Album Review: Conway - Grimiest of All Time

The name of the album mixtape is the Grimiest of All Time, and Buffalo, New York-based rapper Conway is not fucking around—GOAT, a sparse ten song collection, is a dark, claustrophobic, and of course, grimey, listening experience that finds the raspy voiced Conway working on his precision with a slow and deliberate flow, backed by icy, dirty beats that harken back to the East Coast sound of the early to mid 1990s.

Conway is an artist on the bubble—a recent signee to, of all things, Eminem’s Shady Records imprint, he’s also been repped pretty hard by both Stereogum and Consequence of Sound as someone to watch.

Complete with a compelling back story, in 2012, Conway was shot in the back of the head and neck, and the profile on CoS states that at the time, doctors were certain he’d be paralyzed from the neck down; he isn’t, however the Bell’s Palsy that has damaged the right side of his face also contributes to the way he speaks, and more importantly, the way he delivers his lyrics.

As a performer, Conway started making a name for himself through is collaborative efforts with his brother, Westside Gunn, releasing mixtapes under the moniker Hall N’ Nash before beginning his solo output in 2015 with the Devil’s Reject and its follow up, Reject 2.

2017 was a most prolific year for Conway—outside of his linking with Shady Records, he released Reject on Steroids and its companion, More Steroids, all before closing out the year with GOAT.

The cover art for GOAT, well it’s unsettling and bizarre to say the least, and the unsettling, perplexing nature does truly set the tone for the music included on this effort. Conway is making the kind of rap music that nobody else really is right now—it’s not socially conscious or forward thinking like Kendrick Lamar, it’s not a throwback to the G-Funk era like YG, and it isn’t drowning in auto-tuned warbles or making a ploy for Top 40 airplay; it throws you right onto the cold, dark streets of the inner city—recalling the earliest efforts of Mobb Deep, Nas, and Wu-Tang Clan, Conway is not afraid to get his hands dirty as he weaves intricate and gritty tales.

Nine of the ten tracks included are produced by Daringer, with one track, “Trump,” produced by the legendary Alchemist—but both do wonders behind the boards to create an evocative, chilling soundscape that, at times, threatens to steal the spotlight away from Conway—the slow stuttering drum beat and mournful, distended horn blast of “Trump” is a highlight of the set, as well as the dramatic tension of “Die on Xmas,” the eerie piano sample on “Mandatory,” and the ramshackle trap kit rhythm and dissonant horns of “XXXtras.”

 There is a poetic brutality to the way Conway both delivers his lyrics, as well as those lyrics themselves. “Mafioso” rap is, more or less, a thing of the past, but with GOAT, Conway attempts to resurrect the subgenre and breathe new, interesting, evocative life into it. His proper ‘debut album,’ presumably through Shady Records, has no release date—it may not even have been recorded yet, but he deserves all the attention a Marshall Mathers co-sign is going to get him. Grimiest of All Time shows that Conway is very real talent bringing a steady, terrifying exuberance to an overcrowded marketplace.

GOAT is out now to stream or download.