Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Sunday, April 14, 2024 — Houston, TX

Review: ‘Hall & Nash 2’ showcases what makes Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine exciting

Courtesy ALC Records

By Jacob Pellegrino     1/16/24 10:04pm

Rating: ★★★★

Top Track: ‘Michelangelo’

In 2016, underground rappers Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine were beginning to build a following, releasing albums filled with intense verses over ornate instrumentals. As a follow up to their collaborative release, “Hall & Nash,” named after the ’90s pro wrestling duo, the two linked up with The Alchemist, one of hip hop’s most exciting producers, to record a sequel. However, Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine soon signed with Shady Records leaving the finished album, originally scheduled for a 2017 release, shelved with some of the tracks used on other projects over the years. Now, the original album is finally out for public consumption.

“Fork In The Pot” is an early highlight from the album, featuring ScHoolboy Q and new to streaming with the release of “Hall & Nash 2.” It previously had a limited physical release via The Alchemist’s store in 2018. The track’s production hinges around a bass groove and drum instrumental with synth flourishes punctuating the long verses. It’s broken up with Gunn taking the chorus and Conway and ScHoolboy Q each on a verse. Lyrically, the song deals with the rappers’ experiences and skill with dealing drugs. Listeners are left knowing that even despite the artists’ new careers, they still have the skills and mentality they needed in the past. ScHoolboy Q’s delivery during his verse is a particular high point on the track.

“Michelangelo” is another essential song on “Hall & Nash 2.” The Alchemist’s production shines from the first second of the track with haunting notes that seem to hang above the verses, lingering in the listener’s ears. At first it can seem like the beat will be a simple one bar repeating pattern before it builds and shifts into a releasing piano melody. The verses in song, which eschews a chorus, match the menace of the instrumental as Gunn and Conway embrace the brash confidence that has helped them to get where they are today.

Another particularly exciting cut production-wise is “94 Ghost Shit,” also previously released as a physical only single in 2018. With a smooth transition from the previous track, “Michelangelo,” “94 Ghost Shit” moves the focus to Conway with him rapping both verses over The Alchemist’s intense looping keys instrumental. Conway largely deals with his rise to fame and raw ability. In the first verse, he reflects on the factors working against him, such as his battle with Bell’s Palsy after a 2012 shooting that left the right side of his face paralyzed, affecting his flow and almost ending his rap career.

As a whole, “Hall & Nash 2” is a rewarding listening experience that includes previously unreleased tracks and recontextualizes others. Even though the project was recorded in 2016, it sounds vital and current, emphasizing the consistency and relevance of all parties involved. In an announcement on his Instagram, The Alchemist has already teased another “Hall & Nash” project featuring Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, producer Daringer and himself.

More from The Rice Thresher

A&E 4/9/24 11:49pm
Museum fellows talk art, academia and experiential learning

On Monday mornings at 8 a.m., Ella Langridge walks upstairs to her desk at the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens and gets to work, sifting through photocopies of Americana and decorative arts with pasts unknown. Langridge’s job, as this year’s Jameson Fellow for American Painting & Decorative Arts, is to research these artifacts, uncover their histories and communicate their uniquely American stories to the collection’s thousands of annual visitors. 

A&E 4/9/24 11:48pm
Review: ‘Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire’ is Peak Cinema

There is no easy way to quantify a film, much to the chagrin of lazy film critics and lazier audiences. We may try to force a movie to fit into a box labeled ⅗ or ⅘ , but occasionally, there appears a work of art that refuses such indignity. A breathtaking fabrication that rejects the premise of a “rating,” whatever that monstrous practice might entail. These magna opera simply are. Along this line of thought, it makes sense to characterize this film for what it is, rather than lambast it for what it is not. This movie is about giant monkeys and lizards fighting. 

A&E 4/9/24 11:47pm
Review: “Bryson Tiller re-envisions genre on self-titled album”

Seasoned R&B singer Bryson Tiller has returned with his fourth studio album, a self-titled record that infuses cyberpunk aesthetics into both its visuals and its sound. On the eponymous album, Tiller, best known for hits like “Don’t” and “Exchange,” takes on the challenge of deconstructing his own artistic journey. “Bryson Tiller” is a multi-genre departure from Tiller’s comfort zone. It features pop, dancehall, neo-soul and drill elements next to his signature combination of hip hop and R&B. 


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.