Conway’s initial claim to fame is being the brother of Westside Gunn, and the two were certainly playing to my predilection for pro wrestling by creating a tag team rap duo called Hall N’ Nash. Eventually though a brother’s got to go for dolo with the solo and that’s what we have here with Conway’s “G.O.A.T.” You might think that’s a bit ballsy for someone who is just starting to achieve national recognition after his brother blew up, but so was naming themselves after two of the most (in)famous pro wrestlers of all time. You might also say it’s premature. For comparison L.L. Cool J dropped his “G.O.A.T.” back in 2000 after having already recorded and released seven studio albums in a 15+ year career, and he’d go on to release at least five more after. Where’s the catalogue Conway? Can you declare you’re the “Grimiest Of All Time” without anywhere near those kind of credentials?
You can if you don’t give a f–k. That’s exactly what type of s–t they’re on, word is bond. Both Conway and Gunn represent for the underrepresented city of Buffalo, New York. Sure they’ve got their own NFL team and hip-hop scene but they often seem to be thought of as second fiddle to New York City. In fact that thinking seemed to influence Gunn to try his luck in Atlanta, but if his Wikipedia bio is anything to go by he came to Buffalo so he could keep churning out his “Hermes” mixtape series and his “FLYGOD” studio album. So naturally Conway’s got to figure if his bro can blow up for delf right here in Buffalo, I can get my grind on too. I’m still trying to figure out “916% Entertainment” as the label though. That may be a Buffalo reference I’m not getting, because all I get when I Google it is wedding deejays in California, and 916 IS an area code for Sacramento. If I keep digging it suggests that 916% released music for the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., and that doesn’t really fit Gunn or Conway either. Some mysteries will just have to remain one.
There’s no mystery about Conway’s connects though. While I described Gunn with comparisons to Raekwon (on helium) and said he had “the braggadocious swag of a mid-1990’s Wu-Tang solo album,” Conway took it one further and put Raekwon ON the album. Guest features end up being a heavy presence on “G.O.A.T.” because the album is only nine tracks and 42 minutes long, and you’re going to want to pour one out on the curb when the late Prodigy says “I’m infallible, impossible to knock me off” on “Rodney Little.” Sadly it wasn’t.
It gets no less real than that on the rest of the cameos. You can hear Royce Da 5’9″ on “Mandatory,” Lloyd Banks on “Bullet Klub” and Styles P on “Arabian Sam” among others. About the only major friend who didn’t make an appearance is Shady Records owner Eminem, for whom Conway did a famous BET freestyle cypher.
Gunn himself is conspicous by his absence. Maybe he didn’t want to steal his brother’s shine, but with so many big names from New York one from and Detroit on this s–t, it’s not like he could have taken MORE. At least he would have brought back the Buffalo feel, because all I’m thinking about when I hear SP the Ghost is D-Block and Yonkers.
Don’t get it twisted and think I’m saying this is a huge problem. The tracks are still flavor, but it’s like everybody saying they have “buffalo wings” when it was the Anchor Bar in Buffalo that GAVE that s–t the name. I came here for their own original recipe. Thankfully you can get what Conway’s serving on a few tracks like “XXXtras” that don’t come with any sides. He’s got a laconic flow and a heavy New York drawl (due in part to half of his face being paralyzed), and while neither he nor Gunn escape that Wu feel entirely, it’s not to their detriment to be compared to storytellers like Ghost and Rae. Conway’s telling crime stories with his own flair and panache over a Daringer beat.
“Look, this for them niggaz cuttin up a bird, baggin a brick
Ratchet on hip, tha’tll put a shit bag on you quick
You fuck niggaz get your door kicked, mattresses flip
Savages snatch you up, smack you with the back of the fifth
My dog started out twelve twelve’n
Know he whippin a split in a mayo jar, Hellmann’s
Extendo in the MAC, thirty shells
No leg shots bitch, I’m aimin for your helmet
Whip a whole one and sell it overnight
Niggas actin like I became a legend overnight”
Daringer’s dark menacing production lends itself well to Conway’s flow on songs like “Bishop Shot Steel,” and the longer I listen to the “grimy” one the more I think of him as Buffalo’s answer to Kool G. Rap, although not nearly the lyricist that G. Rap is. Again that’s not a negative given that G. Rap is a legend and Conway’s just getting out there on the national stage. If I had to give three knocks to Conway on “G.O.A.T.” it would be that it’s not long enough, he doesn’t solo enough on it, and his brother Westside Gunn didn’t cameo on it. That’s it. I feel like Conway is still a little raw at this point in his career, which certainly serves him well for being “the grimiest,” but I’m actually looking forward to when he’s got a few longer albums under his belt and he’s a little more polished.