Benny the Butcher

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )

Benny the Butcher: Tana Talk 3 (2018), 7/10
Benny the Butcher: Burden of Proof (2020), 6/10

During the late 2000s, while the New York scene of gangster rap was lobotomized by the commercial success of 50 Cent, the city of Buffalo, north of New York and a much poorer cousin of it, experienced a mini creative boom that led to the Griselda collective of Alvin "Westside Gunn" Worthy, his brother Demond "Conway the Machine" Price and Mach-Hommy. A cousin of both Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine, rapper Jeremie "Benny the Butcher" Pennick, joined the collective and quickly became Buffalo's main hip-hop act. He debuted with mixtapes such as Tana Talk 1 (2004) and Tana Talk 2 (2009), followed by EPs such as 17 Bullets (2016) and A Friend of Ours (2018) and mixtapes such as 1 on a 1 (2016) and especially My First Brick (2016).

His album Tana Talk 3 (2018), a gloomy concept obsessed with drug dealing, was one of the milestone recordings in the boom-bap revival of the late 2010s. Produced by Thomas "Daringer" Paldino (the Griselda specialist in ominous soundscapes) and especially by The Alchemist, it harked back to the golden age of the Wu-Tang Clan and Jay-Z. The Alchemist's liquid production lends an almost extraterrestrial feeling to Broken Bottles, while his somnolent production liberates Benny's subliminal criminal energy in Rubber Bands & Weight. Daringer does better: a broken beat fights echoes of stoned dub music in Fast Eddie; Goodnight drifts on eerie floating piano notes (and includes an almost clownish sample of Busta Rhymes' Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check of 1996); the menacing Langfield employs droning strings and Indian-esque flute; the cinematic duet with Conway the Machine All 70 is wrapped around a looping evocative guitar solo a` la Eric Clapton; and Who Are You blends Melanie Rutherford raspy bluesy melody with mournful male humming, cascading piano notes, tropical bongos and even vinyl crackling courtesy of an old White Heat single (Barry White's backing band until 1975). Daringer and Alchemist join forces in the two-part single '97 Hov (in which Benny takes Jay-Z as his role model).

Benny was also a member of the collective Black Soprano Family with Rick Hyde and Heem.

In 2020 each Griselda member released crossover albums: Conway's From King to a God (2020), besides the collaborations Lulu (2020) with The Alchemist and No One Mourns the Wicked (2020) with the anonymous online producer "Big Ghost"; Westside Gunn's Who Made the Sunshine (2020) and especially Pray for Paris (2020); and Benny's second album Burden of Proof (2020). While Westside Gunn may have had the more creative album, it was Benny's album that became the best-seller. Much of the success can be credited to the glossy production of Chauncey "Hit-Boy" Hollis. Benny, a specialist in bleak drug raps, delivers two of his most influential raps, namely Timeless and Legend, and the virtuoso performance of Sly Green also shines.

The EP The Plugs I Met (2019) was followed by the nine-song mini-album The Plugs I Met 2 (2021), a collaboration with producer Rory "Harry Fraud" Quigley that was hardly a follow-up and more like a departure point. Harry Fraud's jazzy and poppy production further propelled Benny in the mainstream. Opener When Tony Met Sosa is based on a snippet of Frankie Miller's romantic Good Time Love. Live By It is a complex intersection of multilayered instrumental threads and vocal call-and-response. Narration and production collide in creative ways: the hypnotic trumpet phrase and lethargic beat of No Instructions, the chaotic and disorienting voices and strings of Thanksgiving, the desolate atmosphere of Survivor's Remorse (with a tinkling piano in the foreground and a ghostly lament in the background), the dense and tense Overall, etc. To pop archeologists the mini-album was also notable for Plug Talk, which samples Japanese singer-songwriter Yoshiko Sai]'s nine-minute Taiji No Yume/ Fetal Dream (1977).

(Copyright © 2021 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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