next to Conway this extensively for the very first time, Skeese’s skills come out, forcing him into a sink or swim mentality. Luckily, he performs lyrical backstrokes with grace, proving he can hang with even the most formidable emcees.