The process of speaking with Mach-Hommy is nearly as labyrinthine as his music. After spending days navigating a network of anonymous calls and dead ends, an assistant passed me the number to one of hip-hop’s most elusive artists. Mach wanted to speak en route to a video shoot in L.A., but filming had already begun by the time I called. An hour and a half later, a little after 1 a.m., my phone rang. In a flash, a figure in all white with a Haitian flag tied across his face beamed in via FaceTime.
The New Jersey-based Haitian-American rapper is used to working at a prolific clip from the shadows. Most of the nearly two dozen projects he’s released since his 2016 breakout HBO (Haitian Body Odor)—which he initially promoted and sold himself via Instagram—still aren’t available on streaming services. Their scarcity has built a cult of personality further amplified by Mach’s raps, tightly constructed yet freely floating through hip-hop’s past and present like ghosts in Gore-Tex jackets. The sales of HBO and Mach’s decision to sell subsequent projects for thousands of dollars through services like Bandcamp made every album a collector’s item and set a trend that the new generation has followed to this day.
With two critically-acclaimed albums, Mach finally brought his vicious wordplay to a much larger audience last year. Both Pray For Haiti and its spiritual followup Balens Cho (Kreyol for “hot candles”) received more traditional releases, appearing on streaming services right away. Last year’s big push was, in part, meant to draw support for Mach’s countrymen in Haiti.
Multiple times throughout our conversation, he stressed that his share of equity from Pray For Haiti and his recent “$payforhaiti” single with Montreal producer Kaytranada will go to the Pray for Haiti Trust Fund, which will be dedicated to education and building a technology institute for young Haitian children. “We talking about a place where potable drinking water is a serious problem,” he says. “There’s no work of art that could take the place of a home to live in or public waterworks or electricity. It’s a work in progress, and until we start to cross some serious thresholds with these efforts, it really won’t mean much of anything to anyone on the ground suffering.”
Putting a finer point on it, he says bluntly, “If niggas wanna do me a favor, play Pray For Haiti, man. It’s not about the album cycle being done—this is people’s lives we’re talking about.” At this point in Mach’s career, the music is about more than just bragging rights.
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Mach-Hommy: Look man, I hate to be the voice of reason, but I’m still waiting for the turn-up. Don’t get me wrong: My day ones stay with a lead pipe in they backpack and are ready to tear shit down like football hooligans in Manchester. But more people need to start getting in tune. You can show that you like it. Nobody’s gonna cancel you.
I earned 10,000 python trench coats. I don’t want no flowers. I just want my coat. Some people say you gotta do that for yourself, so it’s actually getting made right now. It would’ve been cool to receive it as a gift, but hey.
I’m also a designer, so I understand the process of what goes into that coat. Think about the surface area of a python’s body. How many pythons you need to do that? I don’t want a python print—I want a python skin trench coat. You’re not gonna get it in yards, you’re only gonna get it piece by piece. And it takes real skill to put it together and make it look seamless to the untrained eye. It’s definitely a work of art and something to aim for. You gotta be ambitious because most people is gonna be dispossessed by the price of a sleeve.
Again, everything I do gotta fall into place naturally. The hip-hop scene in Montreal and Quebec is brolic, son. It’s one of the meccas outside of the U.S. lowkey. They’re really serious about it out there. Kaytranada got better beats than a lotta cats in the underground. I’ma keep it real: The boy Kay is clear, but I don’t know if other people will hear that other side of him. He already knew what I was into. We definitely caught a wave with [“$payforhaiti”] and splashed the joint up, but people don’t understand his range. We got some deep cuts that I don’t know if y’all will get to hear, but they out there.
I’m so blessed because the universe got things set up for me that I didn’t even know about. I walk into the room, and he already had shit ready and waiting for me. When it’s natural and it’s supposed to happen, that’s how it happens. It’s just grace, grace, grace, a transference of grace.
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Beautiful. That shit bled into the periphery and made its way to the core. For a long time, this particular iteration of spoken word that we call hip-hop has been marginalized and kept on the outskirts like some type of illegitimate third cousin or something. But you see a lot of the practices get adopted by entertainers across the board. I won’t say names, but you see pop stars doing this shit, son. When you avant-garde and a trendsetter, people follow. That’s what happens when you lead. The real problem is when it doesn’t get reported in the press. I like to see the reaction, the response, and I like to see people adopt and repurpose. The only thing I’d say is to acknowledge the origins.
C’mon, son. For instance, imagine the name Tesla beginning and ending with an electric car. And no one knows anything else about the name and it doesn’t spark the slightest curiosity. It’s just like, “Oh yeah, Elon Musk” and that’s it. Beginning and end. But [inventor Nikola Tesla] died like 100 years ago, son. And I’m still alive and working. It’s cool but I guess we’re failing to acknowledge where things come from.
When people talk about flowers, it’s more so like things you should be able to do for yourself. You can tell yourself you’re the greatest. You can get up in the mirror and say some affirmations or meditate or commune with God. I’m talking about actual facts. We dug the hole and poured the concrete in 2016. Now, there’s an edifice that towers over the landscape and casts a shadow over half the city, but we’re gonna act like the elephant isn’t in the room, right? It’s not opinions, taste, and preference; this is actual fact. I came, I saw, I conquered, and I’m still here.
Excellence in the face of adversity.