Within the a few years since its inception, a number of cities throughout the U.S. have come to be generally known as cultural hubs, the place the perfect and brightest voices in rap steadily appear to emerge. There’s New York Metropolis, in fact, the place all the pieces started; typically characterised by the dirty boom-bap and lyrical onslaughts of the 90’s. There’s L.A. on the West Coast, Chicago within the Midwest, and Atlanta and Memphis within the south. Buffalo, New York, although, has by no means actually been a metropolis that’s even remotely within the dialog. Issues have modified fairly a bit, although, for the frigid upstate New York city, and virtually all of it is because of Griselda Data.
Based by brothers Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine in 2012, Griselda has remodeled Buffalo into the mecca of underground rap greatness, and their seemingly unstoppable rise to dominance has been soundtracked by album after album of gritty, crime-ridden, hip-hop excellence. Whereas initially, Westside Gunn had no intention of ever being a rapper, and supposed to the be Suge Knight to his brother and cousin (fellow rapper Benny the Butcher), it’s been his releases, comparable to his debut studio album Flygod (2016) which have garnered probably the most consideration and cemented Griselda’s standing as plain leaders within the trendy rap world.
Out of your first time listening to Westside Gunn although, it’s simple to see why he’s nonetheless the star of his label. His system often consists of his nasally sing-song voice, accompanied by a barrage of now iconic ab-libs (BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM), and extremely area of interest references to the drug commerce, excessive vogue, and life behind bars. Whereas Conway and Benny are each undisputedly nice MC’s (each have dropped two of the perfect albums of 2022 up to now), there’s one thing about each Westside Gunn venture that seems like a real hip-hop expertise. No matter how Gunn sees himself because it pertains to rapping (for my part, he’s nice), his skill to place collectively a cohesive, one-of-one album is really one thing to behold, and the newest installment in his catalog, 10 (his second venture in 2022, following Peace Flygod) continues that unbelievable development.
For anybody unfamiliar with Westside Gunn and Griselda as a complete, diving head first into one among these albums can really feel a bit bit like beginning Recreation of Thrones midway by way of. Very like Wu-Tang earlier than him, Westside Gunn has very a lot carved out a hip-hop cinematic universe together with his music, and a part of the enjoyment comes from being within the loop on all of the references and uncredited collaborators. Within the case of 10, this album serves because the ninth installment (I do know, complicated) to Gunn’s Hitler Wears Hermes sequence, which started in 2012 and has proved to be probably the most well-known facet of his profession. After final yr’s Hitler Wears Hermes 8 – a double album that featured a few of Gunn’s finest performing songs so far – followers had been not sure if he would ever return to the sequence. Whereas 10 not bears the identify of its predecessors (a sensible choice for positive, though the unique title was meant to be a eye-catching play on The Satan Wears Prada, it’s all the time felt a bit tone-deaf), this new album carries each little bit of Westside Gunn’s signature pot-scraping boom-bap, with fairly a little bit of experimentation.
To additional run the cinematic universe comparability into the bottom, probably the most apt description I can discover for 10 is because the Infinity Gauntlet of Gunn’s profession up to now. Over simply 12 tracks, he manages to pack in a few of his most excessive profile function appearances so far (A$AP Rocky, Busta Rhymes, Ghostface Killah, Yasiin Bey, simply to call a number of), the perfect of his standard crop of producers (The Alchemist, Conductor Williams, Daringer, RZA, and Pete Rock), and naturally almost each single artist that’s at the moment signed to Griselda. Diving into this album actually felt just like the Avengers: Endgame of underground hip-hop, and there have been occasions whereas listening the place I legitimately giggled out of sheer rap-fan-boy pleasure on the crossovers happening on this report. Nonetheless, whereas all of this pleasure within the listing of collaborators is intoxicating, it’s actually all for naught if the venture itself isn’t stable. Fortunately, identical to actually all the pieces Gunn has ever put out, 10 is an impressive album that epitomizes the present state of underground hip-hop whereas steadily pushing it ahead.
The primary observe, “Intro” is a spoken phrase piece from rapper AA Rashid, who’s made a reputation for himself because the verbose narrator of a number of of Gunn’s previous few tasks. Admittedly, this explicit time round his look considerably overstays its welcome, lasting three and a half minutes, however his energetic ramblings and creative word-choice (“contradistinction”) nonetheless can’t assist however put a smile in your face. The album actually kicks off, nevertheless, with “Flygod Jr”, which takes all the boom-bap, minimalist logos of Westside Gunn’s whole profession and throws them out the window for a tittering, quick-paced lure beat. Nothing else on the album sounds this manner, and neither does something in Gunn’s catalog, nevertheless it’s kind of the switch-up that though unasked for, is wholly appreciated. DJ Drama himself kicks off the proceedings, marking him and Gunn’s first collaboration since HWH 7, in 2019. As all the time, his presence is an energy-booster, and units the stage superbly for Gunn’s laid-back, muttery circulation that dances over the tip-tapping drums. The music finishes with a function from Cleveland up and comer Doeboy, who toured with Griselda earlier this yr, who follows Gunn’s go well with by spitting a laid-back, immediately infectious verse that manages to be singable and murderous.
“Tremendous Kick Celebration” brings issues again to a mode that feels rather more acquainted to Westside Gunn followers, with an ominous, off-kilter Conductor Williams beat that grounds muffled vocal chops with a gentle drum-line of head-bobbing percussion. The observe can also be one of many few moments on the album the place Gunn is unassisted by any kind of function, and simply serves as additional proof that even when he doesn’t take into account himself as a rapper, he’s nonetheless a reasonably rattling good one. (“Choose wanna ship me up the hill, like Jack Jill”). The outro of this music additionally introduces one of many album’s key distinctions: the affect of Buffalo native Eastside Flip. Flip is the person featured on the quilt of the venture, carrying Gunn’s iconic jewellery and posing in entrance of a comfort retailer counter. All through the album – and his whole profession – Gunn has all the time taken time to spotlight and uplift Buffalo as a lot as he probably can, and showcasing corners of that world that may solely come from somebody who has seen its ugliest nooks and crannies. All through 10’s runtime, there are a number of discipline recordings of Eastside Flip freestyles, probably recorded by Gunn himself. One efficiency, on the observe “God is Love”, makes up greater than half of the observe and dwarfs Gunn’s personal verse by a large margin. The verses are extremely stable, and it breathes a life into this venture that only a few rappers can attain. For uninitiated listeners, the attraction of Westside Gunn and Griselda might sound troublesome to know at first, nevertheless it’s moments like these – Gunn’s loving inclusion of an unknown individual from his metropolis – that make 10 really feel like a dwelling, respiration piece of the place he comes from.
“Shootouts in Soho” presents the primary stacked line-up of the function listing, with verses from Gunn, A$AP Rocky, Range God Cooks, and the observe is an absolute stand-out. The beat is a laid-back, sci-fi-sounding pattern loop that gives greater than sufficient room for the three MC’s to function in prime kind. Rocky’s verse specifically has been lengthy anticipated for Westside Gunn followers, with Gunn’s IG teasing his inclusion all the best way again in Might of this yr, and he definitely doesn’t disappoint (“Pull up in some deadstock costume socks carrying Crocs”). On the next observe, “Peppas”, none apart from Blackstar (Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey) make an look, rapping over among the best beats on the venture. Courtesy of frequent Griselda collaborator Conductor Williams, the pitch-shifted vocal chops on this report present a surprisingly lovely backdrop for lyrical greatness to happen, and the three MCs don’t disappoint. Due to their relative distance from the limelight, listening to each Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey on a observe collectively is an virtually tear-inducing second for any hip-hop-head, and their chemistry is ready to mix seamlessly with Westside Gunn and his imaginative and prescient for the observe.
On a scan of the tracklist, likelihood is that the options on “Science Class” had been probably the most eye-catching to any rap fan. Westside Gunn, Busta Rhymes, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, and Range God Cooks – it’s the generational New York posse reduce the world didn’t realize it wanted. The beat right here is an immaculate manufacturing from none apart from Swizz Beats, constructed round an organ-heavy pattern loop of 60’s singer-songwriter Margo Guryan, and even sees Busta Rhymes taking a crack at her singing half. As anticipated, each single rapper right here exhibits up in prime kind, and irrespective of what number of occasions you loop it, every hear nonetheless seems like an underground hip-hop Christmas each time somebody new pops up. Someway, relative newcomer Range God Cooks may simply be the final word stand-out within the line-up, although, together with his crooning lyrics providing a few of the most potent quotables on the venture (“They caught him on digital camera blamm-ing somn, they obtained it on tape, Child Rock and Pamela”). Just a few tracks later, Cooks seems as soon as once more subsequent to legends, rapping alongside Run the Jewels on “Switches on Every part”. As soon as once more, Cooks’ contribution is completely improbable, however veterans El-P and Killer Mike may take the cake on this one. El-P’s verse particularly is a heartfelt tribute to his childhood, rising up, and even Griselda itself, with him tipping his Yankee cap to Gunn’s motion, and it’s sufficient to the hip-hop gods weep from enjoyment.
When all’s mentioned and performed, 10 is a hell of a venture. Whereas the star-studded function listing is well probably the most thrilling and conversation-dominating facet, your entire album is known as a testomony to Westside Gunn’s impeccable curation talents. Whereas his rapping is definitely stable, and he has the flexibility to take care of concentrate on tracks by himself, it’s his willingness to let others shine and create moments of hip-hop that make him a really distinctive artist. In one other rapper’s fingers, a feature-list like this is able to simply be an inexpensive try at credibility, and a waste of upper-management connections (take Russ’ CHOMP 2 (2021) for instance). However right here, all the pieces is finished with a love of hip-hop, Buffalo, and inventive excellence, and it pays off in spades. The outro to the album, “Crimson Loss of life” is a ten and a half posse reduce, that includes virtually each single Griselda signee rapping over a fully disgusting Alchemist beat. For many different rappers, a posse reduce like this is able to be an opportunity to showcase their abilities in competition with their friends, however for Gunn, it’s a victory lap of the model he’s created, and the unbelievable artists he’s supported. It doesn’t matter who has the perfect verse on the music (it’s Rome Streetz), as a result of the music is solely an unabashed celebration of the present state of underground rap, and the singular position Westside Gunn and his work ethic have performed in that success.
Be aware: This text has been edited as of 11/01/2022 at 7pm. We beforehand incorrectly acknowledged that Range God Cooks was signed to Griselda. He’s signed to Babygrande Data. We apologize for this error.