The end of the November saw Griselda Records drop their long-awaited debut album, WWCD (What Would Chine Gun Do?). Despite numerous collaborations between the rappers signed to the label, this release is a “real, authentic, all-around Griselda project”, says Conway The Machine.
Griselda have long-established themselves in the underground hip-hop scene, and until a few years ago, were fully independent. Their increasing recognition in the scene have since seen them partner with Eminem’s Shady Records, the label on which WWCD has been released.
The Griselda Records dynamic may in part be responsible for its’ success – it is strictly a family affair. Brothers Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine are the cousins of Benny The Butcher – whose late brother ‘Chine Gun’ inspired the name of the album.
It is most likely the strong family ties that keeps each rapper grounded, and allows the trio to drop project after project at such a quick rate.
The album opens with a feature from Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon. He isn’t rapping here, but rather reinstating his appreciation for the label. Two years ago, during a Griselda show in New York, he hit the stage and verbally handed them ‘the torch’.
On “Marchello Intro“, we hear why. “You know me, I just sit back in my chair and analyse” he reflects, before describing Griselda as a “breath of fresh air”. Griselda are no strangers to acknowledgement, especially from fellow New York artists; it was only earlier this year that they signed a management deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
“Chef Dreds” was one of two tracks released ahead of the album, giving listeners an early indication of what WWCD is about. Westside Gunn, Conway and Benny share one verse here, constantly interrupting each other, after around six bars have been spat.
Despite Gunn’s nasally tone being particularly noticeable, the frequent change in rapper goes almost undetected. This is due to each artist continuing to rhyme with what lyric came before them, making the track feel like it was effortlessly sewn together.
In-house producer Daringer and UK’s Beat Butcha take care of the beats on WWCD. On “Chef Dreds” it’s a hard-hitting, and typically boom-bap joint, which feels like it could have been a Wu-Tang track back in the 90’s.
The drum kicks are forceful throughout, which compliments the ferocity and speed at which the rappers deliver their bars. An unintelligible cry is also placed over an eerie, siren-sounding loop, which adds a sense of urgency to the track.
From the very first “Ayo”, one of Gunn’s signature adlibs, we are dealt classic Griselda bars. “SIG throwin’ hollows, the bullets big as a Corona bottle” and “Bring your biggest gun, n****, we can have a shoot-off”, are just two of many, arms-related lines. This seems the perfect opener for an album packaged as ‘wholly Griselda’.
Daringer and Beat Butcha really showcase their talent on the jazz-infused “Freddie Hotspot“. Some beautiful, mellow keys make the track easy on the ear, yet hypnotising enough to leave you nodding your head.
Benny the Butcher begins proceedings, and in usual fashion delivers a verse packed with clever one-liners – “Only Tom Brady get more rings than my telephone get”.
No Griselda project is complete without a gritty story from the past, and it is Westside Gunn who details a shoot-out with a rival in the second verse. Gunn hasn’t rapped a verse like this in a while, and it feels like a track where everyone can go in.
Conway provides a short kind of chorus, before diving straight into his verse. Quite arguably the best-flowing rapper on the roster, he rhymes so effortlessly you’d think he’s spitting off the top of his head.
He produces a wave of cool brags – “you see a spaceship when my garage doors liftin’ / My broad a vixen, smokin’ Billy’s, cigar twistin”. Rhyming the same word over and over is no problem for Conway, and he again highlights why he’s referred to as ‘the Machine’.
Paying homage to Buffalo, New York, rarely goes amiss on a Griselda record. “DR BIRDS” was the first single to be released, and is also the name of a Jamaican food spot in the artists’ hometown. The track is a combination of twinkle sounds and drum kicks, with a dark bass lingering in the background. This makes for a playful beat, which compliments some funny bars.
“Tell Virgil write ‘Brick’ on my brick”, heard more than once throughout the track, is a witty stab at Virgil Abloh’s tendency to print self-defining text on his clothes, while Conway scoffs “My weakest scent cost more than your mama need for rent”.
The trio sound crisp here, again demonstrating why they make such a perfect camp, or as Conway puts it – “Hall N Nash and Benny like James Worthy, Kareem and Magic”.
Griselda’s debut album is exactly what it says it is, ‘distinctively Griselda’. Even the album artwork, a portrait of a local, homeless woman named Claire, is a direct reference to Buffalo itself, and the artists’ not-so-distant past.
There are some memorable tracks on WWCD, and fans can appreciate solid verses from each rapper on every track. Despite the release on Shady Records, each track is as we would expect, and follows the foundation that Griselda set from the very start.
The musical partnerships made on “Bang” and “City On The Map“, with Eminem and 50 Cent respectively, mark how far Griselda Records has come. They stand alone in their contributions to the New York rap renaissance, and are rightfully taking their place among hip-hop’s heavyweights.
Griselda Records’ WWCD album is out now via Griselda/Shady Records, purchase it on iTunes here, and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Kyle Roscoe