Conway The Machine’s “From King To A God”: The Best Bars

1

Friday marked the release of Conway The Machine’s official debut album From King To A God, and as expected, there was no shortage of stellar verses to be found throughout. More than the average album, in fact. It makes sense, given Conway’s competitive nature and willingness to continuously push himself as an artist. As the late DJ Shay explains on one of his many interludes, “he has a competitive essence about himself that he’s never gonna let nobody outdo him, like. He always feels that he has to be the best when he crafts.”

A rare sort of emcee whose creative passion is matched by his prolific nature and seemingly boundless work ethic, Conway The Machine’s first full-length project is easily his most ambitious to date. Boasting a variety of different production styles, including a haunting dark banger from Murda Beatz and an emotionally evocative closer from Erick Sermon and Rockwilder, From King To A God gives Conway ample room to flex the scope of his wingspan. From the minute Daringer queues up the album’s mood-setting intro, it becomes clear that Conway is acutely aware of the eyes upon him. The byproduct of a carefully-built brand, the painstaking product of dedication and trust. The pressure to evolve was on — not from the fans but from himself.

Conway From King To A God

Image via Artist

And damned if he didn’t knock it out the park ten times over. As the Dej Loaf-assisted “Fear Of God” kicks off, Machine’s focused penmanship proceeds to shine. Few can pen threats with such eloquence, his gangsta rap punchlines putting all would-be challengers in check.

To get it back, every ni**ga in my section live
Know some shooters that’s bustin’ pipes like when pressure rise
Rappers actin’ tough, showin’ they fake aggressive side
‘Til I see ’em in public, now they wanna contextualize

– Fear Of God

Despite the fact that Conway’s prior catalog is lined with classic verses, so much so that his work earned co-signs from Eminem, Jay-Z, and Raekwon, there’s a sense that he still carries a chip on his shoulder for those who cast doubt. When he finds himself omitted from a Verse Of The Year round-up, he takes it personally. Knowing full well that it’s not the bars sealing his fate, Machine speculates that his unwillingness to politic ultimately ruffled a few feathers along the way. By his own estimation, he deserves to be judged alongside rap’s elite lyricists, directly naming Hov and the late Biggie as his immediate peers.

Silly kids, he really spit about the shit he really did
The shit he really lived, I don’t think they understand how ill he is
I’m really JAY-Z, n**ga, I’m really BIG
I see their lists and I personally get offended
‘Cause every single verse is a verse of the year contender
Guess it’s ’cause I only rap ’bout the work I put in the blender
And I don’t like workin’ with these n**gas
And I never do they interviews, so that’s why I purposely don’t get mentioned

– Dough & Domani

One of the benefits of being a top tier lyricist is that fellow top tier lyricists are eager to stand beside you. In one of the year’s grimiest posse cuts so far, Conway lines up Havoc, Lloyd Banks, and the rising Flee Lord (don’t sleep, he’s on his way) to trade bars over some infernal production from the Mobb Deep legend. Now, rappers have been harbingers of violence for decades, but what sets apart the men from the boys is the amount of imagination pored into each stanza. Here, Conway’s senseless acts of murder are depicted in pristine 4K quality.

Was a shooter before I rapped and I’m still in action
Thirty-two bullets fill the MAC clip, my ni*gas active
Hollow tips in the strap, I’ma fill his hat with
We clap shit that hit his cap and peel it backwards

– Juvenile Hell

That very same MAC makes a reappearance on early single “Front Lines,” the album’s most politically relevant track. Written in direct response to the death of George Floyd, though touching on the generally fraught nature of race relations in America, “Front Lines” finds Conway expressing his frustration with the state of affairs. In the climactic verse, Machine paints an all-too-familiar picture of doomed traffic stops and fatal discrimination. And should he find himself pushed to his breaking point, he’s ready to dole out retaliation accordingly.

Just ’cause he from the ghetto, that don’t mean he sellin’ crack
He drivin’ home from work, you pull him over ’cause he black
Think he gangbangin’ ’cause he got dreads and a few tats
He reach for his ID, you think he reachin’ for a strap
He get out, put his hands up, and he still gettin’ clapped
But if he try to run, you just gon’ shoot him in his back
What if it was my son? I wonder how I’m gon’ react
I bet I’m finna run up in this precinct with this MAC

– Front Lines

Spending an album’s worth of time with Conway, listeners come to understand the importance of principles. Having built his character in the streets of Buffalo, doing what he had to do while being driven to smarten up about music by his mentor DJ Shay, the Griselda rapper does not always come across as an open book. Yet those who take the time to give his story a close reading will come away with an understanding of his values.

My n**ga Sos up in the feds, he been down for like seven
We fell out before he left and we never got to address it
I still answer every call, when he come home I plan to bless him
Cause we spoke about it like two men and it was corrected

– Seen Everything But Jesus

Fans have come to not only know, but expect Westside Gunn’s near-endless declarations of Griselda dominance. And while they may have started as an underground collective looking to put their city on the map, they have since evolved into something far more influential. Even if their preferred style of music feels slightly niche, the manner with which they push the culture forward has become a point of inspiration for many artists. Astute observer that he is, this fact was not lost on Conway.

Griselda, bitch, we the inspiration
You can see me and Gunn influencin’ all the music these ni*gas makin’
Ask B Dot and Elliot, they will tell you yes
Ask my n**ga Mal and Joe Budden, they can tell you best
Ask the homie Wayno and ’em, they’ll confess
Lotta albums are suddenly starting to feel a little more Griselda-esque

– Spurs 3

The late DJ Shay’s presence can be felt throughout From King To A God, with his voice serving as an anchoring point at key transitional moments. On the near-eight minute “Forever Droppin Tears,” easily the project’s most emotional song, Conway goes into detail about the nature of their relationship. Though the fallout of his death is hauntingly detailed, it’s the snapshots of their familial dynamic that leave the deepest impact. It was Shay who provided Conway with the confidence to reclaim his artistry following a near-fatal shooting. And when tensions flared to the point of confrontation, the fact that both men were able to settle their differences and reunite speaks to the depth of their bond.

Wish you got your flowers while you were still alive
Drunk a bottle with Shamerra and Dominic and I cried
When I got out the hospital from the shots I survived
You recorded me and helped me get confidence and my stride
Remember we fell out and had words
That resulted in me throwin’ punches,
Seen you a few weeks later at James’ spot, we ain’t speak like we ain’t know each other
When we close as brothers and life too short to be holdin’ grudges
Hugged it out, now we drinkin’ Remy and rollin’ Dutches
I just wish I had a chance to tell my bro I love him

– Forever Droppin Tears

Last but not least, and following up the album’s most emotionally powerful piece of writing, is one of the project’s cleverest punchlines. It might not even be caught were Conway not willing to break the fourth wall and throw a devilish wink at the camera. With no shortage of candidates to chose from, what were your favorite bars on From King To A God?

But every time I drop, I reel in two hundred grand, ni*ga
Ni*gas try blockin’ my goals, I’ma make it messy (You see what I did there)
My OG told me, gotta kill a ni*ga you love, do it clean, you don’t make it messy
Bells Palsy, bitches still say I’m sexy

– Jesus Khrysis

For more on Conway, check out our interview with the rapper right here.