Conway (along with brother Westside Gunn) persists as something of an enigma. They may be far from the only New York rappers stubbornly pushing music for listeners “lost in the 90's” (as Nas put it), but with a signing from Shady Records, they are alone in their proximity to mass commercial viability. Whether Eminem has an inkling as how to push them remains to be seen, but the opportunity itself is exciting for grumpy heads bemoaning the state of the form.

On paper, a relationship with Shady makes all the sense in the world and none at all. With Eminem's undying insistence on spitting, Conway and Gunn fit his sensibilities perfectly, but its their inmoviblity that will either make or break the partnership. One can scarcely imagine either artist, so deeply embedded in their understanding of their sound, being led down a pop path a la Slaughterhouse on Our House, nor being smothered in production and gloss as Yelawolf's debut was.

To the contrary, BLAKK TAPE, Conway's latest in an indefatigable slew of releases, sticks as fiercely to his guns as ever. In fact, each release from the brothers since their joining Shady has felt entirely removed from the label's brand, arriving without fanfare on apparent whims of the artists themselves, no tired Eminem trapezing as a guest, still entirely geared towards their intended audience.

Mr. Mathers might want to break out a bit of his promotional team to see that efforts of this caliber gain an expanded audience, rather than just keeping one, but as extended tease as to just what a Shady debut might manage to sound like, no one risks leaving wondering what Marshall saw in the brothers.

His origin story is largely known by now, but Conway cuts a menacing figure, having barely retained his ability to walk following gunshots to his head and neck, the rapper leers at you across a record, a listener practically able to hear his partially paralyzed grimace in each stymied bar.

For some time, Gunn seemed the more likely of the two to be destined for notoriety, his Hitler Wears Hermes series (yeah) always sure to kick up dust, with a dominant voice that manages to offer a snarl with warmth to spare in his every word, bright, at least in comparison with Conway's grimmer traditionalism.

The two surely benefit from brotherly competition, and through sheer dogged determination (not to mention that release schedule) Conway has perhaps pulled ahead since their major label gambit, and BLAKK TAPE only seeks to solidify his early lead. It may not astound, but it continues Conway's modest winning trend.