Conway, Westside Gunn & Benny Break Down The History Of The Griselda Movement (Video)
As far as Rap crews in 2019, Griselda Records proved to be one the biggest. However, the collective that includes label figurehead Westside Gunn, brother Conway The Machine, cousin Benny The Butcher, and producer Daringer, did things a bit differently.
Five years into a label, and more than 15 years into three separate Rap journeys, Griselda operates with a lower-profile. The Buffalo, New York representatives made noise in Hip-Hop without a Wikipedia page until earlier this year. Little info was known at the same time that releases from all three MCs have garnered acclaim in recent years. In 2018, Ambrosia For Heads included W.S.G.’s Supreme Blientele in its annual best-of list. In ’19, the list featured the trio’s Shady Records debut, WWCD, as well as Benny’s solo, The Plugs I Met.
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While the three MCs have previously spoken of their pre-2018 runs to AFH TV across several interviews, they uncovered more history in a discussion with Complex News. This video analyzes some of the fan-lauded releases and series that predate 2018. Moreover, it shows how this movement has been a brick-by-brick stepping stone that goes back a long way, with plenty of dues paid.
Gunn’s FLYGOD, released in 2016, marked a breakthrough for the imprint. Appearances by Danny Brown, Alchemist, Roc Marciano, Action Bronson, and Your Old Droog further helped the trio to standout among the artists of the day. Meanwhile, Gunn’s star power added with a disruptive sound to the airwaves made the industry take note. “Hitler Wears Hermes was made before Griselda Records was formed,” Wes’ explains. “I was just tapping back into Hip-Hop. For that, I hadn’t really rhymed in like 11 years, and it was at a time when bro (Conway The Machine) was still recovering from being shot, so I just wanted to tap in, and that’s what happened.” Despite his reluctance to rap, Westside Gunn and Conway were making an impression in a significant way. The first official Griselda release, according to Conway, was Reject 2.
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Conway was just then regaining the ability to rap after being shot in the head and neck. The paralysis of the right side of his face and resulting Bell’s Palsy causes him to literally spit out the side of his mouth, making him an indelible and standout performer that no one in Hip-Hop could replicate.
Whereas Conway The Machine served as a rapper’s rapper, unapologetically bullying tracks, Gunn kept the streaming numbers bubbling with his extensive knowledge of art, fashion, and wrestling. “Nobody knew who I was, but ever since day one [I’ve always been about] art, fashion, and wrestling, since Hitler 1,” Westside says confidently in the video. “I’ve grown up watching wrestling my whole life, and there’s nobody in the industry that’s tapped into wrestling like I am,” shared the House Of Glory wrestling company co-founder (along with Master P).
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Griselda eventually found its way into the majors by signing with Eminem’s Shady Records in early 2017, and the trio made their first steps into national prominence. By becoming the first Buffalo artists to sign a major label deal, they gave proof that there was truth in their music and helped to change the city’s perception as an entertainment desert. Since the Shady deal, the Hall N Nash duo collaborated with some of the greatest to do it: Busta Rhymes, Pete Rock, Statik Selektah, Anderson .Paak, Jadakiss, DJ Premier, and others.
Benny, who has seen his profile skyrocket as a producer since the Shady deal, mentions just how connected to the streets Griselda has been before adopting the name of the late Queen of Narco-Trafficking. “Before we were known as Griselda Records, it was Street Entertainment, and that was around Tana Talk 2, in 2005,” The Butcher shares. “We are comfortable being ourselves,” Conway said, “and I love it!”
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Going from selling physical copies of their music online to partnering up with Paul Rosenberg and JAY-Z, the Griselda Records family now has an infrastructure and mentorship to grow beyond their Buffalo borders into the mainstream. Adding on to their growth are two longtime industry stalwarts — Chace Infinite and Kyambo “Hip-Hop” Joshua — who have been supportive of some of the best Hip-Hop acts from A$AP Rocky to Kanye West. “It made sense to [be in this situation],” Westside confesses, “as we’re into film, we’ve dealt with controversy like how Em and them did, and if there was anybody who could help us control our sound in the industry — it’s them!” They also reveal that ahead of signing with Rosenberg’s Goliath Management wing (and later Shady Records), Griselda was actively being courted by Roc Nation. However, last summer, Benny and Wes’ officially joined the roster of Jay’s management division.
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.
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Griselda songs are currently on the official Ambrosia For Heads Playlist.