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DJ Muggs/Mach-Hommy - Tuez-Les Tous Music Album Reviews

The cryptic and elusive New Jersey rapper teams with DJ Muggs, who is enjoying a career renaissance as the go-to producer for glowering, throwback East Coast street rap.

There are strains of underground rap that predict the mainstream’s future or find themselves in conversation with its present. Then there’s the one that branches from Marcberg’s rib: mid-tempo crime-boss luxury shit that comes from New York City or Buffalo or is beamed from some indeterminate location straight onto Bandcamp, more or less unconcerned with anything happening outside itself. The scene has those who are celebrated as high-art auteurs (Ka) and those, like the Griselda Gang, who turn everything into pro wrestling. Mach-Hommy was once associated with the latter group but is stranger and more elusive than just about all of his stylistic peers, using the musical shorthand that’s been codified over the last decade of New York street rap to assemble records that are strange, militant, and endlessly replayable, if you can find them.

Tuez-Les Tous pairs Hommy with DJ Muggs, who has enjoyed a welcome an unlikely career resurgence. He warmed himself up on solid collaborative records with Meyhem Lauren and Roc Marciano himself, and then scorched eyebrows off with February’s Hell’s Roof, where he teamed with the Rochester rapper Eto. In recent years, many rappers in this lane have taken stylistic cues (or actually commissioned beats) from Alchemist, Muggs’ one-time protege, who’s figured out how to give spare, sinister beats a psychedelic tilt. Muggs has responded by stripping the sound down to the screws. The most arresting song on Tuez-Les Tous is “Piotr,” which sounds like a vacant, perverse lullaby.

Hommy likes to leave gaps and negative space in his phrasing, so that even when there are extended verses with no obvious breaks, on a song like “900K,” there are fits and starts that make the vivid images—say, Hommy tearing up a lease—come out of nowhere. He also upsets the natural rhythms and chains of logic in rap writing by lurching from the literal to the metaphysical, prose to verse. Take the passage from “Bon Nwit”: “New niggas need to quit it / Ain’t no gimmick / hemorrhage / He with Jesus now, he hardcore / Flip ‘em like parkour / He suspended / you seeing spirits? / … I’m seeing spirits.”

Every piece of press on Mach-Hommy mentions how expensive his music is –– he sells his albums for hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, and only a tiny sliver of his catalog has been uploaded to streaming platforms (Tuez-Les Tous, perhaps because of Muggs’ involvement, is widely available). This leads to a kid of scarcity that is rare in an era when most work by most artists can be found with a few touches of a few buttons. The pricing and the scarcity are usually taken as a comment on how Hommy values his art; those factors have also helped to burnish Hommy’s reputation as an enigma and, presumably, have become a working economic model for him precisely because of that mystique.

But just as interesting is the way that cultivated obscurity colors –– and is reflected in –– the work itself. At these prices, it seems unlikely that anyone would have a full view of Hommy’s entire catalog, that they would instead experience it in fragments. His records since the sprawling, nearly definitive HBO have embraced this inscrutability: each one utilizes slightly different vocal or production styles, and there are no explainers for the dialects or allusion to foreign revolutions, no hand-holding. You’re just thrown in. So Hommy, whose work is rich with its connection to Haitian social and political history, and who seems to be in conversation with other artists long dead, is daring you to engage with it as craft before anything else, to marvel at the couplets before decoding them. It makes his music feel coolly, entrancingly mercenary. Tuez-Les Tous translates to kill them all.

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