June 20, 2017

the spook

Dean Van Nguyen has seen DOOM without his mask.

Mach-Hommy has no time for the rap star playbook. The Griselda Gang soldier took the unusual decision last year to distribute his Haitian Body Odor album via Instagram DMs. Fans could hit him up—if they were willing to part with $300 per copy. What they got was a record that encapsulated his subterranean, slam poetry vocal style. Mach thumped his blunt syllables over lean instruments—a skewered guitar line here, a compressed accordion there. This was rap music shed of any pop leanings or ostentatious dressings.

In that set was “Fresh Off The Boat,” a jazzy cut that saw hip-hop hippie Knxwledge loop some wandering keys, a neatly plucked double bass, and caressed cymbals. The pair flesh out the collaboration on the eight-track piece The Spook, which dropped last month. It’s a powerful coming together of dueling elements. There’s little chemistry between the vocals and the music, but the contrast works—Mach’s blunt, battering vocals and Knxwledge’s trim, bluesy cuts.

Front and center is Mach-Hommy, a twisted demon who raps without a traditional sense of timing. The Jersey native’s flow moves forward with the slow, determined effectiveness of a tugboat. His lyrics sound off the cuff, sometimes crossing the border into pure gibberish. Mach likes to veer off into a tuneless croon, and his voice sounds buried under a layer of distortion that may or may not be caused by rapping into a cheap mic.

The DIY feel is complimented by Knxwledge’s gritty beat tape ethos. The producer’s stock is higher than ever after last year’s Yes Lawd!, the full-length project released with Anderson .Paak under their NxWorries banner that saw the smooth soul man croon over raw samples, muddy basslines, and hard-knocking drums. But that record felt positively lush compared to The Spook. The beats feel as specifically tailored as a 44-inch jacket on a featherweight.

I imagine Hommy plucked them from the swell of donuts Knxwledge probably hoards on hard drives. Not every fan of Yes Lawd! coming here for a fresh fix will love this record’s unprocessed nature. Rather than take on too much heavy lifting, the beatmaker lets his dusty vinyl do the work. Opener “Tiddly Winks [stx]” feels like old wax stuck on rotation with very little extra tweaking.

The grubby drums and floating soul sample of “Yeezy Taught H.E.R.” is probably closest thing to a beat that would work for .Paak, while “Swift Premium” offers the kind of Saturday morning cartoon sounds that would coax DOOM out of hiding. “Bon Après-Midi,” meanwhile, encapsulates the disorderly feel to the team-up as Knxwledge serves a bitter, noir-style trumpet sample with some thumping drums added to the mix and Mach mumbles a tuneless song in what I think is French. This is abstract art. A mish-mash of sonic elements that form an ugly-beautiful mess you can’t turn away from.

True to form, Mach has since released a new record, Dump Gawd: Hommy Edition, available without preview via Bandcamp for $77.77. This is a wild strategy. But arguments surrounding the economics of what he’s doing only have weight when the music is this damn good.