How Conway the Machine Turned Tragedy into Triumph
Conway The Machine smokes an insane amount of weed. “About an ounce a day,” he recount Highlights over the phone, and that’s normal. The Griselda Records rapper, who has been on an upward trajectory for two years, remains high in other regards, however.
He recently released his first studio album for Eminem’s Shady Records, God does not make mistakes, a brooding, brutally honest portrayal of Conway The Machine’s tumultuous upbringing, rise to success, and everything in between. As a result, he continues to collaborate with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, including Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, TI and Beanie Sigal. But it’s been a long and bumpy road to get here.
In and out of prison for most of his 20s, Conway The Machine (real name Demond Price) maintained his passion for music, mostly thanks to his uncle Anthony who introduced him to NWA and d other classic hip-hop artists when he was a kid. His time in prison (the longest stay was two years) gave him the opportunity to reflect on what he really wanted out of life and to read books such as The art of War by Sun Tzu, that he says “shut me up”.
“I’ve always had this dream,” he said, referring to his current reality. “It has always been a dream of mine and a passion. Going through these obstacles, I just knew I had to do something better with my life. And I just need to apply myself more and go crazy and learn the trade and do what I had to do to get by.
But fate had other plans. In 2012, Conway The Machine ended up being shot in the neck and shoulder, just when he decided to finally jump on the straight and narrow. The shooting left him with facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy), which he has lived with for 10 years. But as the title of his album suggests, everything happens for a reason. From this period his resolve began to grow stronger and success was the only option.
“At first it just made me say, ‘Well, maybe that won’t work,'” he admitted. “I doubted myself a lot and I no longer believed in myself. But I do not know. I just flipped that switch and just decided, ‘No, I need to keep pushing, go harder, work smarter, not harder.
And it paid off. In 2017, Eminem and Shady Records offered Conway The Machine and his half-brother Westside Gunn a deal, and they were off to the races.
“We were just on a tear on the subway,” he recalled. “We were just ripping stuff up, man, and really getting known overseas and stuff. And they got wind of it and wanted to make a deal. It was awesome.”
But five long years passed before God does not make mistakes arrival. In between, Conway The Machine lived up to his rap moniker and delivered an impressive number of projects, including From King to a God (2020), Lulu with The Alchemist (2020), La Maquina (2021) and Earthly greetings (2022).
Always a perfectionist, he said he “just wanted to make sure it was right”. Now rapping among the elite, Conway The Machine’s dream is finally coming true.
“I always knew once I got a shot and the right person heard me that the sky would be the limit,” he said. “And so, I always felt that way.”
Born in Buffalo, New York, the 40-year-old rapper earned his stripes by rampaging through the streets, which taught him how to fend for himself. In turn, he established a relentless work ethic that continues to fuel him every day.
“My environment… grows like we grew up in the neighborhood, having to be in survival mode,” he said when asked where it came from. “We were in survival mode, man, most of the time. Growing up like that makes you a little tougher, a little thicker skin.
“It molded and molded me. I just took some of those traits that were instilled in me and applied them now in my life as an artist, as well as in my approach to my music. That’s why you hear the pain and all that in my verses.
While Conway The Machine has always put his heart into his music, there is a verse on the title track of God does not make mistakes which cuts like a machete on an Achilles heel. On a dark and ominous beat, Conway reflects on the 2012 shooting that left him with Bell’s palsy and wonders if he would be where he is today if he had do not been shot.
“What if I never got shot in the head? / Couldn’t sleep at night, I might shed a tear in that hospital bed / Think it’s over shaking the mic / They told me I’d be paralyzed from the neck down, what if the doctor was right? (What if he was right?)/N*gga, I’ve been out of that hospital twice (ha)/My mom said I died both times, I guess I did the impossible twice / Sometimes I wonder if that Bell’s palsy didn’t paralyze my grill in it / Would there still be murals of my face painted on the sides of buildings?”
It was only the beginning. He wonders if famed producer The Alchemist, DJ Clark Kent, Jay-Z, or Eminem and longtime manager/co-founder of Shady Records would have even noticed.
“Would I always be rhyming brilliantly? They say I provide the feeling,” he raps. “But would my story still inspire millions? / Would Alchemist ever find us? / Would DJ Clark Kent co-sign us? / Would Paul and Eminem sign us? Huh? / I mean, we went from whipped shit on the stove to pictures with HOV / The vision was my brother’s (my brother’s).
And the pain is real. In a December 2020 interview with Athleticism, Conway spoke about the impact the incident had on his mental health. He said at the time: “I don’t feel like I’m disfigured or anything like that, but when you have to look in the mirror and you know you don’t look like yourself or your kids have to see you you don’t look like you anymore and your mom has to see you like this, it definitely takes a toll and it’s like a war in your mind.
“In my mind, it was like, ‘Man, I don’t even want people to see me like this.’ The mental part was harder than the physical. I had to recalibrate. I had to strengthen my mind before I could strengthen my body. I lost it for a minute. Mentally, I just wasn’t in a good space. .
He added: “I’m opening up more and I know it’s okay if you need someone to talk to. Especially in the neighborhood – in the black community, period – it’s like this Stigma of mental health issues equaled weakness.Even I struggle with that.
These days, Conway finds comfort in smoking medicinal cannabis, and he prefers to smoke flower in blunt after blunt (after blunt). Although he can’t pinpoint exactly how many blunts he smokes a day, he knows it’s a lot. Getting out of bed every morning, he brushes his teeth and rolls one (in that order). He admits there are times when he smokes too much and needs a break.
“A lot of times during the day, sometimes I have…I have to put this on the ashtray, bend over a bit, lay down,” he laughs. “I get stuck. I smoke really good shit, so I get stuck.
Even with the countless tasks he has to complete in a day, getting high doesn’t stop him; he says all he needs is “focus” – and maybe some simple Lays potato chips, a few cookies and pieces of fruit, his favorite snacks.
But Conway says there’s always more work to do. In February 2022, Conway announced that he had fulfilled his contractual obligations to Shady Records and Griselda Records, the label he co-founded with Westside Gunn and home to his cousin Benny The Butcher and in-house producer Daringer.
Now technically a “free agent”, his next move is up in the air. Either he will remain independent or he will eventually sign another contract with Griselda. In a climate where mainstream rap is mostly sacred and based on materialism, sex, and other vapid topics, Conway and his Griselda brothers realize they’re in a unique position.
“I really try to take a minute to just laze around and feel that,” he says. “Man, we should congratulate each other. We work hard. We have done a lot in a short time. We should be happy, but we shouldn’t be comfortable and complacent. This is just the beginning. We have much more to do.