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

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

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

Elcamino – “Lot & Abraham” review

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Elcamino is an MC from Buffalo, New York that I discovered when he dropped his self-titled EP with Griselda Records in November of 2017. He then followed it up with his debut mixtape Walking on Water last summer & now just 2 months after his debut album Don’t Eat the Fruit, he’s already delivering his 2nd EP with DJ Shay producing it in it’s entirety.

After the intro, we go into the title track. Where Camino reflects on his past over a mellow beat with some horns. The song “2-Tone Joint” talks about his crack dealing days over a soulful beat while the track “Formula” pays tribute to Camino’s mother over some background vocals & a piano load.

The song “Break Bread” talks about knowing his time is coming with over an orchestral beat while the track “Strolling Down Rodeo” continues to brag over some joyous piano chords. The song “Gutta Shit” lives up to it’s title lyrically over some strings & then the EP ends with “Can’t Be Saved”, where Camino talks about people he knew over some guitar licking.

This is honestly tied with the self-titled EP for Elcamino’s magnum opus. The lack of features can leave it somewhat monotonous & a few of the tracks sound unfinished, but his lyrics are sharper with each release & DJ Shay solidifies himself as one of the best producers in the underground right now.

Score: 4.5/5