The Lowdown: Despite how prolific Griselda have been in 2020, it has been a full year since we have gotten a solo Benny the Butcher project. In that time, Griselda have signed a Roc Nation management deal, dropped a group album, performed on Fallon, and tested the limits of how many solid albums a collective can drop in a short period of time. People have been waiting on Benny ever since 2019’s The Plugs I Met, an EP that brought him to a higher level of fame for its coke tales, OJ comparisons, and 38 Spesh’s lamb and stick.
Benny is a man of history. The East Buffalo-bred MC has studied the game to a tee and has all of the co-signs that other rappers spend a whole career wishing they could boast. Growing up on the infamous Montana Avenue, he has spent a lifetime waiting for this moment to show people his pain, his triumphs, and all the lost ones he’s rapping for. That moment is Burden of Proof, and you can see the work Benny has put in to get to this point. Burden of Proof has a list of features that is sure to capture the eye of people who decide to listen to albums based solely on who guests on them. Freddie Gibbs shows up with his trademark gruff, Rick Ross raps so opulent that it sounds like money, but it’s Benny who sets the pace with the fury of nature’s thunder.
The Good: Benny is at his best when flexing about things he has done that other rappers haven’t. When he says, “I’m an old hustler, but I’m as rich as these new rappers” on “Sly Green”, that’s something that isn’t just a bar for him; it’s an ethos. He is disgusted at the idea that you would even compare him to other rappers. He says it with such gravitas that you won’t do it again. “One Way Flight” finds Freddie Gibbs in rare form on the hook and his verse. Benny and him go toe to toe over a a plush beat by Hit-Boy.
When Benny said that Burden of Proof was to be produced in entirety by Hit-Boy, that was an interesting choice for some people. Hit-Boy has made bangers, but when you think Benny the Butcher, you think Daringer and Alchemist up to this point. Hit-Boy is something different, and it works. The beats are a combination of loud drums meant to hit you in the chest and then start some beef with the clown in your neighborhood. The intro, “Burden of Proof”, sounds like a song that will become Benny lore. Every great rapper has a classic intro song, and Benny just found his. It’s a two-minute slapper about street politics, jealous haters, and what he learned being locked up.
The Bad: Dom Kennedy is unfairly hated in many respects, but he doesn’t fit in on here, even if it is just a hook. “I’m in it like a taxi/ A chick want to bag me,” he says on “Over the Limit”, which is fine for a Dom Kennedy song where you just want to nod your head and drink a 40 ounce on your stoop, but this is a Benny the Butcher track. Feeling something in your chest like you have the yellow mucus stuck is what you look for when you listen to Benny. Dom just isn’t the right person for a hook here. Outside of context, it would be a fine song, but it is definitely a low moment on an album full of high ones. This album is so good that it is hard to find slower parts of it. This is a Benny solo album, but Griselda have made such great music together that there’s some level of wishing that there was more of the group on this album. I could hear Westside Gunn’s nasal voice on some of these records. I could hear Conway’s slur, too. It would be a shame to waste such madcap talents like those two.
The Verdict: This is the biggest Benny album to date, but he doesn’t lose what made him great and such a beloved underground rapper. His boasts are as strong as ever, and his flows are cold like the air in the Buffalo streets. You can hear the breath control that he honed on those streets when he raps. Burden is a star-studded album, but it’s also an intimate album without trying to be. That’s because the subject is Benny’s life up to this point. He’s expanding, but the brand still is what it is. This is Griselda. The names in his life are all over this album: This is for Machine Gun Black, DJ Shay, Sly, Cease, Duffle Bag, and the whole BSF.
With the help of Hit-Boy, Rick Ross, and Freddie Gibbs, Benny has another one for us to mob out to. At one point on this album, he says, “I don’t care about haters/ I only care about what hustlers think.” The proof is in the eating of the pudding. This is not for the meek. This is not for the golf courses. Benny never dives into nihilism. He knows his purpose, but the album is called Burden of Proof because if you are going to be on the streets, you have to prove who you are. Benny has done that and then some. The Butcher is here, and he isn’t respecting old arrangements. He runs this ship now.
Essential Tracks: “Sly Green”, “One Way Flight”, and “Burden of Proof”
Pick up a copy of Burden of Proof here…
Burden of Proof Artwork