After a tremendous group album, Griselda rapper Conway the Machine dropped his most recent project Lulu. The project is very short, with only seven songs. Each song is produced by legendary hip-hop producer, The Alchemist. Alchemist has worked with Conway on countless projects and is a staple of the Griselda sound.
The album is inspired top to bottom by the classic film, Paid in Full (2002). The movie tells the true story of three hustlers from Harlem during the crack epidemic in the 1980’s. The title of the album is named after the drug connect for the main character, Ace Boogie. Given the drug dealer influence and references on the album, it ties the project in perfectly. Several intros and outros to songs have scenes from the film. Songs such as “14 KI’s,” “Calvin” and “They Got Sonny” are all directly related to characters and scenes in the movie. The real-life characters of Paid in Full are known as “street legends,” and played an incredible influence in the life and career of Conway.
In terms of lyricism, Conway is at a top-tier level that few hip-hop artists can match. After his unbelievable verse on Charlie Sloth’s “Fire in the Booth” show, it was evident that Conway was poised to make an impressive run, and Lulu is a great start. There is not a single line on the album that was wasted. It’s evident that Conway put a lot of effort into the lyrics. The references to selling drugs, getting money, getting women and wearing fly clothes paint very vivid images for the listener and are a direct reflection of Conway’s past and current life.
The Alchemist plays a giant role in the success of the project. While he is known to have many different sounds throughout his career, his work with Conway and other Griselda members consists of dark beats that create a gritty sound, similar to the 1990’s era of hip-hop. Given the content of his lyrics, these types of beats help create an experience for the listener. The beats almost sound sad, which perfectly aligns with Paid in Full, which is filled with several sad turns. The chemistry between Alchemist and Conway is on full display and creates a perfect, old-school hip-hop vibe.
Perhaps the seven-song selection is what makes the project shine the most. In 2018, Kanye West presented three albums from the G.O.O.D. Music label that were all seven songs long. The formula has been successful and continued to be successful on Lulu. While Conway can clearly make a project over seven songs, the decision set the stage perfectly. The short songs on an even shorter tracklist had zero flaws and transitioned into each other smoothly. The minimal play time also allows the listener to easily invest themselves into the project. While it did work well, it leaves the listener yearning for more from Conway. Had the project been at least eleven songs, it would have been regarded as a hip-hop classic.
For anyone who enjoys the lyrical music at the center of hip-hop’s essence or even Paid in Full, Lulu is a great choice.