This album is too anticipated to say anything outside of the actual music. Let’s Go (Benny Voice):
The album starts off in the most triumphant way you can possibly imagine. I know Benny The Butcher gets compared to Jay Z plenty, but this is the reason. He gets it. This real street shit over production that screams “I’m that nigga“. Only a few understand this science. With all of that being said, I have to say the problem with this album starts as soon as you push play. OVER-PRODUCING. The 1st part of the beat on the intro “Burden Of Proof” in totally unnecessary. Not only does it not add anything, but imagine if the beat switch was the first thing you heard when you tuned in. The instant head nod is an important element in classic albums. Jay would’ve cut it down, guaranteed.
Hit-Boy is a great producer. Great at what he does. He doesn’t do this. He was a way better fit with Nas because Nasir never had a solid sonic aesthetic. Griselda and Benny have established a feeling. No matter who they work with, features or producers, you must step into Griselda-world to work. Benny stepped outside of the house on this one, leaving his minimalistic, dirty sound on the coffee table. Trading in Wu-esque instrumentals for “Just Blaze Type Beats”.
This is the only weakness Benny possesses as an artist. Not only can his pop-level rapper aspirations be a potential problem for his core fans, but he lacks direction. He came in under the built-in vision of Westside Gunn (though I’ve heard he discovered Daringer). He was a system player. This album is the ‘Proof’. Some rapper’s just flat out sound better when their beats play the background. This is far too much going on sonically to get the full effect of The Butcher.
In short, Benny sounds better over ’95 beats than 2001 instrumentals.
There is no “Rubberbands & Weight”, “Joe Pesci 38” or “97 Hov” on this album. Benny does the hook or the comeback on all of these songs. “Trade It All” and “Legend” are easy standouts and these are the songs on ‘Burden’ where The Butcher handles his own chorus. Hearing Queen Naija on “Thank God I Made It” is not only like nails on a chalkboard but is equivalent to when Eminem uses those random white pop singers on all of his worst songs. He could’ve just signed to Shady for all of that.
Conway The Machine has the standout verse on the whole album. That’s a spot usually reserved for the meat clever of The Butcher. Roles have really reversed between Conway and Benny. In 2018, Benny had the ‘album of the year’ and stole the show on all of Conway and Westside’s projects. Now Conway has the 2020 AOTY, and easily outshining Benny on his own album. That leads me to another point. Before I wrote this, I read a SUPER early Benny review that said he “lost his bite”. I said that’s RIDICULOUS. That’s like Christmas being cancelled. Stupid talk… but… he may have. At least temporarily. I listened to a full Benny album more than 6 times now and barely have any quoteables. Not that they’re not there at all, though less, they just don’t hit the same over this production. “I shoot with nobody ’round me like a penalty shot” would hit different over Al beats. I barely remember him saying “The Butcher comin’ nicca!” That’s telling.
There is also not a “5 to 50” (though “Trade It All” is reminiscent). The verses themselves lack focus a bit. It’s like a bunch of freestyle verses. Benny usually feels like he’s narrating a director’s cut of a gangster movie about his on life. Here, he sounds like he’s narrating an episode of “Cops”. The theatric value is all but gone. “Famous” has that feel for sure, though. “I chose money over fame, how I end up wit’ em both?”, “3 Rolies, 2 cribs, 6 figures and I still don’t feel famous!”. FIRE.
The features. Perfect. Rick Ross is at home on “Where Would I Go“. Freddie Gibbs has his feet up on one-way flight, adding an impromptu 8 bars at the end. Dom Kennedy on “Over The Limit” does what Dom does. His tone always sounds like he just got up in the A.M and it always works. Westside & Conway on “War Paint” is what they do with a twist. Like Griselda on vacation. Most of these have a common theme, though. They sound like tracks these artists would’ve done WITHOUT Benny. No better example of that then “Timeless“. Big Sean and Lil Wayne have infinity songs together. Why they’re featured so much together is anybody’s guess. Game got SMOKED on “All That (Lady)” with Wayne and Sean. He spit a lazy verse and went FIRST. Big mistake. Benny did the SAME THING. His verse was less lazy, but given that this beat and vibe is something they both do on their own, u gotta go HARD and probably not first. By the time you get to the end of Sean’s verse, you forget it’s a Benny song. Same with “Where Would I Go”. Benny’s hand-of was his worse since “18 Wheeler” with Pusha T. Sometimes when Benny has features he sounds way more mortal than when he DOES features.
I ONLY WANT GRISELDA & BENNY FANS to take in this review wholeheartedly cause y’all are going to get it.
“New Streets” is a Westside Gunn style track with a 50 Cent type outro. A one-minute rap with a one-minute outro. I love the rap. That beat just ain’t it. “Sly Green” is the closest we get to our normal Griselda program. This uptempo space beat sounds great with Benny rapping like he’s late for a flight. Plenty of replay value, and the hook sounds like an early DMX banger. “It’s blood on the money, blood on my hands”. Sidebar: He spit the first verse on L.A Leakers Freestyle #103, which I heard right BEFORE the album. Bit of a let down that I knew the verse already on a song that dope.
To wrap it up, this production doesn’t work best for Benny. Benny isn’t exactly a shell of his old self. Hit-Boy, who did AMAZING work with Nas, just doesn’t bring ‘The Butcher’ out of Benny. There are a handful of tracks that Benny hits ‘The Plugs I Met’ levels at times, but no Tana Talk 3 in sight. Benny does what he does. Hit-Boy does what he does. They just don’t mesh well enough to justify dropping a follow-up to ‘Plugs’ after nearly a year and a half. This is his Blueprint 2.
PS: I ONLY WANT GRISELDA & BENNY FANS to take in this review wholeheartedly cause y’all are going to get it. If you’ve never heard Benny,, you may think this is perfect. I love Benny. He’s a top-tier rapper. Top 5, easily. I don’t believe he’s capable of making a BAD album, ever. He’s just gotta be careful. I think this is a calculated attempt to start slowly breaking out of that Griselda sound, and maybe the box that puts him in. With all that being said, this is still a good to very good album. Benny’s position has changed though. He’s no longer an underdog to underground fans. He’s a Hero. He is, however, an underdog in the mainstream. That’s a weird position to be in, especially unsigned to a major. How do you please everybody? This just may be the best attempt with glossy production, hard raps for balance, and semi-radio attempts like “Timeless”. Unless he does these under a new moniker “Just Benny” and does ‘Tana Talk’ under “The Butcher, he may just have to choose.
(Whoever decided to put Pain In Da Ass & The Madd Rapper on the same album..no. That’s 2 different feels.)
After being shot outside of a Texas Wal-Mart, The Butcher bounces right back with the release of “Famous” music video. A definite standout from ‘Burden Of Proof’. Watch FAMOUS below: