When Conway the Machine signed Jae Skeese to Drumwork Music Group, the 41-year old musician was onto something. After a separation from Shady Records and Griselda Records - founded by he and his brother, Westside Gunn - Conway was on the path to establishing himself as the curator of an iconic collective, akin to that of J.Cole’s Dreamville.
The head of Drumwork Music Group shines throughout the project, as he’s featured on six songs, outscored by 7xvethegenius who appears on seven of the album’s tracks. The self-titled compilation includes 13 tracks from the additional members of Conway’s classic lineup which comprises heavy-hitters from Buffalo, NY: Lucky Seven, the aforementioned 7xvethegenius and Jae Skeese, Shots Almigh, GooseByTheWay and Baltimore rep SK Da King.
The Avengers assembly of rap’s foundational styles take turns putting their stamp on Drumwork Music Group’s first united production. Conway the Machine’s boom bap roots slink through the project as the collective cultivates an air of nostalgia and an excitement for their evolution.
The album begins with ‘Hov Numbers’ produced by Georgia creator Trizzy Williams. “Look, shuttin’ down the whole summer, Maybach roadrunner/Got it from the stove numbers/Wrist be doin’ Hov numbers, whoa,” Conway raps as he overrides the mellowed production in place. The track authorizes each participating member to let loose over the trap vibe to boast about wealthy lifestyles and the hard-knock life before fame. Lucky Seven concludes the 6-minute song with a Sean Carter-esque presence that closes the intro out flawlessly.
Lucky Seven runs it back at the top of ‘Lonely’, where the rapper/producer pronounces the desire to “link up and build a pyramid”, championing the importance of inner-community building and the destructive images that are rewarded with accolades and clout. 7xvethegenius vocalizes, “You ain’t gon’ stop nothin/ No, you know I’mma winner/ And here at the top, it’s lonely'' over the beat as producers UniQue Beatz and Franchise Beatz unfasten the drums from the track and fans are allowed to relish in the jazz undertones of the melody. SK Da King’s lyrics dance through the headphones as he reminds us of the “squad laws” established amongst his team, the brotherhood he cherishes and the unrelenting desire to chase the bag.
Drumwork Music Group glides through the next track, ‘LALO’, as Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher collaborate with 38 Spesh. The submission has a clear theme: “b****es love n***** with drug money”. Conway audaciously identifies the joys of life he experiences that those watching are unable to while 38 Spesh spends his bars admonishing the women who enjoy the lifestyle drug dealers provide, recognizing his perception of their behavior and how he callously responds.
GooseByTheWay and Jae Skeese assisted with the album’s tempo boost in ‘City Grill’, but 7xvethegenius’ verse was matchless. The artist, hailing from the eastside of Buffalo, NY, coasts across the bass line with a laid-back confidence that radiates through the speakers.
The first Lady of Drumwork teams up with Kota Savia, a fellow Buffalo rep and artist, to perform 'Crown the Queens' towards the latter part of the project. On this track, 7xvethegenius emphasizes the pits from whence "a GOAT with the flows'' originates, with food and lights as an option instead of an assumed right. The 30-year old emcee established her residence in the conversation of emerging women in hip-hop that are in position to influence the industry’s stance on allowing a specific brand of woman mainstream opportunity.
Shots Almigh’s style is a welcome addition to the fold through ‘Blue Glass’, a Goddamns production that samples The New York School of Jewish Song Accompanied by Neginah Orchestra. The entry effortlessly skips to the front of the line as Drumwork’s finest performance/production connection on the album. “Go and get you a spliff/ Light it up and put your hands in the sky” carries the hook and the vibe snatches the audience back to 90s New York hip-hop when Nas and Wu-Tang were initially crafting the sound.
Drumwork The Album is one of 2023’s hidden gems. With Conway the Machine’s second installment of the “Drumwork Fest” set for Buffalo, New York in August, the brand is set to develop and expand. The Drumwork Music Group has a niche for nostalgia and their debut compilation serves as a time capsule unleashing the fundamentals and history that hip-hop stands on.
Listen to the album below.