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Album of the Year Write-Up #29: Mach-Hommy - Mach’s Hard Lemonade

Artist: Mach-Hommy

Album: Mach’s Hard Lemonade

Listen:


Background:

The elusive Mach-Hommy is something of an enigma in the underground hip hop scene. With a dedicated fan base and support from larger artists such as JAY-Z and Earl Sweatshirt, the New Jersey rapper has released a slew of incredible projects over the last few years, each one full of witty bars, grimy production and inventive song writing. Mach is not afraid to take artistic decisions such as singing, or rapping in a different language on tracks, and he’s also not afraid to ensure his discography is extremely difficult to listen to. This was case once again with his 2020 album ‘Mach’s Hard Lemonade’, released exclusively on TIDAL or as $99.99+ physical copies in early August. The project is only 9 songs and 22 minutes long, however this is a length Mach has proved he works best in time and time again.


Review:

Hard Lemonade was released with two, alternate cover arts. The first is an image of an exceptionally gentlemanly looking Mach, with the rapper donning a suit and top hat (as well as the signature bandana covering his face) as he is picking lemons. The other cover is a medieval depiction of an old lemon tree, surrounded by spirits and a lone adventurer, the type of image you’d expect to see on an ancient scroll or tapestry (this style is courtesy of artist Ayis Lertas, and appears on almost all MHL related media).

Album intro ‘SBTM (Sweeney Been Told Me)’ opens with a voice instructing listeners to read along and turn the page, another suggestion that the album is like an ancient book depicting Mach’s words. The track most likely references this 2017 interview with Sweeney Kovar. Almost instantly the beat begins, (with production done by DJ Preservation), and Mach’s rapid-fire rapping comes not a moment later, a single, opening verse that will span the entire length of the track. His prose drifts from movie references (“All they feelings get dragged, Whiplash”), to religious imagery (“Now I’m risen you gon’ respect the kismet”), to golden era hip-hop (“Think you Big Daddy Kane”). All the while the beat continues to blossom beneath him, subdued horns and bass-lines acting as the perfect backdrop to Mach’s imagery dripping verse. The track closes with the first of many samples taken from the 1996 film Basquiat, which details the life of the great Haitian-American artist who’s image Mach often aligns himself with.

The album’s second track ‘Soon Jah Due’ featuring Earl Sweatshirt and produced by Messiah Musik begins more slowly. The impending beat fades in, its creeping drums allowing Mach to take on a similarly menacing flow. With the opening lines he raps “You old enough to cross the street you old enough to get hit” a direct threat to the target of his anger. This frustration is more specifically targeted later in the verse, with the line “I turned 11 years old twice”, a play on the phrase ‘Fuck 12’ and a suggestion of the rapper’s distrust and dislike for police. He then brings in the central theme of the track by namedropping Latasha Harris who was murdered in 1991 by Soon Ja Du, one of several events which sparked the 1992 LA riots. After this the song’s hook echoes “Grâce à Dieu”, and Mach calling on the “dead homies”. The song’s final verse is from Earl Sweatshirt, echoing similar violent imagery in lines such as “You know sharpening the shiv just prerequisite to scalping lids”. The track then closes with audio of a police radio call.

Opening with a jarring elegance to the grime of previous tracks, ‘Marshmallow Test’ was produced by Nicholas Craven and consists of rippling piano keys and ascending bass lines. Featuring Mach’s rhyming at it’s most dense, the track is a barrage of multi-rhyming metaphors and depictions. Opening lines “I built a baseball diamond in the sticks, in the middle of a cornfield, with 8 balls flying hit or miss”, are surreal and nearly impenetrable, drawing upon implied imagery of isolation, rural business and drug dealing. Later in the first verse Mach continues “When em ticks pinch, you sick as a dog hitting a lick”, again drawing parallels between widely used colloquial phrases, this time to call out those getting “pinched” in business. Following this verse the songs hook is an explicit reference to the 1972 Stanford marshmallow experiment, a study on delayed gratification, with Mach rapping “One for you, one two for me, what’s tough to you, is just food to me”. In verse 2 Mach continues rapping about hustling, suggesting success with “the complexion for connection was green”, a depiction of wealth soon contrasted by the following “the intersection between your death and success was always next to your dreams”. The song’s hook echoes once again, before the third verse where Mach calls out those with “clammy hands and chicken legs” who are just “present tense”, meaning they are not willing to wait out for the reward. Mach sees himself as “futuristic”, understanding delayed gratification and how to reap the higher rewards in the rap game.

The next track is titled ‘Smoked Maldon’, featuring Mach-Hommy’s closest collaborator, Tha God Fahim, and more production from DJ Preservation. Mach opens the track, with a threat now iconic to the rapper, to “spin you like Katarina at Sarajevo, spin you like a dreidel”. These menacing lines sound over a similarly threatening beat, with boom bap drums and tribal horns reminiscent of some of the darkest production to come out of the 90s. Following Mach, Fahim’s verse is just as potent, especially the closing line “I’ll probably never win a Grammy”, which balances a hunger to exceed under-appreciation with comfort excelling in his own lane, with both underground rappers being far removed from the praise of the industry. Alternate production done by The Alchemist was featured on certain physical copies of the release.

The half-way point on the album is ‘Photocopy Sloppy (Dump Fraud)’ a short, spoken word interlude with production by Earl Sweatshirt. It’s made up of a looping soul sample, with wistful horns fading in and out of the low end, a crackling drum roll at the end of each bar and the interspersed sounds of fireworks throughout. The track is a proud celebration of Mach’s success, as he shouts out all his supporters and fans, describing them as “investors” into his music. The track ends when the loop cuts out, the lingering fireworks still sounding as we move into the next track.

‘Poor House’ sees Mach trading bars with fellow rapper Your Old Droog. It opens with the the subdued horns of a soul sample, courtesy of DJ Preservation, whose production really drives the dusty and ancient feeling that MHL possesses. The two emcees begin trading bars immediately, such as YOD’s “think you sicker than a bottle of liquor show your proof” which Mach answers stating “80% of the world’s painkillers get popped here”, seamlessly switching from one substance to another. Mach asserts his listeners and haters alike are “hooked on Mach-phonics”, addicted to the slang in his music, whilst YOD makes reference to the musical Mecca that is Rick Rubin’s kitchen, before the song’s halfway point where the soul sample’s solemn vocals allow a respite from the verses. The artists continue with abstract imagery, proclaiming “you a storm in a teacup” or Mach’s “fuck the eye of a needle” which references the biblical assertion of the impossibility for a rich man to gain entrance to heaven. The track then closes with those same solemn vocals, before we move into the next production.

The album’s first single ‘Clout Dracula (Remix)’ is a posse cut featuring Navy Blue, Young Queenz & Tvoy. It starts with a crunching drum break, underlaid with a piercing organ reminiscent of a horror score, as Mach raps his verse in Haitian Creole. Towards the end he switches to English, echoing “I ain’t never have your name in my mouth my dog, finding out you keep my name in your mouth my dog” over a rest in the break, suggesting the dangers of ‘clout’ and conflict, as well as the bloodsucking nature of pursing it. Navy Blue raps next, with an ominous verse that conveys feelings of being “toe to toe with death”, the closing line depressingly stating “all these gloomy days, there’s many more in store”. Young Queenz occupies the third verse, with a haunting delivery, filled with paranoia and dread. The final verse is then rapped by Tvoy, an alias for Your Old Droog, who raps entirely in Russian here. The original track was produced by The Alchemist.

MHL’s penultimate track (another produced by Nicholas Craven), ‘Squeaky Hinge’ also features some of Mach-Hommy’s densest lyrics. Featuring a continuously looped piano line, the track opens with Mach proclaiming “What’s pocket change? What’s house money? What’s stock exchange, all I know is clout dummy”, once again touching on the currency of “clout” as all many know or care about. Hommy’s lines bounce from raw and straightforward (“the sidewalks we walked was fraught with peril”), to impenetrably abstract (“see the elephant man on the wall, Ganesh on the door”), with the track’s overarching theme simply being what Mach-Hommy saw “inside of his core”. The politically charged closing lines “If the rope gets tighter, don’t lie is they gon’ call us some low liars?”, speaks on the strangling effects of gentrification with imagery of lynching.

The album’s closer ‘NJ Ultra’ is made up of a wistful, drum-less loop, produced by Tha God Fahim. Mach opens with the lines “Me and Denise...”, before a subtle nod to Tupac’s ‘Me & My Girlfriend’ in which the rapper claims “all I need in this life of sin” is his girlfriend/gun. This is not the only homage paid to legends on the track, as Mach references JAY-Z’s ‘99 Problems’ with the line “you wouldn’t even bust a seam on a grape”. Overall the outro serves as both homage and assertion of a rising rappers place among the greats. Finally, the sample fades and the final “Dump God” echoes into the album’s closing moments.

So, truly like the Basquiat of rap, Mach-Hommy adds another piece of art to his ever growing collection. It is a project possessing a central image, but with mysterious and abstract scrawling in its background, which must be interpreted to understand the whole and gain insight into the artist’s mind. This is the nature of Hommy’s lyrics, what they seemingly lack in cohesion only enhances their meaning and allure. The beats are varied but cohesive, and as suggested before bounce between grimy and elegant. I do think that this is one of Mach’s best projects, and wanted to do a writeup as I’m sure many people haven’t heard it yet, and may have needed some motivation to check it out. Mach-Hommy’s next release is certainly something to look forward to, if the single/loosie ‘THBLKGD’ is anything to go by, an empowering but experimental track which was released in November, featuring pitched down, submerged vocals unlike anything else the increasingly elusive rapper has released.


Questions:

  • Favourite Track?

  • Favourite Verse/Beat?

  • Best guest features?

  • Where does this stand against Mach’s other projects?

  • Where does Mach-Hommy go next?

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