By Nick Sligh
Mach-Hommy might not be the most widely-known rapper, but his cult followers are as passionate as the fans of his more famous contemporaries. He encourages his fans to place a greater value on art put forth by musicians they admire, and his vinyls thus sell for prices (literally) in the thousands of dollars.
The lo-fi lyricist from New Jersey, by way of Haiti, has become well-known in rap circles for his intricate wordplay, eclectic style, blunt deliveries and eccentric personality. Reclusive, often to the point of great mystery, Mach-Hommy has built a persona that resembles that of an underground superhero in rap.
The Haitian-American rapper’s fifth studio album, “Pray for Haiti,” has now finally arrived as a release under Buffalo’s Griselda Records label. The album was released in May, Haitian Heritage Month, to pay homage to his home nation, which he proudly signals throughout his music. Griselda’s founder, Westside Gunn, was heavily involved with the development of Mach-Hommy’s latest offering, being the executive producer and a catalyst in promoting the album.
Mach-Hommy: “Pray for Haiti” (May 21, 2021)
From the very beginning of the album, the grimy, jazzy, dark samples that Griselda has become known for are present. Mach-Hommy comes in with a flurry of bars and punchlines and a versatility of flows over the gloomy production on the intro, “The 26th Letter,” establishing the label’s vintage sound immediately, which carries on throughout the album and sets the tone. That structure can be seen on nearly every track, with relentless, dense and punchline-heavy rap being complimented by the mostly Westside Gunn-influenced production.
The dusty jazz, soul samples and grimy thematics pervade the central atmosphere of the entire work. As much as I enjoyed the majority of the production, I don’t feel that there was anything innovative enough in this regard to make the record sound distinct from many of the Griselda releases that I have listened to in the past. The production does its job, and it fits the records and Mach-Hommy’s style, but I would have loved to see him make some more abstract and inventive production choices in places. Certain points begin to veer into more unexpected and abstract sounds, but overall it’s a collection of instrumentals that is not far from a recent Westside Gunn compilation, with many of the jazz samples and instrumentals offering a very similar atmospheric appeal sonically. Especially with someone who has shown the ability to adjust flows cleverly, I think challenging himself to expand more in the production realm could have yielded great results.
Every track feels like a showcase of clever bars and punchlines, and every listen reveals new lyrical intricacies that weren’t caught before. Most of the writing was particularly interesting and captivating, with so much of the delivery feeling appropriate for Mach-Hommy’s unique persona. On “Magnum Band,” the clever wordplay is taken a bit too far, making a play on the suicidal death of Capital Steez, famous founder of the Pro Era rap collective. “Tryna see capital off this steez, like I’m Jonny Shipes / I ain’t gonna be the one flyin’ over buildings / More into adding on, you know, buildin’.” With the exception of this bar that certainly felt in bad taste, a lot of the penmanship was elite and impressive.
Consistency is both a blessing and a curse on this album. On the positive side, the consistent sounds and thematics really help to build a cohesiveness throughout the tracklist, and they allow Mach-Hommy to shine in most cases. Particularly on tracks like “Rami” and “Magnum Band,” the dusty piano loops and floating background synths help to set the perfect atmosphere for Mach-Hommy’s delivery and bars. However, the consistency also leaves me longing for more innovation. None of the tracks particularly stand out to me as incredible, although many of them are still very well-crafted songs. It’s easy to listen through to the album multiple times and appreciate the product, but remembering standout tracks is more difficult because of the sonic similarities that abound.
Overall, Mach-Hommy’s latest work is certainly some of the finest work in his catalogue. The production has Westside Gunn’s influence all over it, with the smooth, grimy, jazzy, lo-fi instrumentals laying the background for Mach-Hommy’s impressive lyricism. Though I would have liked to see some more experimentation with the production choices, the ones that are here suffice.
There are an absurdly high number of cleverly written bars throughout the album. I could really write another article just breaking down the bars from the album, but it is genuinely captivating just to try to catch new lyrics every time. Comedic punchlines are present like “Shot him two times like Moderna” (lmfao) and “So real, I make Meghan Markle hop out and get the dutches (duchess).” Also, Mach comes through with heavier and harder punchlines with great wordplay consistently like on the track “No Blood No Sweat” with “Oh word, your raps braggadocious? / Put this .38 in your mouth, go ahead and spit your magnum opus.” It’s an album where every listen brings new realizations and connections between the intricacies of various lines, and it’s as lyrically strong as any project in rap so far this year.
Mach-Hommy (along with Westside Gunn) spent a ton of time crafting this album, which becomes obvious when listening. “Pray for Haiti” truly feels like a more mellow and reclusive version of Westside Gunn’s 2020 release “Pray for Paris,” but with the same level of confidence and assuredness in the art that is being put forth.
Mach-Hommy will never desire to be widely popular or commercially successful by conventional means, but “Pray for Haiti” leaves no doubt that he can consistently create projects with an impressive intricacy. It’s not the all-time masterpiece that some underground fans might make it out to be, but it’s certainly a record that is more impressive than its eventual commercial popularity will state.
Favorite Songs: “Rami,” “The 26th Letter,” “Magnum Band,” “Kriminel,” “Ten Boxes – Sin Eater”
Album Score: 76/100
Check out this Spotify playlist and like it to follow along with some of some of my favorite songs of 2021 as the year progresses!