Review: Conway the Machine, ‘God Don’t Make Mistakes’

The highly anticipated major label debut by the Buffalo heavyweight proves that slow and steady wins the race.

It’s been nearly five years since the Griselda boys (Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine) inked their deal with Shady Records; and since then, the word of their movement has spread like wildfire. Though West is the architect for the label’s structure, the organization wouldn’t see the same success without Conway’s contributions. With a chip on his shoulder and the city of Buffalo on his back, the brutally witty emcee has made it his mission to highlight his craft and bring his movement to the masses with his Shady Records debut.

After years of delays and last minute changes, God Don’t Make Mistakes lives up to the predestined results that fans have built for the album over time.

Photography: Tef Wesley

When an underground artist is provided the opportunity to work on a mainstream platform, an internal conflict arises as to how they utilize it. Do they stay true to the unfiltered nature of their roots? Or do they conform to the gaudy stereotypes that are linked to high record sales? In the case of La Maquina [The Machine], a balance among the exotic lifestyle and gritty reality is pivoted. Each bar about material riches is accompanied by a line about the gut-wrenching come up, which makes up the appeal for the Griselda formula.

The Buffalo emcee’s brutal honesty is the common denominator that separates him from his relative counterpart. While West has a more provocative approach to the records, Conway helps tip the scale with his blend of sheer force and emotional steam; a stability that makes up the crux of the project.

Fueled by an inspiring story of tragedy and triumph, Conway’s lyrical content gets deeply personal into the polarizing events that have shaped his life. Though the Griselda heavyweight catches himself flaunting success with rap’s biggest names like Lil Wayne and T.I., its the inward-looking records that steal the show. A major standout from a track list of gems rises through the record titled “Stressed,” a five-minute therapy session detailing Conway’s tragic past. Among the dark details of dealing with abuse and loss is a motivational speech from Wallo, uplifting the track and highlighting the light at the end of the tunnel.

A major factor that propels Conway into these sentimental spaces is the soulful nature of the project’s sound. Typically, the Griselda movement is linked to wicked beats with menacing tones (which we still get a taste of on “John Woo Flick” and “Piano Love”), but production this time around feels more passionate and sincere. The project radiates a soul-touching sound that allow for moments where Conway zones in and gets very blunt about his situation. Certain records like “Chanel Pearls” and “Guilty” add touches of mainstream notes and harmonies, but the authentic essence that Conway flaunts isn’t sacrificed at all.

God Don’t Make Mistakes is a fitting addition to a catalog documenting the peaks and pitfalls of the hustling lifestyle; but it seems the Buffalo icon is beginning to reach for more than what’s already on his plate. For an emcee whose spent the last five years venting his troublesome past, the weight is just now being lifted off his shoulders, and it’s become noticeable. The inspirational cut “So Much More” displays how Conway’s mindset is shifting onto bigger and better things (“I can’t let nobody in the way of my goal and my plan / They say, I’m your bro, I’m your man, I know they won’t understand / Drumwork, you know it’s the brand”). A record like God Don’t Make Mistakes is necessary for Conway to finally take it to the next level to propel the success of the Griselda and Drumwork foundations.

God Don’t Make Mistakes is the archetype for how underground artists should approach a major label debut. Emcees often stumble when they reach a level of comfort in their career, but Conway proves theres a balance between being satisfied and staying hungry. The rhymes may not be as vicious as they once were, but it’s the ambition that shines above all.

8 / 10

Best tracks: “Stressed”, “Piano Love”, “So Much More”, “Tear Gas”, “God Don’t Make Mistakes”, “John Woo Flick”