Benny The Butcher has made a name for himself by spearheading the new wave of gritty gangster rappers coming out of New York, the latest crop of lyrical professors including his buddies Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine. With drill taking off in the city’s five boroughs, Benny has still managed to push through, gaining support from Jay-Z and the Roc Nation machine. He’s finally gained his shine after over a decade’s worth of underground projects and studio records, but this follow-up to 2019’s critically acclaimed ‘The Plugs I Met’ falls a little short.
It’s exciting to see New York’s newer guys rub shoulders with rap superstars such as Dipset’s Jim Jones (on the repetitive ‘Longevity’) and Fat Joe (who kills his verse with braggadocio on ‘Talking Back’), proving the Big Apple hasn’t lost its bite. Benny knows full well the stars who came before him, and makes this record a beautiful homage to them too. Yet his style might remind you of West Coast rapper The Game when he first came onto the scene in the early ‘00s: great flow, shame about the songcraft.
Nowhere on this album is there a good hook – unless you count ‘Plug Talk’, where Benny just repeats the appalling couplet “In interviews talkin’ plug talk / Got my name off of drug talk.” Better is ‘Survivor’s Remorse’, which features his affiliate Rick Hyde of the Black Soprano Family collective, the two New Yorkers exploring success and survivors’ guilt. Having escaped the fiend-serving lifestyle he constantly raps about, Benny asks: ”If it’s supposed to be success, why do I feel stressed out and guilty? / ‘Cause I’m paid, and all my n***as in the Fed or the grave – that shit kills me”.
This is becoming a common theme in rap, and in articulating his experiences so bluntly – compared to the vagaries of, for example, Washington DC rapper GoldLink’s 2017 track ‘Pray Everyday (Survivor’s Guilt)’ – Benny the Butcher deserves respect for not sugarcoating the subject. Add in the flawlessly smooth minor chord production from New York legend Harry Fraud, and you have the album’s surefire highlight.
The rapper’s attention to detail is undeniable – but serving up a pile of rhymes, rather than full-bodied songs with snappy hooks, can be boring no matter how skilful you are. Even the star-name features can’t really lift this skippable sequel and its samey songs, which is a shame, given Benny the Butcher’s proven penmanship.
Release date: March 19
Record label: Black Soprano Family / SRFSCH
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