On the interlude track ‘Photocopy Sloppy (Dump Fraud)’ from the album Mach’s Hard Lemonade, Haitian-American rapper Mach-Hommy refers to his fans and supporters as “investors”; to a new listener that may sound strange. Mach’s music can be compared to stocks, which you invest in for a return on them. As one of his “investors”, you buy his music, you put faith in your expenditure, and, just like a good stock, it gives an amazing return.
His “investors” know this, so when he sells his music for thousands of dollars, people buy it because they trust in Mach to produce some of the greatest hip-hop put to tape. When I tell you that I bought a vinyl copy of this record for £200+ (a steal compared to some of his other releases, like his 2017 album ‘The G.A.T.’ which he not only sold, but sold out of, for $3000), I mean to tell you that Mach-Hommy has released one of the best hip-hop records since the turn of the century – this album is just further proof that investing in Mach is more than worth it, however ludicrous and unique that may sound.
The track list of Mach’s Hard Lemonade kicks off with ‘SBTM (Sweeney Been Told Me)’; Mach bursts onto the track with omnipresence as he relentlessly flows over a beat that sounds like sunshine. A subtle, plucky baseline melts into the repeating progressive, jazzy horns, while a lively drum swing keeps the tempo. The bass may be subtle in the mix, but is my favourite part of the production on this track from Mach and Preservation, and I think Mach feels the same when he refers to it in the lyrics: “You gon’ need another arm to reel in this bass”.
Mach’s greatest assets lyrically are his esoteric references, and his ability to say things in wholly unique and captivating ways. On this first track, Mach comments on how people doubted him in such a way that you’d forget that rejection from the industry is a common lyrical topic in hip hop: “I’m prolific nigga, pseudo-scientific, what is it, why these niggas think they here now, I was hidden, now I’m risen, you gonna respect the kismet” (“kismet” meaning destiny/ fate).
My favourite example of these idiosyncratic lyrical dishes on Mach’s Hard Lemonade comes on the penultimate track ‘Squeaky Hinge’ – a Nicholas Craven and Mach-Hommy produced delight which lays a haunting piano loop over swooning, striking strings. On this track, Mach spits “Air conditioning in a spot requires sound, this a library”, bringing the ‘heat’ lyrically and sonically, as he paints a picture with his words.
This isn’t the end of lyrical gems on this track, however, as later on he raps: “Step in the store, see the elephant man on the wall, Ganesh on the door, See the killer who ran on the law, One hand on the saw, saw dust, A pile on the floor”. While the almost triple entendre at the end of the lyric is bewildering, I want to focus on the lyrics prior to it. “See the killer who ran on the law” – but who’s the killer? By my wild approximations, it is Soon Ja Du (the killer of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old black girl), who only served 5 years of jail time for the murder of this innocent teen in 1991. We can take “the door” to symbolise the legal system, which Du ran through, avoiding a just punishment for her crime – as is further implied by the presence of the Hindu God “Ganesh” (the remover of obstacles).
That analysis may sound like a conspiracy theory, but I think it is all but confirmed by the title of the second track: ‘Soon Jah Due’. Here, Mach says “fuck the orange juice”, referring to the allegedly stolen orange juice which motivated Du’s murder of Latasha Harlins. As Jesse Singal describes for TIME magazine: “Harlins put a $1.79 bottle of orange juice in her bag and, security cameras showed, approached the counter with money in her hand”. Mach clearly views this killing as being racially charged – Latasha Harlins hadn’t even stolen anything, yet she was targeted, and then killed.
Allusions to racism, and specifically racism in the law are also present on ‘Soon Jah Due’ where Mach says “that boy hell, and that’s what everybody been saying since the seventh grade, I think that boy 12, don’t shoot, I turned 11 years old twice” (12 is the police, if you didn’t know). Mach has never been hesitant to address race inequality in his music, but rarely is it this concentrated and explicit: Mach doesn’t want to let you forget about the countless innocent black people who are murdered by police – now more than ever – even if they are forgotten in a time of protest. Latasha Harlins’ case was pushed to the side amidst the Rodney King riots in the early 90s – but never forget her name.
The beat on ‘Soon Jah Due’ is produced by Mach, Earl Sweatshirt, and Messiah Musik, using an ominous and sombre piano loop to establish the song’s atmosphere, which is then augmented with muffled samples of conversations, typing, and screeches. Earl also lends a brilliant verse to the track, criticising capitalism through an extended metaphor: “I think they get where we headin’, mental mansion, a gold edifice, I’m chilling in the crib downstairs, The upstairs venomous, happiness never lived in there, the roofs nappy like kitchen hair, back-roots.”
I could speak about this album forever; you don’t know how much it pains me to not talk about the lyrical goldmine that is ‘Pour House’, or the super personal ‘NJ Ultra’, or the quad-lingual banger that is ‘Clout Dracula’ (Special thanks to Jon and Holly for helping me understand the French/Haitian Creole and the Cantonese verses). All in all, Mach’s Hard Lemonade serves as a stunning return for his “investors”, so much so that for me, it’s my album of the year so far.