Last year I wrote about Mach-Hommy’s record with DJ Muggs and pronounced him “potentially rap’s next big enigmatic character“. This year he’s put out an album that pretty much confirms this, and has captured the imagination of various music publications, most notably the usually snooty Pitchfork. That doesn’t mean anything for many rap fans as they openly dismiss plenty of great albums, but, I can see why highbrow critics might latch on to a Mach-Hommy record as not only does he try something different, he sounds pretty unique in the grand scheme of music. His music has depth and layers that his contemporaries may not, but it’s also a challenging listen.
Hommy’s writing and rap abilities are clearly excellent but it’s how he uses his voice that will inevitably divide listeners. This ain’t Guru, Big Daddy Kane or Method Man – an artist that’s caramel to the ear. This is jarring and can test one’s patience, and “Pray For Haiti” is executive produced by Westside Gunn, perhaps the posterchild for difficult voices. If you can get past the voice you’ll encounter some genuinely exceptional moments. It took me countless listens to get into the DJ Muggs project, but it eventually clicked. Mach-Hommy creates albums and mood-pieces – the emphasis on the art form is high, something his astronomical prices play up to. Of all the street spitters churning out records triannually, Mach-Hommy’s pen ensures repeated listens are rewarded. The New Jersey rapper is an intricate writer, decorating his gun talk with clever bits of wordplay that can easily bypass the listener’s ear. He doesn’t emphasize or stress the punchline when declaring “put a .38 in your mouth, now try and spit your magnum opus”.
Nicholas Craven’s work on “Kriminel” is outstanding, one of the more immediate offerings that injects much-needed soul. I wasn’t so keen on the shower singing from Hommy, but it pops up at just the right moment in the middle of the album. The production throughout is very much of the Griselda flavor: plodding and downbeat; but does throw up some strong moments. Conductor Williams nails “Folie A Deux” with pure Madlib wizardry – you could easily hear Freddie Gibbs over this.
I struggle with Westside Gunn’s antics at the best of times, his irritating adlibs now full-on caricature. The high pitch, an offbeat flow that’s barely a flow. The “doot doot”s and “boom boom”s. All annoying mixtape DJ characteristics are distilled into one artist. Along with frequent collaborator Tha God Fahim, he’s the only featured emcee, also appearing on “Murder Czn”. It’s just not for me, but I will give him credit for his executive producer role, as this album is certainly well constructed.
What’s noticeable on “Pray For Haiti” is just how suitable Mach-Hommy is when used in conjunction with vocalists, perhaps even more so than the traditional bar-spitting songs. “Au Revoir” with Melanie Charles, produced by DJ Green Lantern no less, is a highlight that does utilize Hommy’s deeper tones to great effect. The aforementioned “Kriminel” too works to great effect. I’d love to hear more of this soulful style and could well see Mach-Hommy branching out further from the restrictions of street rap into more mainstream success with this approach.
The dry delivery and loop-driven production are reminiscent of MF Doom, an artist that many enjoy but some simply cannot stand thanks to his monotone delivery. There are clear parallels, and “Blockchain” could even be produced by MF Doom from his Vaudeville Villain album. Hommy albums get better with repeated listens and he’s an artist that suits the album format. The antithesis of a regular coke rap rapper, his music carries a richer quality than Griselda regulars. Whether you can truly appreciate his craft depends on your patience and willingness to hear something a little different.