Review: Big Ghost Ltd & Conway the Machine, ‘If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed’

Last year, the dynamic duo consisting of producer, Big Ghost Ltd, and rapper, Conway the Machine, provided an amazing project with No One Mourns the Wicked; And now, the two have returned for their next collaborative effort.

The amazing duo have come together multiple times to drop underground classics in the past, but with the new wave of fame catching up to Conway, it was important to let the fans know that he doesn’t plan on resting anytime soon; And same goes for underground legend, Big Ghost Ltd, who has produced a minimum of six projects, excluding any Bandcamp exclusives and unreleased material. Needless to say, the duo has gotten busier since they last linked up.

Conway and Big Ghost take the same approach on this album just as their past collaboration – sinister beats along with the grimiest bars you could imagine. However, this album felt more than another raw collaboration between a producer and rapper. The two have a significant chemistry between them where each project they do together, Big Ghost lays the groundwork for Conway to comfortably release what’s on his chest at the time.

With that in mind, the grimy production takes various undertones to help pave the way for Conway’s hard-hitting lines. A good example of this occurs on the sentimental cut “Losses to Blessings” where Conway starts off the song with (“They gave my n***a Cutter seven, I’m sick / They caught us leavin’ Shay funeral fresh as a bitch”). Being that the whole Griselda crew suffered an immense loss with the death of their dear friend and mentor, DJ Shay, Conway circles back around to show no matter what he’s touching on, he has a specific way of doing so, and Big Ghost is one of very few who understands him.

Compared to their first two collaborations, No One Mourns the Wicked and Griselda Ghost (which included Westside Gunn), the duo has grow stronger over the years and their strong bond shines more on this project than any other.

The project has a relatively short run time of 30 minutes composed of 10 tracks, but the content provided was fulfilling. As previously mentioned, Conway and Big Ghost take it back to the basics on this project, leaving no room for filler bars or underwhelming verses. The two have attained great success since they have started working together, but this project was reminiscent of a time where the duo were on their grind, carrying each other’s cities on their back. Years later, the duo is still dedicated to making music that captures the essence of that energy and is concerned with conserving the underground aesthetic.

Lyrically, Conway performed just as good on this joint, if not, better than any other project in his catalog. The appeal of Conway the lyricist comes from balancing the gritty nature of his environment with humorous punchlines. For every grimy line there is a a funny one-liner that sticks to your mind and find yourself repeating over and over. A good example of this appears on the intro track, “J Batters” where Conway spits (“Sold eight, played with snow too, god, I’m Allen I / I don’t need rap, I just contact my guy / He throwin’ bricks like Shaq at the line when he was past his prime”). The way Conway plays with words and the rhyme schemes is not something to overlook. The pockets that he falls in all over the project produce some of the best lyrical content from Conway thus far.

While Conway came through lacing each track with the grimiest lyrics to touch a beat, Big Ghost’s production does an amazing job laying the groundwork for Conway and the guest appearances. The signature sound on the last project, No One Mourns the Wicked, was a very gritty and edgy sound with a concentration in rock-based samples. On this project however, Big Ghost finds himself incorporating various undertones for each beat on this project. Songs like “Losses to Blessings” and “Forever Ago” set the track up for Conway to deliver some of his most personal verses, while “Kill All Rats” and “Red Beams” take it back to the gritty and rocky sound ready, for Conway and guest features Ransom and Rome Streetz to bar out. Every beat on this project sets up each track perfectly, matching with what Conway decides to spit on the mic.

The duo did an amazing job building on the last project they did together, but there’s no doubt that the selective guest features killed their parts too. Shots delivers an amazing hook on the infectious “Way We Move” while rappers Ransom, Rome Streetz and Knowledge the Pirate all drop phenomenal verses throughout the album. Conway, Ransom and Rome all team up for the menacing “Kill All Rats” while Knowledge slides in a quick verse on the magnificent “Sons of Kings.” However, with all these incredible contributions, the one that stands out the most was Rome Streetz where he blacks out throughout the entire track, delivering a passionate yet aggressive verse. One of the major takeaways from the incredible verse was towards the middle where he raps (“Took an oath that I would slit the throat of any Danny Hernandez / I had six nines in my possession, but I sold em all / Never tell you motherfuckers to who, I know protocol”). Each feature was strategically placed to deliver amazing verses in a zone where each rapper performs at their best. From putting Ransom on a grimy beat to having Knowledge on an exotically gritty track, the feature selection was very strong on this project.

The way that the duo structured the album was deliberately tactical to say the least as each track plays a role in the organization of this project. The beginning transition from “Commencement” to “J Batters” maintains the significant undertone that makes for a perfect introduction to the project. The middle portion of the project feels more triumphant with the celebratory “Toast” stretches all the way to the boastful “Highly Praised,” taking time in between to discuss the gains and sacrifices of fame on “Losses to Blessings.” The project closes out with a reflective track, “Forever Ago,” where Conway focuses on the multiple problems he’s endured from mental health issues to alcoholism and expresses his ambition to crawl himself out of that hole so he could focus on his family. At this point, the album reflects the chemistry between Conway and Big Ghost, in which everything said on this album is deeper than rap.

Big Ghost and Conway came through with another amazing addition to their catalog, whether it be solo efforts or joint projects. The science of the album boils down to the undeniable chemistry the two have, deeper than just another rapper/producer relationship. The two have seen each other grow tremendously overtime and observing the progression amongst the two strikes an emotional chord in the fans of both artists. If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed is not a perfect album by any means, but what this album represents is significantly deeper than just being another project in an extensive catalog. Big Ghost and Conway mean so much to the genre and the impact that the two have on the underground scene is irreplaceable.

8.5 / 10

Best tracks: “Kill All Rats”, “Forever Ago”, “Toast”, “Losses to Blessings”