Conway the Machine may have left Griselda Records, but that departure hasn’t had an effect on his output. The Buffalo emcee released “Won’t He Do It” via his Drumwork label this past spring, and now has teamed up with the equally prolific 38 Spesh for a joint album. The Rochester, NY artist has not only lent his vocals for this project, but also his production chops for its entirety (along with Jimmy Dukes sharing duties). The result? The highly advanced-sounding “Speshal Machinery”. Comprised of ten tracks with guest rappers dispersed here and there, it harks back to this review’s opening statement concerning the severance of Conway and Griselda: His departure hasn’t affected his griminess on the mic either.
Starting with the drumless gospel organ funeral music in the album intro, Conway and Spesh trade lines in the song’s sole verse with respective braggadocious rhymes. Piano keys are what drive the next track, “Latex Gloves”, featuring Lloyd Banks. The former G-Unit emcee’s rhymes and flow have become more refined with the progression of time. However, it’s 38 Spesh’s verse that took the cake, especially his last four bars: “From upstate NY, a moody block / Play the gangster role and I’ll make your movie stop / All hoes is birds, I’m where the bougie flock / I’ll never let these groupie thots do me like Rudy pops, nigga.” The slurred production on “Last Week” has the spooky vibe that listeners have grown accustomed to with Conway, and therefore is sure to satisfy day-one listeners almost for certain.
On “Been Through”, Spesh stays behind the boards, allowing the mic to be a Buffalo affair with Conway rapping alongside fellow hometown rapper ElCamino. The production on “Fireplace” has that “roll and L and burn an incense” vibe from 2004’s “Hypnotic” by Memphis Bleek. It’s also the second track on the album, apart from the intro, that’s less than two minutes in length and is essentially Spesh solo track. As a slight counter to that, the preceding title track contains both Spesh and Conway, though the latter’s verse is noticeably longer. In addition to the violin sample, the accompanying video shows Conway employing several physical assists (a cane, a wheelchair, all references to his leg injury from last May) without it hampering him:
With the appearance of Benny the Butcher on “Goodfellas”, the album ventures into familiar territory for listeners. It starts off with Henry Hill’s relaxed verse with Spesh, Conway’s verse on the thrill of being in the action, but it’s Benny’s Tommy De Vito that steals the show and he even caps off his verse with those same references. “Unruly” is ruled ironically by a psychedelic sample that gives the track a rush of 1970s Blaxploitation crime scene imagery. The penultimate “Made Bosses” has a wistful production with piano and flute samples as Conway drops autobiographical bars, along with Spesh’s bars about their rise in rap. The closer “We Outside” has production of a bluesy origin, but has Pharoahe Monch and Ché Noir featured, with the former on the hook and the latter dropping a verse showing off her inability to disappoint. From start to finish, “Speshal Machinery” is a solid listen. Does it bear the same sophistication in line of German engineering of its title? No, but it has the tools to advance it past some street rappers who have and have not shown and proved.