Album of the week: May 31 – Mach-Hommy

June 2nd 2024

The Atlantic Revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries are often aligned with core enlightenment ideas of freedom and liberty – the American and French revolutions their most popular associations. The Haitian Revolution, however, is often shelved to a lesser tier of history. Unlike its Western counterparts, it was not a revolt of nascent capitalist-bourgeois interests. It was instead the only successful slave revolt in history that led to an independent, slave run state. This was an unprecedented and paramount moment in modern human history, a revolution from the periphery with true freedom at its core. 

The liberal-capitalist powers of the West never forgave Haiti for this. Counter-revolutionary warfare, economic embargoes and hundreds of millions of dollars of reparations leveled by France towards Haiti hobbled and eventually bankrupted the emerging state. It’s a shameful legacy that continues today: neo-colonial labour exploitation, assassinations of state leaders and ruinous debt arrangements by the United States and the Western World have kept Haiti always, precariously on the brink.

Based in New Jersey, rapper Mach-Hommy spent much of his childhood in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. As far as biographical details go, that’s about it – he’s deliberately coy about his identity, concealing his face and real name in public. The most consistent thing about him is his continual centering of his home country as a crucial part of his music. His newest album #RICHAXXHAITIAN was released one day before Haitian Flag Day; the subject of which covers his face on the album’s cover. 

More than previous works, #RICHAXXHAITIAN pairs Mach-Hommy’s breathless, technically head-spinning flow with a cinematic sweep of strings and choirs, taking his panoramic view of world affairs to new heights. It’s epic in scope but with certain clarity; Mach-Hommy’s understanding of Haiti’s history of Western intervention allows him to explain how white phosphorus being used on Gazan civilians and IMF structural adjustment programs are intrinsically connected. It’s perhaps why he so closely guards his music: refusing lyrics to be posted online, often selling physical copies for high prices. His music is his alone, not to be exploited by any record company or streaming service.

#RICHAXXHAITIAN covers all bases – old school ‘conscious’ rap à la Mos Def or Black Thought (the latter featuring on the record) with a new-school sheen. The bouncy title track, produced by Kaytranada and with a hook by 03 Greedo fits more than comfortably alongside the rest of the album’s soulful loops and crunchy drums. Deeply respected in underground hip-hop and with a fiercely loyal fanbase, Mach-Hommy’s motives prove correct. Fiercely independent, and made decisively his way, #RICHAXXHAITIAN is as good as he’s ever been.

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