Griselda’s Shady Records Debut Is Westside Gunn, Conway & Benny At Their Most Raw
In early 2017, Shady Records Eminem and Paul Rosenberg partnered with Griselda Records. The move was surprising to some, and exciting to many more. At a time when so many labels use data and metrics to inform their decisions, Griselda’s foothold in the Rap game was certified in the streets more than by streams or viewers. MCs Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine, and producer Daringer were three Buffalo, New Yorkers with a DIY approach. They achieved loads of quantity without compromising quality. Moreover, they used physical products and merchandise as badges of support in the era of the passive stream. As lovers of art, these men (also including Benny The Butcher) made street-driven Rap music look and feel like high-concept collectors items.
Veteran Shady affiliate Alchemist became deeply involved in the movement in the mid-2010s, just as Hip-Hop O.G.’s such as Smoke DZA, Skyzoo, Apollo Brown, and Planet Asia were early cosigners. At a time when Rap was going for melody and catchy beats, the Griselda sound was hard, cold, and sparse, like the Upstate New York terrain. Although the content is quite different than Slim Shady-era Eminem, the industry outcast approach was the same—as well as a knack for rewind-worthy punchlines. Griselda represented a new underground, from a blue-collar city, with do-it-yourself values. At a time when Marshall Mathers’ label was overhauling its roster and label identity (also adding Compton’s Boogie), the new phase was exciting to Rap purists already in-the-know.
Shortly after signing, Hall ’N Nash (Westside Gunn & Conway) dropped the Just Blaze-produced “Machine Gun Black” as their soft-launch debut with Shady. Heads have waited for Griselda’s major label ever since. What began as a presumed Hall ‘N Nash extension got an exciting update in April of this year when Benny The Butcher revealed to Ambrosia For Heads that WWCD (What Would ‘Chine Do) would feature all three Buffalo, New York MCs. Two-and-a-half years since the signing, Heads get that album today (November 29), and it sticks to the proven Griselda script. Just as Dr. Dre’s Aftermath and Interscope gave Kendrick Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment an early 2010s mainstream introduction, Heads will see if the same can be true for this.
In a documentary, “Connie’s Son,” Wes’ breaks down the significance of the title for this hallmark LP. “I wanted to think of something that represented all three of us. ‘Chine Gun is Benny’s real, biological brother, and it’s my first cousin. I grew up my whole life [viewing him as] more like a brother than a cousin. This was his dream, and he’s the only person that’s missing. He’s the only missing piece. This whole project is for him. The first project we ever gon’ do through a major, it gotta represent him because this was his dream. ‘What would ‘Chine Gun do if he was here?’ So when I rhyme, I just think of the grimiest sh*t,” Gunn says. “If you notice on this project, you gon’ hear me shoot up a thousand different ni**as, man, ’cause that was just ‘Chine Gun; that was him.” Since ’17, these MCs (now managed by JAY-Z’s Roc Nation) have continued to work with a who’s-who of Hip-Hop.
Entirely produced by their in-house producer Daringer and BeatButcha, WWCD is dark, dirty, and downtempo. Gunn’s frequent collaborators, including poet Keisha Plum, singer Tiona Deniece, and orator AA Rashid, all make appearances to give this project that trademark GxFR feel. Raekwon appears on the intro, 50 Cent joins the fold for “City On The Map,” and Conway and Eminem’s “Bang” gets a group-inclusive remix. However, the highlight of the LP may be “Cruiser Weight Coke.” It is built around one verse from each member of Griselda’s trifecta. The ominous synth accented with heavily-effected guitar stabs is precisely the vibe these Buffalo MCs excel on. The moment takes the winning underground formula, and puts it on Eminem’s amplified stage.
Conway starts the cut strong and Westside closes it out with his usual unorthodox flavor. However, their younger cousin Benny blacks out in the middle of this song. His flow is flawless on this one, “Griselda the label but / You ni**as know better to play with us / And I’ma be stackin’ and weighin’ up / Soon as I feel like this Rap sh*t, don’t pay enough / Cop nine, sold eight, yeah, it’s late, but you know me, I’m stayin’ up / Bougie b*tch, yeah, that’s my type, you need six figures just to lay with her / Ran it up ’cause I trap a lot / These ni**as know about the cash I got / But my plug still playin’ broke, he in Old Navy in a Apple Watch / When I’m gettin’ into fish weight, I don’t need bait or a tackle-box / I’m a real dope boy, ni**a, on my birthday I got a half a block / Ni**as won’t rock me to sleep / I took big risks just so we could eat / Sold grams, even stumbled over a hundred bands in a B&E / Everybody get money, even quarter ounce boys make a G a week.”
AFH TV recently interviewed Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine, and Benny The Butcher about the album. There is also a separate Plugs I Met conversation with Benny. We are currently offering free 7-day trials.
Griselda songs are currently on the official Ambrosia For Heads Playlist.
Additional Reporting by Bandini.