Machine from Machine Wash Music Credit: Will Espinosa

Chicago has many independent hip-hop labels, but few maintain rosters as multigenerational as that of Machine Wash Music. Rapper Daryl “Decay” Stewart cofounded Machine Wash after he had an unsatisfying experience putting out his 2008 album, The Unlikely Hero, through Molemen Records—he wanted a more mutual artist-label relationship. “The process wasn’t the same and I didn’t enjoy making that record as much,” Stewart told Voyage Chicago in 2018. “I went back to my friends and felt we needed to help artist [sic] realize their dream without taking their control.” Machine Wash doesn’t even have a dozen releases yet, but on the new compilation Machine, the label rolls deep, documenting the many current dimensions of underground Chicago hip-hop. Machine features savvy youngsters (Defcee, Green Sllime), long-grinding veterans (Encyclopedia Brown, Stewart’s alter ego Decay, the Llama), producers from the arty beat scene (Lanzo, Uncle El), and an MC who helped build the foundation for the local scene (Ang13). The comp reframes hip-hop with a peculiar new slant, even when the big-footed beats and rubbery wordplay carry a whiff of tradition—and even the cuts that defy convention sometimes feel like long-lost classics. On “Rats,” rapper-producer Green Sllime attacks a bleary instrumental with glorious non sequiturs like he’s slicing through underbrush with a machete. Few artists sound like Sllime, and I wish more would take notes.   v