Studio Sessions | Conway the Machine on fighting depression and learning fearlessness from Kanye West
For this installment of “Studio Sessions,” Conway the Machine talks mental health, reveals what he learned from watching Kanye West’s creative process, and more.
Conway the Machine has always been one of the most fearless emcees on Griselda Records, but his God Don’t Make Mistakes album finds him opening up about struggling with depression in a way he never has before.
“I’m telling my story. I’m being more transparent, and I know my story is ill. Plus, these are some incredible records that are timeless,” Conway told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the “Forever Droppin Tears” lyricist explains why Jill Scott is rapping on his album, how recording helped him deal with mental health issues, and what he learned from Kanye West. Check out our conversation below.
When we last spoke in September 2020, you said God Don’t Make Mistakes was done. I got an advanced stream of it in November 2021. How much of the album has changed since then?
Not much, we may have added a song or two. We took a couple of songs off. We may have added a verse here or there. We did some tweaking, but it hasn’t changed much. We stayed with what we had. The only thing we changed was the records we couldn’t get cleared or we couldn’t get the agreements in for.
What made you so confident God Don’t Make Mistakes would still resonate in 2022?
I’m telling my story. I’m being more transparent, and I know my story is ill. Plus, these are some incredible records that are timeless. When you have good music, it lasts for a while.
Speaking of your transparency, on the album you open up about trauma and depression on records like “Stressed.” Was it hard to write and record these songs?
Yeah, it was. But I just wanted to share that with my fans. Maybe through my pain and story I can inspire someone else and help someone overcome their shortcomings in life. I felt it was my duty to not lie to the fans.
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Where was the album recorded?
I recorded a lot of it with my man Lucky Seven at his studio. The majority of the rest I recorded myself at home. We mostly did it ourselves.
One of the most surprising records is “Chanel Pearls” with Jill Scott. How did that come about?
I reached out to her and told her I had this song that I wanted to collaborate with her on. She was like, ‘Let’s do it.’
She’s on the track spittin’ bars. Whose idea was it for her to do that?
Yeah, Jill was in her bag. That’s what she was inspired to do. She said that’s what was on her heart. I inspired her to do that. It’s fire.
Griselda has a certain sound. How involved are you in the making of the beats you rap on? Are you in the studio with producers like Daringer making suggestions?
Nah, we’re so busy scrambling and doing everything we do on the individual side, we don’t really be having the time to get in the lab together all of the time. Usually, he just sends a batch [of beats], or he’ll come through and play some beats. With Daringer, you don’t really have to tell him anything. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a master at that shit. All you have to do is pick what you vibe to.
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What did it mean to you to get that “Tear Gas” record with Lil Wayne and Rick Ross?
It meant everything. I think Wayne is in my personal top five. Ross is one of the illest ever to do it. That’s the big dawg. It was ill to have both of them on the same joint where we’re just sparring and showcasing our skills. It’s one of my favorite records on God Don’t Make Mistakes.
On the title track, you mention a missed session with French Montana pre-fame. Are there any other collaborations that were supposed to happen but didn’t?
There were a lot of those. When we were coming up in the game, a lot of shit wasn’t happening. There were a lot of niggas fronting on us. Niggas weren’t eager to fuck with us back then. I guess we were just some Buffalo niggas to them. Now, we do the most features than anyone in the industry. That’s gratifying in itself.
What was your last memorable session with an artist that meant a lot to you?
Probably when I did my feature on DMX’s ‘Hood Blues.’ I was running a little late, so by the time I got there, he already stepped out for a second. He wasn’t there when I recorded my verse, but Swizz [Beatz] and everyone were there. It was a fun session. It was inspirational. It was amazing to be a part of that album. It was amazing to be considered by him for that album. That meant a lot to me.
You spoke before about working with Kanye West.
That was another one that meant a lot to me.
How do you blend your creative process with one that is as unorthodox as Kanye’s?
Sometimes you have to just shut up, learn and watch. You have to be a student and just listen. I didn’t want to go in there with my chest poked out. I wanted to be a sponge and soak up the game. My creative process didn’t matter. It was all about learning from Ye and watching his creative process. I learned to be fearless watching him. You have to be a fearless MC. You can’t care what anybody thinks. You have to try new things. You have to try stuff you may not be comfortable with — it might be fire.
It seems like everyone from your generation of emcees finds their way into Alchemist’s studio. He produced on your project. What is it like cooking up with Alc?
It’s hip hop. It’s where you want to be around. It’s the inspiration. You go to Al’s studio, and you know you’re going to run into another artist, nine times out of ten. The vibe is inexplicable. You know this is the environment you want to be in.
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You talked about dealing with mental health issues like depression on the album. How does the studio factor into your healing?
It’s therapeutic. Music is therapeutic; it’s an escape. Music is an escape for a lot of people. I’m a person who listens to albums and artists and can escape from my problems and get my mind off of things to feel better. Music is universal. I definitely use it to deal with some of that stuff.
You recently said you’re a free agent and not signed to anyone. How will that affect how you make music?
It’s not going to affect it at all. I know I have to still keep grinding.
Is there anyone you’re still looking forward to collaborating with?
Dr. Dre, on the production side. I want to cook something up with Dre. I want to have a Dr. Dre record on one of my albums in the future. On the artist side, I’ll say Young Thug.
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