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 Atlanta, Georgia 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

Vino La Mano – “Circle of Trust” review

Vino La Mano is a 33 year old MC from Corpus Christi, Texas who broke out a couple years ago after Benny the Butcher signed him to his E1 Music imprint Black Soprano Family Records. He’s released a total of 8 EPs since but to continue his hustle into 2021, Vino is staying on the grind by dropping a 9th EP.

The opener “Bill Lambert” has some dope mafioso lyrics throughout, but the production is just ok to me. The next song “Pair of Aces” talks about playing the hands he’s delt with over a grimy boom bap beat while the track “Mo Money” talks about the bread over a flute-tinged instrumental. The song “I’m Numb” gets on the introspective side of things over a boom bap beat with a psychedelic rock-flavored guitar throughout about while the penultimate track “Stretch the Cake” talks about being a different breed over an instrumental kin to Griselda‘s W.W.C.D. (What Would Chinegun Do?). The EP finishes off with “Gangsters Don’t Smile”, where Vino talks about how thugs don’t show happinness unless proven not guilty over a somber beat.

Overall, it’s a pretty solid EP. Some of the best bars Vino La Mano has ever written pop up on here whereas The Soul Monsters’ production does a decent job of honning in on that signature Griselda sound. If you’re a diehard BSF fan, then I recommend you give this EP a listen & I can’t wait to hear what he does on a full-length album down the road.

Score: 3.5/5

Various Artists – “Conflicted: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” review

This is a brand new soundtrack album brought to you in part by Buffalo hip hop labels Griselda Records & Black Soprano Family Records. Both of whom have been taking over hip hop with a plethora of high quality albums, EPs & mixtapes since late 2015. They just released their first feature-length film Conflicted this weekend & of course the movie had to be accompanied by songs from or inspired by it.

After the intro, the first song “Mobbin’” finds Benny the Butcher teaming up with Chase Fetti & Heem to talk about just that over a devilish instrumental while the track “Element of Surprise” by Lloyd Banks talks about being mindful of snitches over a supernatural beat. The song “Ain’t Hit Nobody” by Westside Gunn, Flee Lord & Eto sees the trio coming together for the brick buyers over a grim, drumless instrumental from Daringer while the track “Pride” by Ransom triumphantly talks about his success over a soulful beat from the man himself.

The song “Welcome Home DMX” by Dave East & Jonesy finds the 2 comparing themselves to Sam Giancana & John Gotti over a weepy trap instrumental from the late DJ Shay & the 808 Mafia while the track “Squaaaaad” by Elcamino, Rick Hyde & Smoke DZA sees the 3 talking about being baptized by the streets over a victorious beat. The song “3:30 in Houston” by Benny the Butcher addresses being shot a few months back over a despondent instrumental while the track “Voices” by Boldy James, Chase Fetti & Heem finds the trio telling their opposition to run over a bloodcurdling beat.

The song “Rank” by YN Billy gets braggadocious over a mediocre trap instrumental & after the “I’m Not the Enemy” skit, the track “Nerve of You” by Armani Caesar talks about someone doing her dirty over a Camouflage Monk beat with some plinky keys. The song “Conflicted” by Flee Lord talks about the hustler lifestyle over a dreary instrumental from GhostDave while the penultimate track “Mission Accomplished” by Armani Caesar, Benny the Butcher & Westside Gunn sees the 3 talking about turning to the boss life. “The Hurt Business” by Westside Gunn, Smoke DZA & Wale then talks about being the flyest in the game over a thunderous instrumental.

I was curious to hear how this would turn out given how cheesy a lot of soundtrack albums turn out nowadays, but I’m actually pretty impressed with what we got here & it has me even more curious to watch the movie when it comes out next weekend. Much like Griselda’s collective debut W.W.C.D. (What Would Chinegun Do?) that was released under Shady Records a couple years back, everyone involved manages to stay true to themselves & not whip up a focusgrouped product.

Score: 3.5/5

Heem – “Long Story Short” review

Heem is a 27 year old MC from Buffalo, New York who caught my attention earlier this year after becoming of a protege of Benny the Butcher & signing to his E1 Music imprint Black Soprano Family Records. He also made a few appearances on the label’s showcase EP that dropped over the summer but just a few more weeks until 2021, here we are with his debut mixtape.

The intro talks about how no one living like him over a dreary instrumental from Ice Rocks whereas the next song “All Eyes on Me” talks about wanting his roses before he’s gone over a symphonic boom bap beat from the late DJ Shay. “The Realest” with Benny sees the 2 talking about keeping it 100 over a hypnotic vocal sample while the track “Mayhem” with Boldy James finds the 2 talking about how they don’t play over a lush beat.

The song “More Money More Problems” talks about risking his life for this over a comatose instrumental while the track “Menace to Society” talks about going through Hell & back over a grimy beat from TrickyTrippz. The song “Sacred Nights” gets murderous over a cinematic instrumental while the track “It Could Happen” with Benny & Rick Hyde sees the trio pondering a number of things over a boom bap beat with a piano loop.

The song “My Diary” gives the listeners a piece of him over a exuberant instrumental from DJ Green Lantern while the penultimate track “Warring Ave” talks about what it was like on his street over a deranged beat. The tape ends with “Letter to Shay”, where Heem pays tribute to DJ Shay over a churchy boom bap instrumental.

Coming away from this tape, I’m pretty impressed with it. The production leans towards that signature Griselda sound, but you get a good look at who Heem is & where he’s at now. This is only the beginning for him if you ask me.

Score: 3.5/5

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