ALBUM REVIEW: Mach-Hommy, Pray For Paris
(Editor's Note: My appreciation for this record has greatly increased over the past year. The Griselda influence, which I originally saw as a detriment, actually gives Mach's sound quality and beat work a nice upgrade. Songs that I didn't really like before, like "Rami" are good to me now.)
In 1804, Haiti made history after a nearly 15 year slave revolt led to the founding of a free and self-ruling state, after defeating French colonizers. The importance of the uprising is two-fold. On one hand, it inspired colonized countries throughout the rest of the Caribbean, such as The Dominican Republic, to buck their rulers in favor of sovereignty. Most importantly for Haitians and black people in general, it gave the people a place that was fully owned, operated and founded by them. There have been many black owned areas in the US like Tusla that were bombed and destroyed by whites who didn’t want them to have any ownership. Flash forward to the modern day, American influence, natural disasters and corrupt politicians have made Haiti one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere.
Mach-Hommy is perhaps the nation’s most prominent and most fitting representative. For years, he’s kept his face hidden with a mask of the Haitian flag, putting his nation before his own ego. Lyrically, he’s used creole as a form of hieroglyphics, gatekeeping his words for those who know the language, or those who want to fuck around and find out. His Wap Konn Jòj! EP featured him as a Haitian revolutionary, but never has his heritage been more important than on his newest album, aptly titled Pray For Haiti. Executive produced by Westside Gunn, it works as the inverse of Gunn’s Pray For Paris. Rather than an ironic, edgy title about his stunting in Paris bordering on threats, Mach-Hommy’s purpose is much less hidden. The country is beautiful and he’s proud of it, but it needs divine help if it can ever restore itself to its former glory.
While the “Leta Yo” skit seeks to immerse the listener in a new environment, “Kreyol” hopes to educate newcomers about how diverse the language of the country is, and how writing it seeks to proliferate the language. For a man who’s been notorious for suing lyric websites for posting his stuff, this point is a little lost on me, but nonetheless the sentiment is there. On second thought, a valuable way to translate this is to communicate with someone who speaks creole, which is kind of a genius way of encouraging a dialogue. Anyway, enough context, what is this, Pitchfork??
The inclusion of Westside and Griselda is a double edged sword for this album. On Mach’s Hard Lemonade, which we gave an A-, the tight and sample heavy way that Mach produced was second to none. In the same way Navy Blue did it on his last album, the self-production felt extremely personal and put him in his own world. All the “Dump God” drops, Chappelle’s Show clips and news snippets added to the mystery and lore. Here, all that personality is replaced with boom bap Griselda drums, piano loops and soul-samples. With the production out of his control, I feel as if Mach’s schtick as a mystery man suffers a bit, and his lyrical content is just simply not as strong as a result.
That’s not to say the production on here is not better than 90% of modern rap albums, if certainly is. Short tracks like “No Blood No Sweat” and “Blockchain” give Mach an interesting and cramped space to operate in, a pocket that he thrives in. Lines like “Oh word, your raps braggadocious?/Put this .36 in your mouth/Go ‘head spit your magnum opus” are classic Mach-Hommy, life-threatening but clever at the same time. I think the Westside influence also adds something new to the sound, which helps and hurts in equal parts. A track like “The Stellar Ray Theory” or “Au Revoir” are atmospheric and feature lots of singing from Mach that makes him sound like Mos Def, but it works in my opinion because he has bars to back it up in between. “Murder Czn” lands on the flip side of that for me, an slow moving beat and an elogated chorus plus two so-so verses lead to an uninteresting, long song. Mach’s Hard Lemonade was so good because of how economic it was with its 22 minute run time. With almost double the time, I feel as if no padding is necessary.
There is nothing quite as bold as “Photocopy Sloppy” or “NJ Ultra” on here, but Mach is still in the top 5-10% percentile of living rappers. No matter what he’s saying, the way he phrases certain metaphors or how he rhymes bars within each other is unmatched, not even the Griselda trio could touch his material, in my opinion. A track like “Kriminel” is a prime example of his talents. He uses a sleep demon/omen of death from Haitian Voodoo to spit bars about his family members encouraging him to rap or asking for salvation in his sleep. The way he works in creole into this song is particularly stunning over the vintage vocal loops, everything just feels warm and in its right place.
While this is not as much of a stunner as Mach’s Hard Lemonade, and not quite as luxurious as Pray For Paris by Westside, this is an album for Haiti by Haiti, something that I can truly appreciate. As a man that’s made his millions independently, whether off cryptocurrency, his $500+ vinyls, or his massive (allegedly) weed farm, he represents black ownership in a way that is inspiring. Just like the country he stands for, he broke free from the trappings of the industry long ago, before most other rappers. His stunting just feels more earned and less falsified, “Pull up in the wraith throwin’ blessings at the village” would sound like a corny outtake from “Pimpin’ All Over The World” coming from anyone else, but from Mach, it sounds like something he does every other weekend. Pray For Haiti is not Mach’s best album, but I’d be hard pressed to find better rap music in 2021.