Westside Gunn has been rapping at an elite level for the past decade. He may have only reached wide recognition in 2019 when he and his Griselda cohorts began to break out, but the Buffalo rapper has been getting busy since 2012. At least, that was when he dropped the first installment to his Hitler Wears Hermes series – a mixtape series that has become the bar-heavy foundation of his musical catalog.
What was supposed to be Hitler Wears Hermes 10, the series’ final installment, was re-titled simply to 10 for obvious reasons (looking at you, Kanye). But despite the title change, the bars and delivery on this project haven’t changed a bit from what fans have heard on the previous nine chapters. Normally, for a rapper of lesser lyrical dexterity, this would be considered unoriginal, stagnant, and repetitive, but in the case of Westside Gunn’s 10, consistency is king and Gunn is wearing that crown like it’s a fitted Buffalo Bills cap.
By looking at the tracklist two things stand out immediately. First, there are only 12 tracks, which is refreshing to see in an era filled with super-streaming slogs. Second, is the number of features packed within the confines of those 12 tracks. Having Gunn go bar-for-bar with his other ferocious rapper friends is always encouraged but a little worrisome with a runtime of only 50 minutes. That’s a lot of voices without a lot of time.
After pressing play, as assumed, the album is noticeably crowded in its back half. “Science Class,” “God Is Love” and “Switches On Everything” feature at least three different artists all with their own verses while “Red Death” features a whopping seven different rappers. Don’t get it twisted, everyone gives a high-quality performance but unfortunately, most of them get lost in the rapture of metaphors and gun sounds.
The best example of feature-optimization is on Rome Streetz and Stove God Cooks assisted “BDP”. All three New York spitters get off three very different yet equally potent verses about flipping bricks, birds, and many other cocaine terminologies. Conductor Williams also serves up a hypnotizing boom-bap beat that allows this Yankee grit to come across crystal clear. In fact, Conductor Williams brings Gunn the most harmonizing beats on the project. The most memorable rapping appears on “Super Kick Party” where Gunn is all alone on a Williams beat just going full braggadocio, luxury rap mode. “Pateks over the wheel, hobo bags draggin’ through Maxfield/You lack still, the Glock or the MAC wheel?/Fur on the Marni slippers, makin’ a crack deal/Judge wanna send me up the hill like Jack, Jill.”
Although Gunn can rap cypher-style just as well as anyone out right now, listeners shouldn’t expect to learn anything new about him on this project. The subject matter centers almost exclusively on selling drugs, wearing designer garments, and whipping foreign cars; often all at once. However, what sheds some light on Gunn’s inner motivations is found on the “Intro”. Bro A.A. Rashid delivers a spoken word that helps summarize all of Gunn’s luxury-focused raps: “I want you to exercise the task of feeling enlightened and use what you perceive and what you are discerning as a guide. For you to improve the quality of your life you can use this sound as a guide to improve the quality of your life.” Essentially, Gunn’s goal and mission statement for this project is #MotivationalPurposesOnly. DJ Drama summarizes this as well on the first few bars of “FlyGod Jr” where he eagerly declares the project “Cultural art at it’s finest.”
For those looking for tracks to easily throw on for a quick car ride or to place on a party playlist “Shootouts in Soho” featuring A$AP Rocky and Stove God Cooks is a more pleasant, upbeat track that can be enjoyed by casual fans and lyrical miracle enthusiasts alike. But like most Griselda releases, the majority of songs won’t grace the ears of those not checking for them. Don’t expect anything on 10 to make its way onto the likes of a Peloton class playlist.
Westside Gunn shows up and does his job on 10 – that’s all there really is to it. The beats, bars, and blitzkrieg of “boom boom boom booms” are ever present like they have been for the last ten years. For those who are already fans of Gunn and his no-nonsense rap prowess, this project will be music, or gun sounds, to their ears.
@WESTSIDEGUNN 10 is definitely the best album of this decade. Flames 🔥
— seemore pain (@kingshiest) December 3, 2022
Westside Gunn 10
— Shiggastickymanila (@Shiggadana_) December 5, 2022
Westside Gunn ”10” album got some real heat on there.
— Kensho (@Kensho950) December 8, 2022