Black Soprano Family Records – “Long Live DJ Shay” review

This is the 2nd showcase compilation from Buffalo independent hip hop label Black Soprano Family Records. Founded in 2016 by Benny the Butcher of Griselda fame, the roster has significantly grown throughout the years with the likes of Duffel Bag Hottie to Rick Hyde & even battle rap icon RJ Payne. The label has maintained a distribution deal with MNRK Music Group since everything was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic a couple summers back & put out an eponymous debut EP hosted by DJ Drama not too long after, but is following it up in the form of Long Live DJ Shay.

The intro kicks it all off with a sinister boom bap instrumental from the late DJ Shay himself & Fuego Base popping in during the last minute or so after a spoken word piece from Westside Gunn going at B$F’s opposition whereas “Shay Face” by Benny & Rick Hyde works in some piano chords to remind everyone of their authenticity. “297 Parkside” by Elcamino, Rick & Stove God Cook$ brings a high-pitched sample to the fold thanks to Camoflauge Monk paying homage to the titular street in NY prior to “Danger Zone” by Heem, O.T. the Real & Ricky grimly talking about spending many nights in the titular space.

Meanwhile on “Pandemic Flow”, we have Conway the Machine & Cory Gunz accompanying Rick Hyde over some spooky Uncle Al production to brag how crazy they go leading into the Heem solo cut “Bastard Child” declaring himself as such over a flute-tinged boom bap beat. After the “Sit Down with Preemo” skit, Benny returns alongside Heem & Ricky for the dusty “Times is Rough” laced by none other than DJ Premier confessing they’re running out of reasons to sympathize just before “Mustachios” by Boldy James, Chase Fetti & Heem brings a guitar & hi-hats into the fold talking about the mafia lifestyles they live.

“Li-Lo” by Elcamino, Krayzie Bone & Loveboat Luciano comes through with a summery love anthem & the song “Bigger B$F” by Armani Caesar, Benny, Heem & Rick following the “Respect to Shay” interlude sees the quartet ruggedly bragging about their increasing profile. The penultimate track “Brody” by Elcamino & Heem has a more soulful tone to it confessing that the streets made them who they are today with “Mr. Pyrex Man” by Benny ending the album with a glistening trap instrumental spitting that hustler shit.

If you enjoyed the self-titled EP that B$F put out a couple years ago, then you’re probably gonna like Long Live DJ Shay even more. The production has improved, everyone on the label roster sounds even hungrier than last time, the features are all well-picked out for a good majority of the album & I think it would all make Shay more than proud.

Score: 3.5/5

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Benny the Butcher – “Tana Talk 4” review

Benny the Butcher is a 37 year old MC from Buffalo, New York who’s been making music since 2004. However, it wouldn’t be until 2016 where he alongside his cousins Westside Gunn & Conway the Machine would take the culture by storm off projects like Tana Talk 3 & The Plugs I Met. Last year alone, he teamed up with Harry Fraud for The Plugs I Met II in the spring & then Pyrex Picasso in the summer. However, he’s finally linking back up with Daringer & The Alchemist for his 3rd full-length album as well as the 4th installment of the Tana Talk series.

“Johnny P’s Caddy” kicks off the album with a soulful Alchemist beat & J. Cole joining Benny in talking about deserving to be where they are now whereas the Stove God Cook$-assisted “Back 2x” follows it up by bringing the coke raps back & Daringer taking the instrumental back to the basement. “Super Plug” works in a dejecting beat talking about how his only wish was to get his close ones rich just before Boldy James tags along for “Weekends in the Perry’s”, where he & Benny jump on top of a chipmunk soul sample addressing how it’s always been.

Meanwhile on “10 More Crack Commandments”, we have The Butcher delivering a stellar sequel to “10 Crack Commandments” that would make Biggie proud down to Puff Daddy’s spoken word outro leading into Conway coming into the picture for “Tyson vs. Ali” talking about how everyone compares the greatest to the greatest nowadays on top of some dusty drums & pianos. “Uncle Bun” goes into a more suspenseful direction as a Benny & 38 Spesh toss the mic back & forth with one another, but then “Thowy’s Revenge” incorporates a horn sample talking about how he went & got it.

“Billy Joe” brings an organ into the picture to describe the shit he be doing within the first 3 days of every month while the song “Guerrero” with Westside Gunn finds the 2 on top of a futuristic boom bap instrumental with some amazing wordplay. The penultimate track “Bust a Brick Nick” viciously attacks those who haven’t been the places he’s been to even though the beat is opulent as Hell & lastly, “Mr. Chow Hall” ends the album by confessing what’s been on his mind lately & the instrumental here is just spine-tingling.

Much like Conway did with God Don’t Make Mistakes a couple weeks back, I think Benny gave us some of the best work of his career with this album. From the vivid street imagery to Daringer & The Alchemist’s production, every one involved kills it at picking up where the previous installment of the series left off while recapturing that sound.

Score: 4.5/5

Benny the Butcher – “Pyrex Picasso” review

This is the 6th EP from Buffalo emcee Benny the Butcher. Getting his start in 2004 off his debut mixtape Tana Talk, it wasn’t until 2018 when he dropped his Daringer/Alchemist-produced debut album Tana Talk 3 under his cousin Westside Gunn’s independent powerhouse Griselda Records. This was followed up with The Plugs I Met & the Hit-Boy-produced Burden of Proof but just 5 months after teaming up with Harry Fraud for The Plugs I Met II, the butcher is now proclaiming himself as the Pyrex Picasso.

After the “1st Name Basis” intro, “Flood the Block” is a bit of a celebratory kickstarter talking about drugs & clocking dollars whereas “PWRDRL” with Elcamino has a bit of a rock feel getting on their mafioso shit. The title track with Conway the Machine works in some keyboards & dusty drums talking about getting rich just before Elcamino returns with Rick Hyde for the symphonic “‘73”, saying their competitors will never be them. “The Iron Curtain” works in some haunting organs spitting that street gospel & the closer “Fly with Me” with Conway the Machine has a soulful vibe talking about being hustlers.

It’s no secret this dude has been working hard on the Tana Talk 4 double album for a while now & I think Pyrex Picasso serves as a fresh lil’ appetizer before the main course despite being recorded 3 years back. Chop La Rok & Rare Scilla do their thing behind the boards for The Butcher to let his flashy lyricism come in to play as it usually does.

Score: 3.5/5

Black Soprano Family Records & TCF Music Group – “Trust the Sopranos” review

This is a brand new collaborative compilation between New York independent hip hop labels Black Soprano Family Records & T.C.F. Music Group. One operates as an E1 Music imprint owned by Benny the Butcher & the latter being founded by 38 Spesh. The pair have been working together for a long time now (case in point: Stabbed & Shot), so it only makes sense for them to bring their crews together for Trust the Sopranos.

The opener “Immunity” by Benny & Elcamino kicks off with a succulent instrumental from Rick Hyde as the 2 go on about having their block under control, but then the Camino solo cut “Corner” is a horrendously sung R&B ballad despite the luscious 38 Spesh production. We later have Che Noir, Klass Murda & Ransom detailing their lifestyles on the angelic “Price of Fame” before the latter teams up with Benny to talk about fake people on the piano-laced “Spineless”. Ampichino & Spesh come together to talk about their lives being like a movie for the victorious “Tokyo Drift” whereas the Heem solo cut “Long Story Short” is him jumping on alluring boom bap beat saying that he’s about to take shit over.

Ricky accompanies Heem on the cinematic “Load Up” to talk about their homies mobbin’ while the song “Love Left” by Benny, Che Noir & Klass Murda is a smooth heartbreak anthem. The penultimate track “Blue Money” by Benny, Elcamino & 38 Spesh finds the trio talking about getting it out the mud over an organ-laced instrumental from the late DJ Shay whereas the closer “Silent Death” by Chase Fetti & Rick Hyde is an airy ode to murder.

It was only a matter of time both labels would come together given their intertwining history & the end result is pretty decent. Benny & Spesh always bounced off each other well on projects like Stabbed & Shot and the Cocaine Cowboys duology, but the TCF artists (i.e. Ransom & Che Noir) outperform the BSF signees throughout the half-hour.

Score: 3/5

Benny the Butcher – “The Plugs I Met II” review

Benny the Butcher is a 36 year old MC from Buffalo, New York who’s been making music since 2004. However, it wouldn’t be until 2016 where he alongside his cousins Westside Gunn & Conway the Machine would take the culture by storm off projects like Tana Talk 3 & The Plugs I Met. He just dropped his Hit-Boy produced sophomore album Burden of Proof this past fall & as the 2 year anniversary of The Plugs I Met approaches this summer, Benny is enlisting Harry Fraud for the sequel EP.

The EP kicks off with “When Tony Met Sosa”, where Benny talks about how the rap game saved him over a jazzy beat. The next song “Overall” with the late Chinx sees the 2 talking about winning over a grimy instrumental while the track “Plug Talk“ with 2 Chainz finds the pair talking about how they address drug shit in interviews over some harmonious background vocals hanging behind their verses. The song “Live by It” talks about living & dying by the gun over an uncanny instrumental while the track “Talkin’ Back” with Fat Joe sees the 2 responding to everything from dope money to the streets over a flute-tinged beat.

The song “No Instructions” talks about how there’s no rules to the drug game over a poignant boom bap instrumental while the track “Longevity” with French Montana & Jim Jones finds the trio talking about making sure their cash is the strongest over an alluring beat. The song “Survivor’s Remorse” with Rick Hyde sees the 2 talking about how they could’ve died or wound up in jail over a dirgelike instrumental & then the closer “Thanksgiving” tells the rap game to be grateful for him over a soul sample & an organ.

The Plugs I Met is a crown achievement in Benny’s catalog & this sequel is almost as enjoyable as the predecessor. In comparison to the mature & polished vibes that Burden of Proof gave off, he & Harry Fraud take things into much more darker territory as the dark production & the harsh realities The Butcher paints mesh well with one another.

Score: 4/5

Benny the Butcher – “Burden of Proof” review

This is the sophomore album from Buffalo emcee Benny the Butcher. Coming up as the leader of the Black Soprano Family collective as well as a signee to Westside Gunn & Conway the Machine’s label Griselda Records, he would make his presence known in the culture with his Butcher on Steroids that dropped on his birthday in 2017 as well as his full-length debut Tana Talk 3 on Black Friday 2018. This was followed up 7 months later by releasing The Plugs I Met but a little over a year later, he’s teaming up with Hit-Boy for Burden of Proof.

The title track that kicks the album off is pretty much Benny talking about expanding himself over a boom bap beat with some horns along with an outro from Pain in da Ass whereas the next song “Where Would I Go?” with Rick Ross sees the 2 talking about being big bosses over a heavenly instrumental. The track “Sly Green” talks about money ain’t changing shit for him over a beat that kinda has a JAY-Z feel to it while the song “1 Way Flight” with Freddie Gibbs finds the 2 talking about bitches over a soulful instrumental. The track “Famous” talks about how he still doesn’t feel like a celebrity over an climatic beat while the song “Timeless” with Big Sean & Lil Wayne sees the 3 talking about their legacies over an energized instrumental.

The track “New Streets” talks about only being concerned of what hustlers think rather than haters over a classy soul sample while the song “Over the Limit” talks about success over a smooth, cavernous instrumental & it’s great to hear The Madd Rapper during the outro. The track “Trade It All” talks about his desire to give up his wealth to see those he’s lost once more over a somber beat while the song “Thank God I Made It” talks about being grateful for where he is today over a lavish instrumental. The penultimate track “War Paint” with Conway the Machine finds the 2 spitting the usual pusher bars over a beat with hypnotic vocal loop hanging in the background & then the album finishes with “Legend”, where Benny proclaims himself as such over a delicate instrumental.

Even though I’d have to go with From King to a God for my Album of the Year pick so far, this is just as great in my personal opinion. The production Hit-Boy brings to the table is somewhat more glamorous & clean in comparison to Tana Talk 3 & The Plugs I Met, but it manages to suit Benny well as we get to hear him at his most mature.

Score: 4.5/5

Black Soprano Family – Self-Titled review

Black Soprano Family Records is a Buffalo, New York-based independent record label founded in 2016 by Benny the Butcher of Griselda fame. Their roster has significantly grown throughout the years with the likes of Duffel Bag Hottie, Rick Hyde, Loveboat Luciano, Joneszy & even battle rap icon RJ Payne. The label just inked a distribution deal with E1 Music a couple months back & are releasing a DJ Drama-hosted collective effort to celebrate.

The EP kicks off with “Quarantine”, where Benny the Butcher promises his homies currently locked up that he’ll be rich when they come home over a violin-inflicted boom bap beat from Chup. The next song “Grams in the Water” by Benny, Loveboat Luciano & Rick Hyde of course talks about pushing coke over a dreary instrumental while “Da Mob” finds Benny, Heem & Rick talking about the crew being impeccable over a grimy beat from DJ Shay.

The track “In Love with the Streets” by Heem & Jonesy talks about what makes the hood so special over a boom bap beat with an alluring vocal sample while the song “Rick & Fonz” is a Rick Hyde solo cut about how he can’t go broke again over some synthesizers & some twinkling keyboards. The track “Paulie & Vito” by Heem & Rick goes at those who disrespect their names while the song “Valarie” is a Heem solo joint about what it was like growing up in Buffalo over a dark beat. The closer “It’s Over” by Heem, Rick & Benny then talks about wealth over a soulful Don Cannon instrumental.

Not a bad showcase effort from the Black Soprano Family. I was expecting it to be a little bit longer than just 8 tracks & 27 minutes, but everyone on the label stands out in their own way & does a fine job of giving the listeners what they’re capable of doing.

Score: 3.5/5

Griselda – “W.W.C.D. (What Would Chinegun Do?)” review

Griselda is a hardcore hip hop trio from Buffalo, New York consisting of Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine & Benny the Butcher. All 3 of whom have made names for themselves throughout the latter half of this decade with modern East Coast classics like FLYGOD, Supreme Blientele, Reject 2, G.O.A.T. (Grimiest Of All-Time), Tana Talk 3 & The Plugs I Met. Now despite all those projects being put out independently under Griselda Records, the trio have seen fit to team up with Shady Records & make their collective debut album their inaugural release on a major label.

After the spoken word intro from Raekwon, the first song “Chef Dreds” finds all 3 members trading bars back & forth with each other over a chilling boom bap beat from Daringer & Beat Butcha (both of whom produced the entire album by themselves). The track “Moselle” serves as the theme song for crack dealers over a frightening instrumental while the song “Cruiser Weight Coke” talks about running the game over an organ-inflicted beat. The track “Freddie Hotspot” talks about drug dealing tip over a haunting instrumental while the song “DR. BIRDS” sees the 3 flexing over a grimy beat.

“The Old Groove” then talks about life in Buffalo over a ghostly instrumental while the track “Scotties” continues to display their amazing chemistry over a demented beat. After the “Kennedy” interlude, the song “City on the Map” with 50 Cent pays tribute to NY over a cold blooded instrumental & in a way it’s like 50 passing the torch down to Griselda. The track “May Store” talks about trapping being their calling over an ominous instrumental & then after the “Lowery” outro, there’s the bonus track where Westside Gunn & Benny add verses to the decent “Bang” single that Conway dropped with Eminem over the summer.

For a major label debut, this is damn near perfect & easily one of my Top 5 releases of 2019. Other than wishing that both Conway & Marshall recorded new verses for the “Bang” remix, I really admire how Griselda didn’t change up their lyricism or production trying to appeal to a crowd that doesn’t exist & just stayed being themselves.

Score: 4.5/5

Smoke DZA & Benny the Butcher – “Statues of Limitations” review

This is a collaborative EP between New York rappers Smoke DZA & Benny the Butcher. The 2 have collaborated a couple of times in the past with “Debiase Decisions” & “Luck of Draw”, but they’re now hooking up with the revered Pete Rock in order of helping them take it to the next level.

The opener “By Any Means” trading vicious bars back & forth nonchalantly over a meditative boom bap beat while the next song “Bullets” with Conway the Machine speaks for itself over a tense instrumental. The track “Smoked & Butchered” gets murderous over an enticing instrumental while the song “7:30” gets mafioso over a luxurious keyboard instrumental. The penultimate track “Drug Rap” needs no further explanation over an eerie boom bap beat & then the closer “Toast” gets celebratory over a blaxploitation-esque instrumental.

As expected, this was a damn near perfect effort. I wish Styles P & Westside Gunn had verses instead of doing the hooks on the joints they were featured on, but Pete Rock’s production is raw & the chemistry between DZA & Benny is fantastic.

Score: 4.5/5

Benny the Butcher – “The Plugs I Met” review

Benny the Butcher is a 34 year old MC from Buffalo, New York who came up as the leader of the Black Soprano Family as well as a signee to Westside Gunn & Conway’s label Griselda Records. His first official release on the label was his Butcher on Steroids mixtape that dropped on his birthday in 2017, but it wouldn’t be until last November that he made his full-length debut on the label with Tana Talk 3. However, he’s coming back with his 4th EP inspired by a line on his last album.

After the intro skit, we dive into the first song “Crowns for Kings”. Where the Butcher teams up with Black Thought get motivational over an orchestral DJ Shay beat. The song “Sunday School” with Jadakiss & .38 Spesh get confrontational over a piano-inflicted boom bap beat from Daringer while the track “Dirty Harry” with Conway & RJ Payne is filled with battle bars over an eerie instrumental. The song “Took the Money to the Plug House” of course talks about hustling over a gloomy Alchemist beat while the penultimate track “18 Wheeler” with Pusha T gets mafioso over a godly boom bap beat & then the EP finishes off with “5 to 50”, where the Butcher reflects on his past over an atmospheric Alchemist beat.

The production’s just as raw & the Butcher’s street tales are a lot grimier. Yet another example of Griselda being one of the hardest camps in hip hop at the current moment.

Score: 4.5/5