With his new album "From King To A God" dropping tomorrow, Conway The Machine is ready to continue his evolution.
Tomorrow, Conway The Machine will be releasing his new project From King To A God, marking his third release of the year. It will not be the last. He still has his Shady Records debut, God Don't Make Mistakes, in the pipeline. Few have proven as prolific as the Griselda lyricist, who has quickly risen to be one of the game's most imposing rappers on a bar-for-bar basis. Co-signs from legendary emcees like Raekwon The Chef, Jay-Z, and Eminem help enhance the mystique, but it's The Machine's own master craftmanship that firmly establishes the legend.
With his 2020 run already yielding gems like the Alchemist-produced Lulu and the Big Ghost LTD-produced No One Mourns The Wicked, the stage is set for From King To A God. "I wanted to show that I evolved as a lyricist, as an artist, and all that," explains Conway, during our phone conversation. "I just wanted to show the evolution, I just wanted to show the evolution of my emceeing. I made some strides lyrically, artistically, and creatively, so I just wanted to showcase that and show them that I ain’t no one-trick pony."
Boasting features from Dej Loaf, Lloyd Banks, Havoc, Flee Lord, Benny The Butcher, Freddie Gibbs, Westside Gunn, El Camino, Alchemist, DJ Premier, and more, From King To A God arrives in full Friday, September 11th. Check out the full interview below.
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HNHH:Hey, what’s up Conway, how you doing?
Conway: I’m good, how you doing?
Pretty good. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it.
First off I wanted to say I’m really sorry about the loss of DJ Shay. I know he meant a lot to you and the whole movement. How are you holding up?
Thank you. I’m good, I’ll be aight.
For the people who might not know- can you tell me about your relationship with Shay and what he meant to Griselda?
He was just like a near, dear friend. A father figure and big brother to most of us. He was very instrumental in shaping and molding us as artists and young men in the streets and stuff. He played a big role in all our lives. We all hurt, but we good.
Everyone’s doing such great work now, he did a good job in instilling direction.
I just wanted to also tell you, to me at least, you’re pretty much my favorite lyricist in the game right now. Bar for bar, you and Benny and West are pretty untouchable. How does it feel to know that you guys played such a major role in bringing bars back into the picture in such a big way?
It’s an amazing feeling. When I hear stuff like that, like what you just said, it’s just gratifying. It’s a pleasure to be the one to go even further and be even iller. It’s just dope. It’s amazing to see that we’re at the forefront of the sound, coming from where we come from.
Yeah, for sure. A lot of people have come to learn about your story through the song, “The Cow." That’s one of the most powerful tracks I’ve heard in years. How does it feel seeing that verse, in particular, get the reception it has?
So good, so good. I’d be lying if I said I expected it. I knew it was a powerful verse, and I knew the record was a powerful record. I cried and shit while I was recording it so I kind of knew, like, if it was affecting me like that, it was possible it was going to touch the fans like that who hear it. It’s dope to see the reaction and reception I get when I perform it. Everybody singing it word-for-word, whether you’re black, white Spanish, brown, yellow, blue. It’s all love in the building, that record just brings everybody together for some reason. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s just dope to see the people fucking with it the way they do.
Was that a story you always wanted to tell when you were working on your music at the time?
I’m not sure. When I heard the beat, I was actually with Daringer when he made that beat. So when I heard the beat, I told him to load it up in the Pro Tools immediately and that’s what just came to my mind. I don’t even think I wrote none of that shit down. Those emotions were just taking me there.
I think that’s why it’s resonated so deeply with so many people. Including Jay-Z, who seemed pretty blown away by your performance. What did that mean to you as an artist to get that co-sign?
That was dope, man. It was a good feeling.
I can imagine. You’ve got your next project, From King To A God coming out Friday. How does it feel to be having another one ready to go?
It definitely feels good to have the clip loaded. That shit is locked and loaded in the chamber. I like to be proactive, I like to be ten steps ahead. I’m sitting on a couple of amazing bodies of work and I’m excited for the people to hear it.
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It’s cool too, cause you’ve already got two amazing bodies of work out this year alone, with Lulu and No One Mourns The Wicked. Did you plan on releasing these specific projects at the beginning of the year -- did you have a game plan going forward?
Yeah. With Lulu, I kind of had been working on it since like late December. Like November, December-ish of 2019. So by the time it was finished, and by the time Al was done with it, I knew we was gon’ release it immediately with Patta. So I knew that was coming, and then I had already kind of did the No One Mourns The Wicked EP as well, but I just didn’t know when Big Ghost had plans to release it. And then it just worked out dope, though. When they both came out, it worked out, dope. I knew I was going to do From A King To A God and God Don’t Make Mistakes this year so I just thought like, you can never have enough grimy shit for the streets. So I said fuck it, put all that shit out.
It sounds to me like you’ve had distinct visions for each project. What was the creative mindset you were in when you loaded up From A King To A God? And what was the message you wanted to send with this project?
Evolution. I wanted to show that I evolved as a lyricist, as an artist, and all that. I just wanted to show the evolution, I just wanted to show the evolution of my emceeing. I made some strides lyrically, artistically, and creatively, so I just wanted to showcase that and show them that I ain’t no one-trick pony. I’m really nice with this shit. That’s the main message I wanted to drive home.
I got an advance copy of the project, and it’s definitely sounding like another great body of work -- I’m really excited to hear the official release. When I first saw the tracklist, the one that jumped out to me right off the bat was the posse cut you had with Lloyd Banks, Havoc, and Flee Lord. Then when I heard the track, it completely blew my mind -- so can you walk me through how that one came together?
I met Havoc when I was out in Wyoming working on some music with Kanye. I was out here for a couple of days, and we exchanged numbers and were around each other for a couple of days, just there to kick it, you know what I’m saying. Then I just reached out to him one day like, “Yo, I wanna work, I wanna do something, send me a batch.” He sent me a batch of like five beats or something, and that was the first beat I actually clicked on and pressed play on -- it was that one. It just felt to me like some old-school, nostalgic, Hell On Earth, Infamous Mobb Deep shit. So I hit Havoc back after I did my verse, like “Yo, you should throw a hook on there." Cause I wanted it to feel like the Hell On Earth days. Getting Flee and Banks on there was just me just adding layers to the cake.
I think a lot of people are gonna really like that track. It’s funny you mention how you were just working with Kanye and Havoc, two producers who have such different musical styles. Kanye is really moving into this Gospel realm, bringing those influences into music -- he’s in a positive place, and that's reflected in the music. And to me, Havoc, I always associate him with the dark bangers, like super grimy. It speaks to your versatility as an artist right there. What was it like working on Kanye’s new stuff?
It was dope, working with Kanye. Just vibing, listening to music. I just appreciated being around him. We pray, we talk, we create. It’s just a good vibe, a good feeling. He’s so insightful, he’s so intelligent, well-educated -- he’s a visionary and a genius. I just try to get as much as I can when I’m out there.
Do you think one day you’ll try to take on a similar role? Maybe try to help younger artists get their vision out there? Is that something you’d be interested in pursuing one day?
Yeah, actually that’s what I plan on doing starting in like 2021, that’s what I’m doing with the Drumwork Musical. Getting some of that unpolished, untapped-into talent an opportunity to get their shit off and be a part of something special. So yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing with the whole Drumwork thing, just putting on for artists and all that shit.
In today’s day and age, a lot of people listen to singles and playlists, but I know a lot of artists really value making an album and building that body of work from scratch. It reminded me of something Wes said when I had interviewed him a couple of years ago, about being an orchestrator and piecing a project together. It seems to me like Griselda really values that, so I was just wondering when you’re making your albums, is there a process you like to go through when you’re constructing them?
Honestly, there’s no process, it’s just my usual format. I just get in there, when I hear the beat, I go for it. I pretty much have an idea of the direction I want to go with the project, so I build each record with that in mind, but it's nothing too intricate or whatever.
Do you do a lot of writing yourself, or do you just go in the booth and see what happens?
Both. I do a little more just going in the booth and just going with it more than I write, but I do a little of both.
Some of those rhyme schemes you have are crazy. I was listening to “Dead Flowers” and it’s like every word and syllable is rhyming together, its relentless.
And the thing is, not only are they rhyming, but they’re like, completely badass punchlines, too. No one’s really doing that right now, so it’s really refreshing.
Thank you man, I appreciate it.
Thank you, honestly. You’re putting out so much good music right now. Everyone from your camp, it's really great to see. After From King To A God drops, you mention God Don’t Make Mistakes, a lot of people are pretty excited for that. It’s your first on Shady Records.
Was that different territory for you, doing something with a major label like that?
Yeah, new territory. Signing to Shady Records, it’s definitely a feeling of like, not pressure, but it’s a feeling of wanting to carry on tradition. You wanna put on and show Em it wasn’t a mistake. You know thoughts you might have in your head as a rapper. You know, being in the same circle with a rapper of Eminem’s quality, his craft. It was kind of new territory, but it's perfect for me. I can make a perfect situation out of pretty much anything. I just know how to adapt. It was dope, man, dope. I’m excited, the first project, my first album, I’m excited.
I saw you did an interview with Bootleg Kev and you mentioned 85% of it was not sampled. That in itself was really intriguing to me.
Most of it is definitely sample-free.
Are you able to say any producers you worked with or is that all under wraps for now?
Daringer, Beat Butcha, Alchemist.
On that note, I wanted to ask you about them specifically -- Daringer, Beat Butcha, and Alchemist. Behind the boards, they’re so good at making that dark sound -- as you say, it's spooky. What is it about that sound that speaks to you as an emcee?
When we started doing that shit it was really just to help me because I couldn’t really pronounce shit as well as I wanted to, with the Bells Palsy. I was just starting to get my jaw back functioning somewhat, so a lot the words were kind of hard for me to pronounce when I rapped on more uptempo kind of beats, like "Overdose" or "Juvenile Hell." I couldn’t rap on shit like that because I couldn’t really move my jaw. So Daringer was like, "Why don’t we slow it down real quick and you just rap over a slow-ass beat with just hard drums, or just a raw sample or a rock sample." Daringer's a genius, so we sat down and did Reject 2, and it took me there.
You and Daringer have been working together for a long time, how did that friendship start?
Through Westside. When I came home, he was already working with him and shit. He was already working with Daringer.
You mentioned slowing it down but now I hear you have tracks like “Calvin," where you’re spitting pretty fast. That track was also a standout for me this year.
Thank you, man. That was one of them shits I was trying to challenge myself and see if I could still spit that shit.
Keeps people on their toes, too. I gotta ask, what’s the origin of your iconic laugh ad-lib? How did that come to be?
I don’t know. I’m a fun guy. My laugh -- some of the shit I be saying is hysterical to me.
What’s next for Conway the Machine?
From King To A God. God Don’t Make Mistakes. Got the documentary. I got the label. Got some shit going on man, just have to wait and see.
Definitely. Thank you so much for your time. I’m looking forward to the albums.
Thank you, you too. Peace.