The autobiographic commentary seen throughout Mach-Hommy’s 19th studio album, Balens Cho (Hot Candles), culminates together into a powerful display of the New Jersey rapper’s painstaking journey towards personal growth and understatement of our sick and complicated world. In 13 tracks that span for a brief 24 minutes, the underground hip-hop icon enlightens us through his own tragedies and triumphs in a calculated attempt to draw attention towards often disregarded principles that are laid right below our noses. As all Mach records, he dedicates a sizable portion of the lp’s subject matter to address the corruption within his family’s birthplace, Hati. In his acknowledgments through lyrical jabs and skits like “La Deuxième” and “La Prèmiere Bougie,” the twisted leadership and uninhabitable conditions seen in Mach’s native country masterfully tie in with the personal side of his writing, tying together such stories as the one seen on “Wooden Nickels,” which focuses on the trouble-filled journey Hommy’s own father faced while saving his family and friends from a life of misery and suffering in Hati. Presenting these opposite streams of thought and connecting them together to further convey the record’s core narratives, Mach’s calculated genius pays off some of its most rewarding dividends.
Through his grim vocals, unforgiving flow, and genius lyrical craftsmanship, Hommy’s series of grim tales may be direct in their focus yet are vast in their profound exploration. Whether he is priding himself on his resilience and ability to destroy the fishbowl of life on “Labou,” or how man changes in the face of hostility on “Traditional,” the storytelling seen on this record is some of Mach’s topically richest and most narratively empowering. Already referenced, the layered anthem depicting the true meaning of a generational curse, “Wooden Nickels”s harrowing story depicting Mach’s family history and all they have lost for him to forgo the life he has is truly painful as it highlights what makes this record arguably his most emotional. Its storytelling is so damaging to the soul, yet the mood of the track is ultimately emotionless due to the chiseled heart of Hommy, which is reflected through his phantom-like presence. There’s something so intriguingly terrifying about hearing the New Jersey rappers torn soul thank his family to the best of his abilities, but as a result of their sufferings, feels his bloodline will always be stuck in the same hole as it continues to get more and more dirt thrown in it. With thoughtful and passionate storytelling seen all throughout this project, Mach-Hommy’s actual pain becomes more visible than it has ever been.
Bringing these concepts to life over a soundscape that’s much more elegant and jazzy than his usual sonic pallet, the faceless rapper’s empowering words are accompanied by a score that is both innovative to Mach’s arsenal and beautifully sounding. From the horn playing to the distorted vocal loops, the instrumentals seen here are unpredictable and well fitted to every tone Hommy attempts to set. Showing Balens Cho’s production ability at its pinnacle, the track “Separation of the Sheep and the Goats” masterfully embodies what makes the production so great with its off-kilter vocal sample and fusions of jazz in the background. All in all, the sonic climaxes and picture painting add a whole other layer to this already vastly detailed project.
Closing out the album and bringing Mach’s ideas to a close, the grand finale, “Self Luh,” is hands down the album’s most decisive moment with its angelic atmosphere and illusive lyrics centered around appreciating the gift of ourselves. In all of the world’s complications, Mach takes such a simple approach as he teaches listeners to respect their bodies and its vital functions. In such a simplified way of narrating, Mach brings the track full circle with the rest of the record as he poses the question and thought of how we are trained as a society to harm our bodies and minds. Building up this idea, Mach poses the question that if we cant take care of ourselves, how are we supposed to help each other? Concluding the album on a track that’s so simple yet so layered, the project’s core themes regarding the inner meaning and societal defiance come full circle in this one of a kind closer.
The fact that in a mere 24 minutes, Mach’s able to formulate an experience that’s one of the most thought provoking of the decade so far, he’s easily solidified himself a frontrunner for 2021s rapper of the year. As opposed to his more chaotic and in your face Griselda records return, Pray For Hati, Balens Cho thrives due to its rare emotional display that flips the New Jersey mc’s persona into a new light while still remaining consistent with his flagship aroma. From the profound writing he bleeds his heart out to invoke to the beautiful soundscape and calculated use of skits, I would go as far as to say that Balens Cho may be Mach-Hommy’s best album to date.
Top 5 Songs:
- Self Luh
- Lajan Sal
- Wooden Nickels
- Separation of the Sheep and the Goats
Written By: Mr. Fantastic