Rick Hyde – “Stima” review

This is the 9th EP from Buffalo emcee/producer Rick Hyde. One of the flagship artists on Benny the Butcher’s very own MNRK Music Group imprint Black Soprano Family Records, he would go on to drop the impressive full-length debut Plates at the beginning of 2019 after warming everyone up with his first 7 EPs a feature-studded sequel last summer that was preluded by an EP of it’s own. But coming fresh off that, Ricky’s still applying pressure by releasing Stima.

“Who Am I?!” opens up the EP with a chipmunk soul banger properly reintroducing himself to the world whereas “Y Bother Talkin’?” works in some operatic vocal loops to declare no mercy on the weak minded. “Arrivederci” takes a more sinister approach in terms of sound dissing the wankstas leading into the braggadocious “La Spina”, which goes into somewhat of a more futuristic direction with the instrumental.

Meanwhile on “Like This”, we’re treated to a dusty yet raw B$F posse cut describing what real d-boys look like while the song “Ms. Young” gets on his hustler shit & the beat here is kinda similar to that of “Lemon” off Conway the Machine’s classic debut From King to a God. The penultimate track “Poza” with Rome Streetz finds the 2 over a brassy Alchemist instrumental belittling their competition & “Perspective” finishes it off on a glossier note talking about where he’s at now.

For an EP, I’d say Ricky delivered some of the best work of his career with Stima. In comparison to his last album, I really admire how he decided to step it up in the production department & tone it down on the features so he remind everyone that he can undoubtedly hold it down on his own because some of his best pen-work pops up here.

Score: 4/5

Heem – “High Art” review

This is the debut EP from Buffalo emcee Heem. Catching my attention earlier this year after becoming of a protege of Benny the Butcher & signing to his MNRK Music Group imprint Black Soprano Family Records, he also made a few appearances on the label’s showcase EP that dropped a couple summers back before following it up with the impressive debut mixtape Long Story Short a day after my birthday that same year. A year & a half later, he’s now returning with some High Art.

“Don Mega” is a boom bap opener with a crooning vocal loop declaring himself as such whereas “Soul Food” works is some organs talking about smoking weed. The song “Cheech & Chong” keeps the stoner vibes coming down to the psychedelic instrumental while the penultimate track “Hydro Plane” mixes chipmunk soul with pianos talking about weed of course. “Buddah Love, North Fire” ends the EP on a jazzier note asking for an ounce.

Yeah it’s been a little over a week since 4/20 but as a pro-weed advocate himself, I still think High Art is still an awesome offering to all the smokers out there. Marc Spano’s production is some of the best of his career & Heem comes through with some clever raps about his love for that good kush.

Score: 3.5/5

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

Grafh – “Stop Calling Art Content” review

Grafh is a 39 year old MC from Queens, New York who came up in 2003 off his debut mixtape The Bang Out. However, he went on to release 7 more tapes before dropping his first full-length album Autografh only a few years later. But with a total of 18 mixtapes & an EP under his belt now, Grafh has signed to Benny the Butcher’s very own MNRK Music Group imprint Black Soprano Family Records for his official sophomore effort produced entirely by the late DJ Shay.

After the intro, the first song “God Bless” is a rich opener praying that his homies make it out the hood whereas “Very Different” with Benny the Butcher works in some high-pitched saxes to compare & contrast themselves to their opposition. “No Reason” has a more settler boom bap tone talking about being the top chef, but then “Chosen” takes a more occult route comparing himself to that of a prodigy.

Meanwhile on “Out the Pot”, we get some keyboard embellishments & dusty drums to talk about how it’s all in the wrist leading into Heem & Rick Hyde tagging along for the uptempo “Promise” which despite it’s annoying hook has a great message to it about staying true to their words. CyHi the Prynce & 3D Na’Tee come into the picture for the ominous “Slums” detailing their way up to the top just before the soulful “From the Start” with Bun B & Styles P speaks on foreseeing their success.

“Bellini” has a bit of a theatrical tone instrumentally talking about doing it all while the organ-laced “Crystals” spitting that slanger shit. The penultimate track “Valid” with Ransom & Sheek Louch sinisterly talks about everything being well-founded & if you couldn’t tell by the title of “God Must Love Me”, it serves as a heartfelt closer thanking the higher power for where he is today.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of this dude’s tapes every here & there throughout the year, but Stop Calling Art Content really exceeded my expectations coming away from it. Quite possibly his finest hour in my opinion. Even though Shay has been gone for almost a year now, his sound & Grafh’s lyricism bounce off each other so naturally on this album.

Score: 4/5

Rick Hyde – “Plates 2” review

Rick Hyde is a 31 year old emcee/producer from Buffalo, New York notable for being a flagship artist on Benny the Butcher’s very own E1 Music imprint Black Soprano Family Records. His debut album Plates that came out at the very beginning of 2019 was pretty solid & after a couple years of teasing a sequel, we’re finally getting it in the form of Ricky’s sophomore album & he’s pulling out all the big guns for it.

The intro with Tearz finds the 2 jumping on top of some keys & faint strings talking about being another product of the 80s whereas the Westside Gunn-assisted “Nova” speaks on their youngest shooters ‘til it’s all said & done backed by a smooth Daringer instrumental. Benny the Butcher & G Herbo tag along to tell motherfuckers to show their actions on the soulful trap banger “Alone” but after the “Booney on the Phone” interlude, the song “Hustler’s Prayer” enlists Heem to say they’re thankful for the paper & the holy vibe of the beat fits well.

Meanwhile on “Glorious Mourning”, we have Ricky jumping on top of a high-pitched vocal loop preparing for a mental funeral just before “Sarah” serves as an alluring 2-minute freestyle. Killa Kyleon comes in for the R&B-tinged “When I Go” produced by Sha Money XL talking about how people are still gonna love them when they’re both gone leading into “Momma Luv”, which is a crooning tribute to his Ma Dukes if you couldn’t tell by the title.

After the “Come Up” interlude, the Jay Worthy/Chase Fetti-assisted “Red Moon Rising” has a dope vocal loop throughout despite having some of the weaker performances on the album but then he & Meyhem Lauren make up for it by talking about making their homies bosses on the Harry Fraud-produced “Enrique” that comes up following the “Blasphemy” interlude.

The song “Skid Row” with Elcamino & T.F. finds the trio dramatically details their lives in the hood while the penultimate track “Slow Eddie” with Grafh & Skyzoo come together for some drug shit accompanied by a somber beat from the late DJ Shay. Then there’s “Black Sinatra”, where Benny & Heem join Rick to operatically compare themselves as such.

The first Plates is a bit better, but that’s not to say this isn’t a worthy follow-up. I think he overdid it on the features however, the production has improved & Ricky delivers a respectable thank you to Shay for help getting him where he is now.

Score: 3.5/5

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

FlexxBabyy – “Water” review

FlexxBabyy is a 26 year old rapper from Buffalo, New York who came onto my radar just last year after becoming the latest to sign to Benny the Butcher’s E1 Music imprint Black Soprano Family Records. This was followed up by a plethora of stand alone singles & is going into 2021 by dropping his debut EP.

The opener “ETHER” talks about watching his back now that he’s secured a record deal over some violins & hi-hats whereas the next song “Slob” talks about sex over an industrial/trap fusion. The track “So Wet” is Flexx pretty much bragging over a cacophonous instrumental while the song “Dead” is a distorted riot inducer that slows down in tempo during the 2nd half. The penultimate track “JOOP” talks about drug use over an atmospheric instrumental with some loud, rubbery bass-lines dominating the mix & then the closer “Bussin’” gets materialistic over a bombastic beat.

This is completely unlike anything one would expect from BSF, but it’s a good short listen nonetheless. In comparison to the traditional boom bap style that a lot of the other artists on the label stick to, FlexxBabyy takes things into a more Playboi Carti-influenced direction from his flows & sticky refrains to the experimental production as heard on Whole Lotta Red & even the babyvoice that Carti is known for at times. Nonetheless, I feel like this is only the beginning for him.

Score: 3.5/5

Vino La Mano – “Blood & Trust” review

This is the 10th EP from Texas emcee Vino La Mano. Breaking out a couple years ago after Benny the Butcher signed him to his E1 Music imprint Black Soprano Family Records, he’s been staying busy ever since by dropping a total of 9 EPs. But just a month after his previous one Circle of Trust, we’re already being treated to the follow-up Blood & Fire.

The EP starts out with “Live from the Krooked”, where Vino talks about trying not to get caught up in the game over a cavernous boom bap beat. The title track talks about going broke & starting back over a rock/boom bap fusion while the song “You Don’t Know What It’s Like” talks about having shit on his mind that he doesn’t show over an icy beat.

The track “Wolves Eat Sheep” flexes his mafioso lifestyle over an extravagant instrumental while the song “It’s Cut Throat” talks about how they gon’ acknowledge his pen over a morose boom bap beat. The penultimate track “YKTV” talks about his killers being on standby over a boom bap instrumental with a piano sample hanging in the background whereas then the closer “Gift & Curse” talks about what it took to get here over an incensed beat.

As much as I liked Circle of Trust, I think Blood & Fire is a step up from it. The Soul Monsters’ grimy production has improved quite a bit & you can really tell Vino was coming from the heart in his verses. If he’s got more EPs or even a full-length album in store for 2021, then I already know he’s gonna get better from hereon out.

Score: 3.5/5