MACH-HOMMY: I GOT WAVES
illustration by the obscurist
To the uninitiated, grasping the sound of Mach-Hommy may require effort—the Haitian MC’s bars can be glyph-like, dense and packed with meaning and subtext. The beats he selects often do not acquiesce to the tempo and flavor of the day, and the sounds are mixed more for feeling than coldly objective sonic correctness. But dig a bit deeper and you’ll find plenty of ore—like bespoke rhyme schemes that shrink and stretch, always coming back full circle, specific and intentional deliveries that give each track an individual hue, and a deep command of the English language that naturally produces a dense and engaging lexicon. In an era where who you’re standing next to is more important than what you create, Mach-Hommy is a renegade creating according to his own code. He’s gathered his own tribe with the likes of MC Tha God Fahim and producer August Fanon, amongst others. He follows his own strategy and trusts his instinct, choosing to market and distribute his music in specific and intentional ways. L.A. RECORD spoke with Mach-Hommy by phone to get a glimpse into the thought process behind his craft, his view on cultural appropriation in hip-hop and how he managed to sell 187 CDs for $300 apiece exclusively through Instagram. His The Spook EP (with KNXWLEDGE) is available now. This interview by sweeney kovar.
You were telling me how you don’t do too many interviews.
MACH-HOMMY: You gotta come with respect, whether it’s out here in these streets, in these board rooms, or wherever it is. Some people think they can wave the flag of whatever two-bit rag that they write for and that shit means something to me. It don’t mean nothing to me. I shoot all these people down because they don’t come correct. You know how long people been hitting me up, bro? It was annoying at first: ‘How you even know what I’m doing?’ I’m not even putting out music like that. The thing is that the people that curate the culture for others, the dudes with all the keys on the ring, they listen to Mach-Hommy.
I wanted to tell you a bit about myself since we haven’t met before this conversation. I’m out here in L.A., I’m Mexican … well, I was born in Mexico …
MACH-HOMMY: Mexico, word—I got mad respect for the culture.
Thank you sir. Mexico’s a little complicated—we got our colonial history, so there’s good and bad. That reminds me a bit of the podcast interview you did with Tea & Converse. You were talking about the effects and benefits of uninterrupted culture.
MACH-HOMMY: That’s what I know about y’all and that’s what’s beautiful. You know the gringos might go for the Ayahuasca and all that but we know it’s beyond that. Y’all some solid, proud people man—for real. Even the worst vato, cholo or whatever, he still has some kind of cultural pride or some kind of cultural depth. They can still have a conversation with you about some culture. What else is there at the end of the day? We share some food, we share some historical event, and we share some music. When I say I have a great respect, just touching on your culture a little bit, my dad used to be a folk singer. My dad had me listening to Norteño music. I’m with it. I’m salt of the earth. Most often than not, when you say you’re on the ground with the people, the average person is quick to draw a parallel with you being on the ground floor with you being poor, with you being disheveled, with you being less than. I don’t subscribe to that mode of thought. I’m a rich-ass Haitian on the ground floor. I’m rich! I’m on some wealth in people. The money can’t even get you nowhere if you can’t pay the right person, so what’s the money about if you ain’t 100?
Mexico struggles with its bullshit too. The classism there is pretty stark and there’s racism and anti-Black sentiments that people don’t really talk about. That part is a trip because there’s Black and indigenous peoples in Mexico so it’s like people are trying to distance themselves from their own family.
MACH-HOMMY: Just to add on to what you’re saying bro. You got some who identify more as a Chicano, you got some who want to lean more towards being a Spaniard but don’t nobody want to lean towards … you know. Nobody want to be Black. Meanwhile you have the whole city of Yanga tucked away in Mexico, you feel me? A whole city with nothing but the blackest Mexican people you’ve ever seen in your life. These peoples are coming from the Maroon tribe with Gaspar Yanga. One of the main ports of entry in North America for that slavery shit was through Mexico. I feel you bro, don’t nobody want to be Black. Everybody want to use Black but don’t nobody want to be Black. Just like everybody want to use Haitian but don’t nobody want to be Haitian. Everybody has the Haitian that’s gonna pull up if you do this and that. What the fuck is this now? 1-800 Call-A-Haitian? The roles that’s been chosen for a whole group is crazy. You know how they say in movies like Star Wars and shit, ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ If you’re not being oppressed, you’re going to become the oppressor. As the displaced people of the earth, as the diaspora, as the scattering, you would think that we would come together, especially once we started to get a rhythm for the politics and how the engineers of this society pit us against each other with institutional booby traps. It’s to where we should know what it is when you got young white people who feel like, ‘Hey, man, I’m just following the rules.’ I remember when white people held a general consensus that niggas was stupid and dumb as hell and all they cared about was they tennis shoes and don’t mess with them and get shot over Jordans: ‘Oh, you better not step on that nigger’s sneakers.’ And now you got people that was basically sustained and nurtured by that ignorance and that racism and that prejudice. Show me your elders. Let’s all get in the room and you bring your elders and I’ll bring my elders and let’s see who’s really on what. You can hide behind your clothes but who are you? Since when was you this? What do you come from? If you meet my mom you’ll quickly find out that back when Supreme Clientele was out, she stole my CD. My mother stole my Supreme Clientele CD! Her little brother stole my Redman Muddy Waters CD. I’m not into these re-releases of these sneakers because I wore them when they came out. Who are you?
As an artist do you find yourself dealing with these kind of people often?
MACH-HOMMY: There was another one of these dickheads, these self-entitled fucks, who hit me up. This guy hits me on my email the day after I put H.B.O. up on Soundcloud for streaming, trying to press me for an interview. Mind you, I’ve been living my life at my own pace forever and H.B.O. actually been out since last year, so in my head I’m thinking what’s the rush? Now I got people in my email trying to press me. You got me fucked up. We’re non parallel, we nonpareil. We’re not the same, we’re not parallel, son. You need to chill. You’re about to get T-boned, word up. I’m looking at the messages and I don’t like the tones and the way they’re coming across, like they’re doing me a favor. It’s funny, the same day this dude hit me is the same day you hit me. So why I’m talking to you on the phone right now and I’m never talking to that dude? You have to know what you’re doing when you’re talking to people, especially grown-ass men. Come to find out that this person didn’t even wait for a response. The day after I dropped H.B.O., this guy already wrote an article that he was inquiring about the day before. These people are on some platonic shit. The issue we’re having now is with the world in general and the powers that be and the fact that we’re dealing with a platonic thought system. We’re dealing with a system of thought that objectifies and stratifies everything. It’s like a spiritual divide-and-conquer, yo. Before the platonic thought process, everything was moreso complementary, harmony, opposites. In order to be whole, you gotta have the masculine and the feminine component. This is Plato: take the masculine, take the feminine, and stratify it! Make these shits polar opposites and create a thought system where one is more than the other, thereby one is indebted to the other, thereby there’s a master and there’s a slave. This is how you begin to misappropriate, how you divide and conquer and you begin to objectify shit. Now it’s no longer a woman, it’s a frail creature in need of protection. It’s no longer that my fellow villagers are hungry, it’s the grumbling of the Knaves. Everything that’s sick with the world starts with that. They’ll say shit like, ‘Look at these poor cows running around wild and eating grass. They need a fence for protection and we need to kill them for food. They’re going to go crazy and eat all the grass and cause erosion and that will cause mudslides.’ This is that Hegelian dialectic shit, they create problems that don’t exist. That’s more platonic shit. It’s as simple as this, bro: whenever you have a system where things have to be separated into ‘large,’ ‘small,’ ‘strong’ and ‘weak,’ all that shit is divide and conquer. Going back to this journalist dude—the reason I went into all this platonic shit—if you were into hip-hop, if you really understood the culture you would realize that wealth is in people and you would deal with me accordingly. If I’m from Miami and I really like Drake to the point of wanting to go to Toronto, maybe I should do some research and get a coat so I don’t freeze my balls off when I get to Toronto. It’s like he took off without knowing where he was going. He didn’t bring a coat so he might catch a cold. He said the music is cool or whatever, it’s great but it’s poorly mixed. It sounds low quality. My peoples went off, or whatever version of going off is going to come from a 26-year old woman that’s in college getting their post-graduate. It’s funny because people like that call me for advice when they’re having a hard time. I don’t give a fuck about no school. People think I read books. I don’t read books, I be outside. I be with the people who you afraid to look at their social media profile.
But they’ll revere those people and where they’re from forty years later when they’re talking about trap the way they talk about L.A.’s Central Avenue and jazz from the 50s and 60s.
MACH-HOMMY: Exactly. That’s what it is. I’m too busy making history. Don’t you know how to separate the wheat from the chaff yet? You do all this reading and couch surfing and you still ain’t get it yet? You read all of this Kafka and this Descartes? You’re full of shit. You’re an English Lit major—what English literature have you read? You don’t even know what a Kool G. Rap is—why are you calling me?
The more I was listening to H.B.O. and the Tea & Converse podcast you did, I appreciate more and more how much you show in your music, rather than just outright telling. It’s like you give these brief peeks into whole worlds.
MACH-HOMMY: Because that’s the culture I come from. You can’t say everything, you just can’t. A lot of us are paranoid, we blooclat paro. It’s like you don’t want to say nothing! You don’t even want to tell your mom if you ate breakfast this morning. You like, ‘maybe, I don’t know.’ It’s a form of PTSD. By default we just had to become colorful, everything coded. I have to make a conscious effort when I’m speaking in a dry manner. It’s me going, ‘Alright, everything flat, everything surface, everything right up front.’ But if I get the wave, if I get that energy, it’s motherfucking Chinese all the way. I could have a conversation with my niggas in front of people who think they hood—they finna be lost, I promise you. You know, you’re Mexican. It’s some other shit.
Even someone like me—a square when it comes to that shit—I feel like I can get a brief insight into some of what living in those moments may feel like, just a little bit…
MACH-HOMMY: It’s the vibe of it! I got waves. I know that about myself. I got waves. I’m such an empath. It’s nerve-racking to feel everything, all the time. It’s fucked up. It’s worse when you’re in the street.
So what is your objective for your art? Are you looking for respect or…
MACH-HOMMY: The respect? C’mon—that’s a foregone conclusion. That’s the bare minimum. The respect just opens a conversation. I’m here for the bag, son. I’m here for the fucking bag of money, you dumb ass. If not, then I keep it to myself and we keep it obscure and we don’t record or do none of that. Time is money. You see me going out of my way to design sound. Guess what? There is an intended purpose for this sound that I’m designing. A) You will pay me. B) I am the vendor. I am the vendor. I am the vendor. I believe in collaborative effort, so long as it makes sense. Now, politics, red tape, corporate culture, corporate collusion, backstabbing, jealousy and envy and all of that shit—those are the free radicals that are always knocking on your door trying to permeate the cell membrane. A person like me, I’m POM Wonderful, bitch. I got the antioxidants like a motherfucker and that shit ain’t free. Time, money and expertise. I’m a master. I’ve mastered Mach-Hommy.
The love and passion you have for the culture is evident, so I feel like I have to ask an obvious question: if you’re working so hard on this sound and this craft, why would you, in the eyes of some, limit the impact by selling CDs for $300 exclusively through Instagram?
MACH-HOMMY: Cool. That’s a logical question. It’s only natural for you to ask that. It’s only natural for me to tell you that I have to create my own value. In order to create my own value and dictate the terms of my work and my brain children, I have to control the dispensation and the interaction. I have to keep it in a small enough space so I can incubate it. It’s like an egg. I need to make sure I understand everything about this. That’s why I say sound design—it’s real! It’s beyond me saying some shit and whatever it does it does. I’m watching this shit grow. It’s like when you have a baby, not even animals in the wild have a baby and just leave them. That’s what you rap niggas be doing, goofy shit. You don’t cultivate sound. After all I did—sold out the H.B.O.’s at $300 apiece, made dope money off of CDs with no love, no help, no marketing. None of these people who sharpen their blade on my whetstone, none of them gave no support. Look, bro—I ain’t telling you you got to, but just make sure when you do what you do, you know what you’re doing. I have to keep this shit under control because that’s what this is all about. I’m going to control my work and I’m going to control how it’s being funneled. I’m going to control all the feedback, it’s going to come to me. I’m going to hit heads with The Dollar Menu. I’m going to cultivate my sound, independent of anything that could get in the way of me constructing this thing and make sure it is whole. You know how they say that too many cooks spoil the soup? It’s like that. That’s why I took this approach. It’s a testament to how much I know what I’m doing. I had so much faith that the thing I was making would reach where I was sending it. A lot of people stopped fucking with me when I put H.B.O. out. ‘You wildin’. That’s not the way it’s done.’ First of all, who the fuck asked you? I’m out here living this life that I’m living and you finna think you’re going to tell me how to do this? You know how long this shit been in the making? This shit moves you to the core—some shit you barely understand what I’m saying half the time because it’s coded—and you’re thinking it’s something to be taken lightly like that? Or you think it’s something that only the fucking creator can handle? It’s not only that you have to have the skills, you have to have the confidence to show your design. Not only what you deliver but the mode of delivery is very important too! Just like any drug. Weed, you roll it up and smoke it. Dope, you shoot it or you mainline it. It’s all different kind of ways to do shit. Based on who you is, what your background is, what your aim is, where you see this going, do you have a long-term trajectory or is this wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am and you’re trying to sell to the highest bidder as soon as possible because you’re a fuckboy and you ain’t got nothing in you? Who are you? That’s going to dictate how you roll this thing out. I could have been a fuckboy like everybody else but I chose something else. I chose myself.
Thank you—I appreciate your time and your thoughts. I feel like we barely scratched the surface—
MACH-HOMMY: It’s bad, bro. It’s bad because I don’t know if anybody is ever going to know. I’m really out here, you feel me? OK, I made some bread and all that, but I’m still me. That shit didn’t change my life. I just did what I said I was going to do—that changed y’all life! I showed you a real nigga who said he was going to do something and he did it but the reciprocity is not felt. The synergy is not there, not yet. It’s so much that needs to happen for people to even begin to get the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know if that shit is going to happen. Motions gotta happen. People have to be able to lock in with me for a good minute.
MACH-HOMMY’S THE SPOOK EP (WITH KNXWLEDGE) IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM MACH-HOMMY.BANDCAMP.COM, AS WELL AS THE DOLLAR MENU 1 AND THE DOLLAR MENU 2 BY MACH-HOMMY x THA GOD FAHIM. MACH-HOMMY’S 5 O’ CLOCK SHADOW FULL LENGTH (FEATURING PRODUCTION BY THE ALCHEMIST, KNXWLEDGE AND EARL SWEATSHIRT) IS COMING SOON. VISIT MACH-HOMMY AT SOUNDCLOUD.COM/MACH-HOMMY.