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Mach-Hommy: Pray for Haiti

Griselda Records and Mach-Hommy’s storied relationship is marked by schisms and reunions but is better analyzed through how each have built their images. Both have curated defined reputations through near-constant release schedules over the past half decade. Griselda has become the Marvel Cinematic Universe of hip-hop, leading a New York boom bap revival where members of its roster frequent each other’s releases. Mach-Hommy created his image through scarcity and three-dimensionality. He’s almost always dropping new projects, but only for those who enjoy dropping hundreds of dollars on physical exclusives. His mask and interview avoidance ensure loose lips don’t leak any misinformation yet his delivery and content build a character of their own. Griselda’s branding as burly drug clobberings has been just that; strong branding. Mach-Hommy is an antithesis of sorts — unbridled artistic expression. So, even for the uninitiated, Pray for Haiti is a significant release beyond its distinction as Mach-Hommy’s first project with the label in five years after a schism with Westside Gunn.

Pray for Haiti brings with it Griselda’s patented boom bap production courtesy of label stalwarts like Conductor Williams and DJ Green Lantern, all under Westside Gunn’s executive producing hand. The beats deviate away from Griselda’s typical lavish alleyways on some of the most interesting cuts — interesting not always intended as a compliment. “Makrel Jaxon” uses a psychedelic guitar sample driven through a pixelated wall and Mach-Hommy glides through it. Conversely, “Rami” creaks like attic floorboards and neither Mach nor Westside find stable footing. It’s off-putting but not in Griselda’s confrontational tradition. While the Griselda influence permeates the album’s backdrop, don’t dismiss its leading man, for Mach-Hommy’s layered verbosity roars throughout Pray for Haiti.

Mach-Hommy is technical, funny and brutal. He swivels around beats both glossy and stilted. He reduces the shivering keys on “Magnum Band” to ash. The tricks he employs, from swapping languages to elongating and preemptively shortening syllables to serving knock-out lines, are so lowkey it’s easy to forget how impressive they are. Even better, these are not one-time flashes. Most MCs would stumble trying to replicate him on “The Stellar Ray Theory.” He illustrates the gulf between himself and other rappers through bite-sized novels like, “Trouble on my mind/ Least I’m not in a bind/ To the things to which/ Those deaf dumb blind rappers are confined.” On the closing track ,“Ten Boxes – Sin Eater,” the hyphen denotes Mach-Hommy’s flexing through technical mastery. He finds a rhythm hidden in the shuddering beat, then switches it after the backdrop returns from a water break. He’s showing off by articulating how disposable these challenges are to him. He can find multiple pathways to the cheese in the lab rat’s maze.

Another way that Mach-Hommy has retained character control was by filing a DMCA against Genius, disallowing the site from publishing his lyrics. It’s a reclamation of his role as the storyteller. It’s also a pain in the ass because Mach-Hommy albums profit from repeated listens and reading along. The overwhelming amount of top-tier punchlines make scribbling down the highlights arduously exciting:“Top earner, pop the burner, shot that n***a two times like Moderna;” “I had to dumb it down on my slow 50 Cent flow;” “Lot of you rappers big 12 like March Madness.

When he’s not clever Mach-Hommy is eloquent. He recognizes time’s value and can encapsulate an album’s weight into single lines. “Marie” is a heartfelt number dedicated to his mother and her fortitude. However, he balloons that from personal to universal, “Every time I heard the voice of God/ It was a female.” He similarly marries his personal brand to common emotional language on “Au Revoir.” After spending the track in a grimy lower register to balance out Melanie Charles’ gorgeous feature he drops his shield, “I got a bunch of family and friends/ You know we’re Haitian right.” The MC’s half-Haitian bloodline is integral to his character where he juggles English and Creole bars, sometimes swapping tongues in the same measure. His appreciation runs deeper than lip service and showmanship: 20% of proceeds from Pray for Haiti will finance computer science education through the Pray for Haiti Trust Fund.

Mach-Hommy’s other talent is as a balancing agent to Pray for Haiti’s few acidic features. Westside Gunn’s brashness is emboldened by Mach-Hommy’s reserved nature on “Folie á Deux.” Elsewhere, Mach-Hommy highlights Melanie Charles’ angelic vocals, rich background flutes and seductive guitar of “Au Revoir.” Where he falls into peril is when his emulsification relegates him to a banality. In contrast to Charles, Mach-Hommy’s singing is flat and dour. It’s like eating a cookie and tasting the raw flour coating the outside. He shouts over the coarse “Murder CZN,” but his over-the-top, sing-songy approach is out of place especially beside Westside Gunn’s bombasity.

Pray for Haiti dazzles when Mach-Hommy’s motives are clear: his thirst for success for his Haitains on “Blockchain” or dedication to his mother in “Marie.” He brands himself not for rap splendor but to better solidify his game. He knows how good he is, he just has to let others find out. His mask, the actual one he sports in press photos, changes all the time. It’s not an attempt at iconography as much as it is a reclamation of his art. He inhabits the role of the storyteller. The mask thus is his character.

Pray for Haiti dazzles when Mach-Hommy’s motives are clear. He brands himself not for rap splendor but to better solidify his game.
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