Westside Gunn – “Hitler Wears Hermes VIII: Sincerely, Adolf” review

This is the 8th mixtape from Buffalo emcee, songwriter & entrepreneur Westside Gunn. At this point, what can be said about the guy now that hasn’t been said already? From running one of the hottest hip hop labels in recent memory to his first 2 full-lengths FLYGOD & Supreme Blientele, you’d be lying to yourself if you said he & the rest of the Griselda crew haven’t had the culture on lock for the last 5-6 years. Dude’s been laying low throughout a good portion of 2021 so far, but is deciding to finish the Hitler Wears Hermes mixtape series in the form of the 2-disc Sincerely, Adolf. The first disc given to us now & the other most likely on Halloween

After the “Murders in Marfield” intro & the “Blessed Times” interlude by AA Rashid, the first actual song “Mariota” with Stove God Cook$ kicks things off with a soulful beat & them saying you ain’t gotta worry whereas “Vogue Cover” is somewhat similar instrumentally except the 2 are talking about birds going fast. Mach-Hommy tags along for the jazzy “Margiela Split Toes” to spit that fly shit just before the dusty boom bap cut “Draymond” with Rome Streetz & Stove God saying they had to pray over the bricks.

Meanwhile on “Peri Peri”, we have West & Rome sticking around to jump on top of some keys & dusty drums to talk their shit leading into the Jadakiss-assisted “Right Now” working in another jazzy beat to get on their pyrex shit. “Westheimer” by Boldy James alongside Sauce Walka & Stove God Cook$ find the trio hopping on top of an old time loop saying they had no choice but to commit murder, but then West & Lil Wayne come together for the grimy “Bash Money” to brag about their riches.

The song “Claire’s Back” starts off with a boom bap joint & the FLYGOD telling a bitch to not touch him since he got so much money, but then goes into rock territory for Conway the Machine & Benny the Butcher to spit that mafioso shit. The penultimate track “Spoonz” finds Hall ‘N Nash going back & forth with a meditative Conductor Williams instrumental, but then “716 Mile” reenlists Boldy for a wavy closer getting in their gangsta rap bag.

Although I like what I’m hearing from Hitler 8 so far, I think I’m gonna enjoy it more in context with Disc 2 when it drops a couple months from now. He didn’t have to put a feature on every single cut on here even though they all killed it, but I can definitely commend West for coming correct as much as the guests do & not rushing it like he did FLYGOD is an Awesome God II.

Score: 3.5/5

Mach-Hommy – “Pray for Haiti” review

Mach-Hommy is a 38 year old MC from Newark, New Jersey breaking out in 2017 when he dropped his sophomore album H.B.O. (Haitian Body Odor) under Griselda Records. However, he & Tha God Fahim fell out with the label shortly after only for both of them to reconcile this past Christmas. But since May is Haitian Heritage Month, we have Mach marking his return to the Buffalo powerhouse by dropping his 5th full-length album to celebrate.

“The 26th Letter” is a trumpet-laced opener where Mach goes on about rearranging the whole game whereas the next song “No Blood Sweat” jumps on a pillowy Camoflauge Monk instrumental to say he taking food out cats’ mouths. Westside Gunn hops on “Folie á Deux” as he & Mach tell all the fuckboys that they’re finished over a psychedelic boom bap beat from Conductor Williams before declaring every day as Easter Gunnday on the soulful “Maxron Jaxon”.

“The Stellar Ray Theory” was a great choice for a lead single with its sax-heavy production & the lyrics about cats “blaming clouds on the rain & the sky” while he gets in his storytelling bag on “Marie” & I love the “Hail Mary” tribute in the hook. After the “Leta Yo” skit, Mach vents that he keeps seeing Deedee & Stevie in his naps with Nicholas Craven providing him with a bass guitar & a vocal loop for “Kriminel” just before declaring that he’s in his bag on the Sadhugold-produced “Pen Rale”.

“Murder Czn” with Westside Gunn of course a melancholic cut using for blood while Tha God Fahim tags along for the rich “Magnum Band” to help talk about having 357 on deck. The back & forth chemistry between Mach & Westside on the piano-tinged “Rami” is fantastic & after the “Kreyol” skit, the song “Au Revoir” goes into a more rock direction with the help of DJ Green Lantern as well as lyrics going at “pussy n****s”. The penultimate track “Blockchain” has a slowed down jazz sample throughout as Mach explains that there’s too many information highway cats riding the wave & then “10 Boxes: Sin Eater” is a dusty finisher saying he’s been wavy.

As much as I really enjoyed Pray for Paris, I can argue that Pray for Haiti is one of those immensely rare instances where the sequel album is better than the predecessor. We get a good look into Mach-Hommy’s Haitian roots whilst sticking to the raw lo-fi aesthetics we’ve all come to know & love from him.

Score: 4.5/5

Conway the Machine – “La Maquina” review

Conway the Machine is a 39 year old MC & entrepreneur from Buffalo, New York who blew up in late 2015 as part of the 3 OGs of Griselda Records alongside his brother Westside Gunn & their cousin Benny the Butcher. Ever since the trio have rose to prominence, they’ve had hip hop lock by their constant work ethic balancing quality & quality as well as vividly detailing their lives in the streets on top of boom bap production kin to that of RZA & Havoc in their music. Con’s full-length debut From King to a God was my Album of the Year for 2020 & his sophomore effort with Big Ghost Ltd. that just came out a couple months ago If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed is a worthy sequel to No One Mourns the Wicked. But just when even thought we were getting the Shady Records-backed God Don’t Make Mistakes next, we’re getting another prelude album out of the woodwork.

“Bruiser Brody” is a a grimy opener from the boom bap production from JR Swiftz to the lyrics calling out those who pray on his downfall whereas the Bangladesh-produced “6:30 Tip Off” is a jazz-trap fusion speaking on his profit. The song “Blood Roses” is about how “I came to prove I came improved” with a spiritual beat from Cardiak, but then “Clarity” opens up on how he spares “no feelings when my pen is movin’” on top of a soulful trap instrumental from Don Cannon.

The track “KD” has a weepy trap instrumental from Murda Beatz with lyrics talks about those speaking on Conway’s legacy while “200 Pies” with 2 Chainz of course gets on that pusher shit & the bare loop that The Alchemist comes through with is hypnotic as fuck. “Sister Abigail” is a dusty boom bap tune where The Machine recruits his new protégés Jae Skeese & 7xvethegenius for a homage to The Fiend’s signature move of the same name, but then Jae returns on the peppily-produced “Grace” to talk about how they don’t live in disguise to get their blessings.

The song “Scatterbrain” brings in J.I.D & Ludacris to get murderous on top of a frigid instrumental, but then Elcamino & Shots hop on Had to Hustle” to speak on what they had to do to get where they are now. The closer “S.E. Gang” serves as a response to those who said Conway was leaving Griselda earlier this year as he, Westside Gunn & Benny the Butcher spit that mafioso shit over a flute sample from Daringer.

Not what I was expecting from Conway, but still a dope album regardless. In comparison to him returning to a more grimier sound on If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed, I like how he continues to build off the the versatility that From King to a God brought. Whenever the time for God Don’t Make Mistakes comes, I’ll be more than ready to hear where he takes it.

Score: 4/5

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

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

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

Westside Gunn – “WHO MADE THE SUNSHINE?” review

Westside Gunn is a 38 year old MC & entrepreneur from Buffalo, New York who broke out in 2016 with his near-perfect debut album FLYGOD. He would go on to take over the culture with his brother Conway the Machine & their cousin Benny the Butcher as all 3 of them have consistently dropped a slew of high quality releases both solo-wise & as a trio over the past 5 years. However, Westside has stated on numerous occasions that he’ll quit making music after 2020 & has released 2 albums since the year started: Pray for Paris & FLYGOD is an Awesome God II. But with Hitler Wears Hermes VIII set to drop at the end of the month, Westside is delivering his highly anticipated Shady Records album.

After the “Sunshine” intro, the first song “The Butcher & the Blade with Benny & Conway finds the trio talking about God having them winning over a boom bap beat from Daringer & Beat Butcha with some rapid keyboard arpeggios whereas the next track “Ishkabibble’s” with Black Thought sees the 2 talking about pushing over an eerie instrumental. The song “All Praises” sounds like a leftover from Boldy James’ The Price of Tea in China down to the Alchemist beat as Westside Gunn only handles the hook while the track “Big Basha’s” talks about there being blood & brains everywhere over a somber boom bap instrumental.

The song “Liz Loves Luger” with Armani Caesar finds the 2 talking about wanting loyalty from their partners over a luscious beat while the track “Ocean Prime” with Busta Rhymes & Slick Rick sees the 3 talking about chopping dudes into pieces over a forlorn instrumental. The song “Lessie” talks about how they’re still getting paid over a wavy beat while the track “Frank Murphy” with Elcamino, Estee Nack, Flee Lord, Smoke DZA & Stove God Cook$ is an epic East Coast posse cut with a wailing instrumental. The penultimate song “Good Night” hooks back up with Slick Rick to get in their storytelling bag over a beat with some ominous keys & then the closer “98 Sabers” is a vicious showcasing of the Griselda roster & the Just Blaze instrumental fits perfectly, but I wonder why Boldy James isn’t on here.

Not a bad album, but it could’ve been better in my personal opinion. It’s pretty much a slightly better version of FLYGOD is an Awesome God II as there are a lot of features & a couple of questionable production choices on here. Here’s to hoping Hitler 8 will be much better.

Score: 3.5/5

Armani Caesar – “The Liz” review

Armani Caesar is a 31 year old rapper from Buffalo, New York with a couple of mixtapes under her belt already. She just signed with Griselda Records at the beginning of 2020 after being featured on Westside Gunn’s FLYGOD is an Awesome God II, Armani is now making her debut on the label with a brand new EP.

After the “Sissy Intro”, the first song “Countdown” takes aim at those who think they can double-cross her over a boom bap beat from JR Swiftz with an old timey piano sample whereas the track right after “Macs 10s for Everybody” looks back on when she used to struggle over a sumptuous instrumental. The titular song shows off some clever wordplay over a lush beat while the track “Gucci Casket” with Conway the Machine sees the 2 rightfully proclaiming themselves as bosses over a boom bap beat with some twinkling keyboard arpeggios.

The song “Drillarama” with Benny the Butcher finds them flexing over a vibrant trap beat from the 808 Mafia, but then they hook back up on the track right after “Simply Done” to give the listener some facts over some nostalgic DJ Premier production. The song “Yum Yum” gets raunchy over a rubbery beat while the track “Palm Angels” talks about how her new man makes her ex look like shit over a sensual instrumental from Animoss. The song “Ginger Rothstein” charmingly brags over a glamorous instrumental & then the EP finishes off with a short freestyle on top of the instrumental to one of my personal favorite songs of all-time: “Searching” by Roy Ayers.

I was curious to hear what Griselda would do bringing a female spitter on the roster & Armani manages to hold it on her own pretty well. In contrast to her previous efforts, the sound on here is a lot more boom bappy as to be expected from the camp & her lyricism has improved as well. She can only go up from here if you ask me.

Score: 3.5/5

Conway the Machine – “From King to a God” review

Conway the Machine is a 38 year old MC from Buffalo, New York who’s risen to prominence as a co-founder of Griselda Records with his brother Westside Gunn. The label has put out a lot of the most essential releases from the East Coast within the past 5 years & have quickly become one of the most well-respected crews in hip hop today. Although everyone on the team has always been working their asses off (especially as of late), Conway has definitely stood out the most in 2020. He dropped 2 damn-near perfect EPs in the spring with LULU & No One Mourns the Wicked but as the release of his long-awaited Shady Records debut God Don’t Make Mistakes approaches, La Maquina is finally delivering the highly anticipated prelude album From King to a God.

The opener “From King…” speaks on how Conway has become a brand over a grimy Daringer beat whereas the next song “Fear of God” with DeJ Loaf sees the 2 talking about how far they’ve come over an empowering Hit-Boy instrumental. The track “Lemon” with Method Man finds both wordsmiths talking about over a creepy beat while the song “Dough & Damani” is pretty much Conway’s equivalent to “‘97 Hov” off of Benny the Butcher’s 2018 magnum opus Tana Talk 3 down to the switch-ups in the instrumental. The track “Juvenile Hell” with Flee Lord & Lloyd Banks sees the 3 over a dusty Havoc beat & after the “Words from Shay interlude, the song “Front Lines” is a well written response to the murder of George Floyd backed by a demented Beat Butcha instrumental.

The track “Anza” with Armani Caesar finds the 2 talking about how their crew has the most money over a trap beat from Murda Beatz while the song “Seen Everything But Jesus” with Freddie Gibbs finds the 2 talking about their regrets over a boom bap instrumental with some fancy keyboard embellishments. After the “Words from Shay 2” interlude, the song “Spurs 3” with Westside Gunn & Benny the Butcher get on their pyrex shit over a somber instrumental while the song “Forever Dropping Tears” talks about how no one can deceive him a smooth beat from none other than Erick Sermon & Rockwilder. The penultimate song “Jesus Khrysis” talks about being in rare form over a cinematic instrumental from Khrysis whereas the closer “Nothin’ Less or More” talks about how he’ll forever keep it raw over a funky boom bap beat from none other than DJ Premier.

After years of hype, this album certainly lived up to my expectations & only enhances my excitement for [i]God Don’t Make Mistakes[/i]. Not only is Conway the most versatile he’s ever been before, but you can really hear how much he’s grown both as an artist & as a person throughout the years.

Score: 4.5/5

Boldy James – “The Versace Tape” review

Boldy James is a 38 year old MC from Detroit, Michigan who I first caught wind of with his Alchemist produced 2013 debut M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set). The critical acclaim of which that album received would land him a contract with Nas’ independent label Mass Appeal Records, but Boldy unfortunately got incarcerated sometime after. Upon being released, Uncle Al would help get his name back out there by dropping the Boldface EP last winter & The Price of Tea in China just this past February. Both of which where also widely praised & even resulted in a new deal with Buffalo powerhouse Griselda Records. To mark his debut with the label, Boldy has enlisted Jay Versace for his 4th EP.

After the “Pony Down” intro, the first song “Maria” talks about going from selling drugs to where he is now over a jazzy beat while the track “Nu Wave” talks about cooking up over a soulful instrumental. The song “Cartier” with Elcamino sees the 2 talking about having footwork over a rich piano loop while the track “Brick van Excel” talks about how it is in the streets will test you over an euphoric beat.

The song “Long Live Julio” looks back on his younger days over an old school sample while the track “Monte Cristo” talks about whippin’ it up over another vintage loop. The song “Cardinal Sin” talks about being from the east side of Detroit over a slow instrumental while the penultimate track “Bentayga” talks about “pitchin’ like Verlander” over a delicate sample. The EP finishes with “Roxycontin”, where Boldy & Westside Gunn talk about being tied up in the dope game over an angelic instrumental.

Not as good as The Price of Tea in China, but still a good follow up. Jay Versace’s drumless production goes over well with Boldy James’ gritty street imagery. However, I wish it was longer than just 20 minutes. Nonetheless, Boldy shows himself as a fine edition to the Griselda roster.

Score: 3.5/5