Conway the Machine Earned Love as a Lyricist, Now He Wants to Be ‘Respected as an Industry Powerhouse’
“You can get distracted by the noise, thinking that you’ve reached this finish line, or you may reach a goal of yours,” says Conway the Machine, reflecting on his ability to continue challenging himself album after album. “But I’m the type of person where I’m never satisfied.”
The Buffalo-based rapper has built a reputation for his raw lyricism, impeccable flow, and uncompromising dedication to the art of hip-hop. “I try to just find stuff to challenge me,” he explains. “I make up narratives and s–t in my head. On some Last Dance type of s–t.”
Released last Friday (May 5), Conway’s newest album Won’t He Do It features collaborations with such notable names as Benny the Butcher, Juicy J and Fabolous. But perhaps even more impressive is the way Conway has his label, Drumwork Music Group, on full display throughout the entire project. Up-and-coming artists such as GooseByTheWay, Jae Skeese, and 7xvethegenius deliver standout verses and add to the project’s overall impact. When speaking with Conway, it’s evident that he is deeply passionate about his mission to uplift the artists on his label and help them reach new heights in their careers.
“My new challenge now is to not just to be the best MC and individual artist — I want to have one of the best labels out there,” says the Drumwork Music Group CEO. “I want to be respected as an industry powerhouse as well. I want Drumwork respected in this shit like CMG, QC, 1017, Cash Money, Roc Nation and all that.”
The Buffalo star fearlessly embraces his journey and story, from surviving a 2012 shooting to openly discussing his battles with depression. His fans have become accustomed to hearing him bear it all, but balancing his past street experiences with introspection and personal reflection doesn’t pose a challenge for him. What matters most is his ability to tell a compelling story.
“I just love the story. Man, if your story is dope, it’s dope,” says Conway. “It could be a street story, or it could be some other dope stuff you’re doing or went through. Everybody goes through stuff.”
Billboard recently caught up with the Buffalo-bred emcee to discuss the making of the album, his journey to this point in his career and where he draws inspiration from.
How’d you come up with the Won’t He Do It? title and what does that mean to you?
Oh, man, it just means I think about all that God has blessed me with and done for me. I think about where I came from, where I started this journey, and I know I’m far from finished and far from completing my journey. But just looking back and seeing where I’m at now, it’s unthinkable what I’ve been doing and where this journey has taken me. It’s just amazing. Won’t He Do It?
Side A of this album has 14 songs. I know it’s been about a year and some change since your last solo project. How many songs did you record to complete this album and what was the process like cutting it down?
I recorded a gang of s–t while I was in Denver. I was down in Denver for about three or four months just cooking, with no direction in mind, no nothing. It wasn’t like I was working on an album or nothing. I just was just recording. Just in a free space. I recorded a few albums worth of stuff down there. I would be going down there the whole summer. In Denver, I recorded 12 to 12 every day, seven days a week, just knocking out songs. That’s when I decided to make an album out of it. I just started picking and choosing. Some songs I left off and made new records along the way, but that’s pretty much it man. I had about five or six albums worth of s–t.
When releasing an album, I know you have certain deadlines you must meet. Were there any notable features or songs that didn’t make the album due to time constraints or maybe it didn’t fit the overall vision?
Actually, there’s a couple. Well, I just pulled them off, so it’ll be on my second album. Won’t He Do It? is really a double album. It’s a Side A and Side B. I got a record with Method Man and Flee Lord. That’s one of the ones that I did later on, and that’s going to be on Side B. There are a couple of features like that.
But as far as Side A, we were pretty much already complete. I don’t really like reaching out for features right now though. Because I get in my feelings when n—as don’t want to reply back or say they’re going to do it, and then have me chase them around and all that. It’ll ruin things for us. I’d rather just keep it like that. You stay over there, and I stay over here and do my own thing. But it’s a couple, and they’ll probably be on side B.
At the end of “Flesh of my Flesh,” you say, “They done woke me up.” Did you feel like there was a point personally where you let your foot off the gas? Or is it more that you feel like you haven’t been given the flowers that you deserve? Or a little bit of both?
It’s a little bit of both. I definitely let my foot off of the gas a little bit. I was just going through a lot in my personal life outside of the booth. I was depressed and all types of stuff. My mom was sick, I was losing friends, homies and s–t close to me. I was just going through a lot, and it just drove me away from the studio and working on music and doing s–t.
I was just talking to them boys about some freestyles I did over this time. Man, I can’t even watch them, because I know I wasn’t there. Nah, that ain’t it. And not feeling like I get the flowers I deserve as well. It’s a little bit of both.
Reject 2 is a project that fans, especially your core fans, would say is one of your best to date. Do you ever listen back to that project and attempt to draw inspiration from it? Obviously, I know you’ve grown a lot as an artist since then.
Nah. Maybe I need to start. Maybe I should, man. I really don’t.
I don’t listen to none of my stuff, really. Only time I listen to my stuff is when I’m making it. I’m trying to improve s–t or I’m just trying to vibe to it. I’m just over assessing it to make sure it’s fire and it’s right before we drop it. I don’t ride around listening to my albums and s—, all like that. I haven’t listened to Reject 2, Don’t Get Scared Now, Hall & Nash, all of them joints back then. Griselda on Steroids era, Blakk Tape, I ain’t heard them s–ts in a minute.
I think I’m going to spend a day and just turn some corners and listen to some of my old work. I just don’t want to get caught up in that. I just want to grow every tape. I just want to do something different every album. I’m jamming Bob Marley and s–t like that when I’m driving by myself. I don’t want to hear any rap.
Griselda has added a new crop of talent over the last few years. Artists such as Jay Worthy, Boldy James, Armani Caesar, and producers like Camo Monk. Is there anybody that you specifically want to collaborate with going forward from that new crop?
I already have. Armani. I’ve known Armani since we were kids. In the DJ Shay era. When we were going to DJ Shay’s studio and s–t. We’ve been doing music, and I’ve been on songs with her for years, since ’08. I’ve already done s–t with Jay Worthy. I was on his, I want to say his last album. We did a video and s–t for it. That’s my dog. I’ve been knowing Jay Worthy too since probably when I got into this s–t.
My first couple of times going to Alchemist’s House, Worthy was over there. It was just love. He always makes sure we’re good when we’re on that side. Just shows love. That’s a good n—- right there. I’m not sure if I did anything with Boldy yet, but I’ve been knowing Boldy for a while. I met him at Al’s house as well, before that whole Griselda, and then he came over to Griselda with us. We’ve been knowing Boldy. Boldy another good n—a. Solid n—a, man.
I hope this makes the article. I hope Boldy is doing well, man. I know he had an accident and stuff, man. I hope he’s good. I hope he’s doing well, man. We are praying and wishing. We need you back out here King. I was on Rome Streetz album. Stove God and Rome Streetz is on the Drumwork compilation. Stove was on one of Skeese’s tapes that he put out. We all still work. That’s what I’m saying, we are all family, we’re all good. BSF too. We are all homies. Everybody is just doing their own thing. It’s a part of our journey, man. Everybody is just doing what they got to do to facilitate for they guys.
You’ve got songs like “The Cow” and “Stressed” where you really dive into some personal things that you’ve dealt with. I’m sure that’s therapeutic for you. While you were recording this album, where was your mental health at versus now?
I’m good right now. I’m in a great space mentally right now. I was in a great space when I was recording this album. I was in Denver. I think being out there recording this album is what created this great space on their man. Because just being out there, I was alone. I had Goose with me for a while, about a month or two or whatever. But I was really just out there by myself. Just me and my pistol. Just recording and working on music and stuff.
Being in those mountains and Denver is a magical place. I met some great people out there and it just put me in a good space. Throughout the recording of this whole tape, I was just in a great, great place and I’m in a great place right now. But that mental health s–t does play a heavy role in anything you’re trying to do. Not just making an album. For me personally, this s–t made me want to just shut down.
Listening to my last tape, not God Don’t Make Mistakes because that had already been done, I’ve been working on that since I signed the deal with Shady. I did about three, four different versions of that s–t. But I’m saying, I forget whatever my last tape was, man. It was hot, but it wasn’t. That’s why I really wasn’t mad last year when I was left off the certain lists and all of that. It was like, “Nah, because I wasn’t me.” But I didn’t know that I was in that shape. Once I got healed, then it’s like, all right now I see I wasn’t myself. I just started eating better and just thinking better. I changed my mind state, my mentality. Stop being so negative all the time.
If you could pinpoint one thing you’ve learned during this journey that’s been important to your progress, what would it be? Maybe something that you would tell your younger self.
That’s a great question. Save your money. Save your money, man.
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