Rapper Westside Gunn once said, “It’s never sunny in Buffalo.” Now, his rap group and record label Griselda are bringing that quote to life.
The group is run by Gunn, his longtime friend Benny the Butcher, and his brother Conway the Machine. Together they are bringing back the sound of grimy ‘90s coke rap to the cutting edge of hip hop. By rhyming about drug dealing, excess blood money, and murder over chopped-up soul samples and boom bap drums, Griselda has been illustrating Buffalo’s harsh realities since 2014.
Their efforts have been rewarded by a record deal with Eminem’s Shady Records in 2017 and a management deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation last August. Legends of the hip hop community in general seem to be on their side, as they’ve earned the vocal admiration of rappers Raekwon, Busta Rhymes, Nas, and Drake. They’ve even collaborated with Pusha T and MF Doom, and legendary producers Pete Rock, DJ Premier, The Alchemist, and Madlib.
Each of Griselda’s members bring unique skills and top-tier rapping to the table, making them one of the most versatile and consistent rap collectives operating today.
Westside Gunn, the group’s de facto leader, is the most eccentric member of Griselda. Gunn’s voice is instantly recognizable, being high-pitched and nasal, but not in an annoying way. On the contrary, those qualities of his voice make his music intoxicating, especially when delivering his well-written bars and catchy hooks.
He also has a love for fashion, which he’s very vocal about in his music. He balances descriptions of Gucci bags and Louis Vuitton belts over stories of theft and violence in a believable way. Of the Griselda members, he definitely has the best sense for beats, as they always match the tone of his lyrics and flow. He is also far and away the most prolific member, having released nine mixtapes and three albums since 2014.
Benny the Butcher is the collective’s lyrical heavyweight. While Gunn’s demeanor and adlibs often provide a sort of humor, Benny is almost always serious, and his lyrics command your attention. He often recounts stories of drug dealing and gang violence, and vividly portrays how that lifestyle complicates his relationships with his family and weighs on his mental state. On his 2019 EP “The Plugs I Met,” he raps alongside Black Thought and Pusha T, and keeps up perfectly. He raps like he belongs among these legends, not that he’s merely trying to match their pace.
Last but definitely not least is Conway the Machine. His story is the most memorable of the three, surviving a gunshot to the head in 2012. The bullet paralyzed the left side of his face, but didn’t stop him from being able to rap and pursue the life of an MC. He is most similar to Benny, recounting stories of drug dealing and violence, but often gives the stories a much different spin, coating his lyrics in mafioso flavor in the vein of his inspirations Jay Z and Biggie Smalls.
On the group’s 2019 debut “WWCD”, they sound better than ever. When performing as a full trio, Griselda sounds unstoppable, with an instantly recognizable chemistry and a sense of truth to their stories. The future is bright for Griselda, and for hip hop in general, with its artists bringing technical skill, lyrical quality, and truth back to the forefront of the genre.