Anyone who thinks rap is dead need only listen to Mach-Hommy to realize it’s very much alive and well. The Haitian-born, Newark-based rapper released not one but two of the best rap albums of 2021. Pray For Haiti, released in May, marked his Griselda Records debut with an unflinching, psychedelic opus of avant garde street rap. And now he’s back with Balens Cho, which continues in a similar vein, showcasing an MC with uncanny flow and impeccable beat selection.
Mach-Hommy has been an enigma from day one. Like MF DOOM before him, he’s been masked up before it was cool, concealing his face with stylish silk bandanas whenever in public. While the man behind the mask remains a mystery, Mach’s intercontinental background has been no secret. He first appeared on most rap fans’ radar via the stellar 2016 album H.B.O. (Haitian Body Odor) and Haitian references have graced both the titles and content of every album since, from 2019’s Wap Konn Jòj! (a Haitian Creole phrase of admonishment said by parents to their children) to the aforementioned Pray For Haiti.
While Mach’s upbringing in Haiti loomed on the periphery of Pray For Haiti, it’s front and center on Balens Cho (Creole translation = hot candles). His gravelly voice oscillates between English and Haitian Creole and tales from his childhood are weaved throughout to provide a raw and intimate look at a country reeling from the after effects of its colonial history.
As always with a Mach-Hommy record, the production is as eclectic and unpredictable as ever. The overall tone is much brighter than Pray For Haiti, thanks to Montreal producer Nicholas Craven (who produced half of the album’s tracks) and contributing saxophonist Sam Gendel, whose virtuosic contributions gorgeously glide alongside Mach’s arcane flow. When it’s all said and done, Balens Cho is a strangely delightful listen. It keeps you on your toes and demands repeat listening to catch the barrage of puns and one-liners thrown at you. With the passing of MF DOOM, it also marks the rise of a new masked MC who’s here to usher rap into a new era.