Griselda Makes Its Case As Hip-Hop’s Best Crew With 7 MCs On 1 Song
For the last several years, one of Hip-Hop’s greatest debates has been who is Rap’s best crew, between TDE and Dreamville. Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) held the advantage in the early 2010s, with a roster which included Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Isaiah Rashad, SZA and more. The vaunted record label boasted both commercial sales and critical acclaim, including multiple “Best Rap Album” Grammy awards, courtesy of Kendrick Lamar. The collective arguably reached peak powers in early 2018 with the release of the high profile Black Panther soundtrack, which was executive produced by label-owner Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith and Kendrick. The album soundtracked one of the biggest films in Marvel history, and yielded TDE an Oscar for “Best Original Score.” Just weeks later, Lamar was awarded the Pulitzer prize for his 2017 album, DAMN., becoming the first ever non-Classical or Jazz artist to take home the esteemed prize.
Despite TDE’s numerous impressive accolades, J. Cole was not one to be easily daunted. The Fayetteville, North Carolina MC/producer was simultaneously building his own roster of lyrical heavyweights. His Dreamville squad consisted of himself, J.I.D., Bas, Cozz, EarthGang, Lute, Ari Lennox and Omen. Dreamville’s rise in prominence coincided with that of its founder. After a couple of releases that did not live up to the prodigious expectations for Cole, who was signed by JAY-Z’s Roc Nation in 2010, Cole hit his stride in 2014 with the release of his 2014 Forest Hills Drive album. The LP was certified triple-platinum, for more than 3 million albums sold, and remains one of Cole’s most critically-acclaimed works to date, earning him BET Hip Hop Awards and Billboard Music Awards in 2015 for “Album of the Year” and “Top Rap Album,” respectively. 2014 also brought the release of the first installment of the Revenge Of The Dreamers series, Dreamville’s compilation albums dedicated to showcasing the talent of the whole crew. By 2018, Dreamville was in full motion, as TDE’s output was about to slow, culminating in Dreamville’s own festival in 2022.
While all eyes were on TDE and Dreamville, however, Westside Gunn was quietly assembling a roster of absolute lyrical assassins. If TDE and Dreamville were the Lakers and Bulls of Rap, Gunn’s Griselda team was built to be the Detroit Pistons—blue collar champions determined to upset their more heralded peers. His MCs were menacing, gritty and ready to outwork anyone in their paths. Over the years, the roster has consisted of WSG, Conway The Machine, Benny The Butcher, Boldy James, Mach-Hommy, Armani Caesar, Rome Streetz, Jay Worthy, and more. A student of the game, Gunn paired his artists with equally prolific in-house producers like Daringer and Conductor Williams, with stalwarts like The Alchemist being treated like honorary members of the crew. Over the course of 10 years, the Griselda crew has released more than 50 projects, which is nearly as many as TDE and Dreamville have released in the same time period, combined.
While TDE and Dreamville were battling for the throne in the 2010s, with 10 years of grinding under its belt, Griselda is ready to stake its claim as Hip-Hop’s greatest crew of this decade. Westside Gunn set the table for this moment in a 2019 interview with Ambrosia For Heads. During that conversation, WSG said of his crew “I always gotta show [Wu-Tang Clan] the respect, ’cause that’s who taught us…I’m always gonna pay homage to them. But, besides that? Can’t nobody f*ck with us.” Now, with the release of 10, the tenth and reportedly final edition of Gunn’s #HWH series, Griselda backs up its tough talk with the release of one of the strongest posse cuts in years.
“Red Death,” 10‘s final song, features 7 of Griselda’s finest MCs on one Alchemist-produced record. Positioned like “The Grand Finale,” the Ruthless Records closer cut on The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do It Better masterpiece, “Red Death” aims to be the definitive statement on who the top dawg of Rap crews in Hip-Hop is today. The song is produced by The Alchemist, and features appearances by Benny The Butcher, Stove God Cooks, Rome Streetz, Armani Caesar, Jay Worthy, Conway The Machine, and WSG, himself.
DJ Drama bookends the song, which clocks in at more than 10 minutes long. In the intro and outro, he makes the song’s intentions crystal clear, saying “And now we’ve come to that time where the legend of Griselda lives forever” and “When we talk finales, you can compare us to all of ’em. We done lived it all. We the Godfathers. We The Avengers in the Infinity War. We came Back To The Future to be the Terminators of The Matrix. We the Lord Of Rhe Rings that hold The Hunger Games. See, no Mission is Impossible when you this Fast And Furious.”
As arguably Griselda’s most well-known artist, Benny The Butcher kicks things off with a stellar verse, he flexes multiple flows, while simultaneously addressing critics who say he always raps the same. Gunn goes second, taking his victory lap, both for his latest album and the movement he has built. Conway The Machine finishes things off, giving a nod to the Wu-Tang icons Westside Gunn referenced in 2020. In between Griselda’s big 3, the rest of the roster shows the entire squad is filled with sharp shooters.
“Red Death” is just one of many stellar efforts from Westside Gunn’s 10 album. For more from that album, as well as many other songs featuring Benny, Conway, Rome, Stove God, Jay, and more Griselda MCs, take a listen to Ambrosia For Heads‘ weekly updated playlist, and subscribe if you like what you hear.
Earlier this year, Benny The Butcher released Tana Talk 4 and Black Soprano Family’s Long Live DJ Shay. Conway’s catalog includes the Shady Records drop God Don’t Make Mistakes. Rome Streetz’ Griselda debut KISS THE RING arrived last month. Armani’s latest LP, The Liz 2, released last weekend. Compton, California’s Jay Worthy partnered with Larry June and LNDN DRGS for 2 P’z In A Pod as well as the Harry Fraud-produced You Take The Credit, We’ll Take The Check.
#Bonus Beat: Westside Gunn, Benny The Butcher and Conway The Machine discuss working with DJ Premier and why they will never compromise the Griselda sound.