The label is a family, composed of brothers Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine, and their cousin Benny the Butcher. With each artist comes powerful boasts, from owning exquisite wardrobe collections, to being shot in the face and still rapping better than the rest. What unites the trio are the gritty street stories they’ve witnessed, and the fact that they are the only men from Buffalo, New York, to do what they’re doing.
On Halloween, Gunn dropped another mixtape, adding to Griselda’s ever-expanding catalogue. The seventh instalment in the Hitler Wears Hermes collection shows that Westside Gunn has no intention of slowing down, as he continues to cement his position in the rap game with each and every release.
From the get go we are reminded of what he is all about, “First n***a in my city with the Rolls” he half sings, before breaking into his signature gunshot adlib. It is on the same opening track, “FCKNXTWK“, that Philadelphia record executive DJ DRAMA declares “This is art meets fashion meets the streets”; a theme which Griselda fans will be familiar with by now.
On “Broadway Joes“, Gunn spits his bars out short and sweet, his voice nasally and whiny as ever. The beat, handled by Buffalo’s very own Cee Gee, sets a precedent for the production on the album – unspoiled and clean. Here it’s a delicate, tinkly piano loop, that when combined with some choice drums gives the impression of a marching band.
The softness of the piano keys is a stark contrast to Gunn’s drawls and explosive adlibs – “Peace to all my lifers in court like Tyson” he shouts. Gunn’s lyrics on “Broadway Joes” mainly deal with his history of cooking up crack, “the Pyrexes keep callin’ me” he claims, before suggesting you learn Spanish if you want to buy bricks cheaper.
This track is easy to listen to, despite a Scarface-inspired chorus (“Shooter got yayo all in his face”), and very much feels like an ode to his past in Buffalo. The name of the track itself also pays homage to Buffalo, ‘Broadway Joes’ was a bar famed for its open mic nights, and the place where Gunn met Griselda’s in-house producer Daringer.
There are some impressive features on Hitler Wears Hermes 7, with a collection of boom-bap heavyweights taking care of production. “Kelly’s Korner” sees New York’s Fat Joe describe how he stole a Mafioso’s car and had his hand put in a meat grinder.
Statik Selektah takes it back to the 90’s with the beat; the crackles making it sound like it is being played from a vintage record player. This old school vibe fits well a refreshing verse from Fat Joe, reminding listeners why he’s a hip hop veteran.
Clean, untouched and nostalgic sampling is plentiful on this release. “Connie’s Son” sounds like it could have been made by Dilla; a warm and wholesome sample flip, that is less than two minutes in length. On “Banana Yacht“, the rich, emotional chords take centre stage, leaving you in a trance and making you forget this is a rap song.
“It’s Possible” sees Jay Worthy and Boldy James take to the mic over arguably the catchiest beat on the tape. SadhuGold samples Italian composer Piero Piccioni’s “It’s Possible”, but hardly alters a thing. The original vocals, sang by Catherine Howard, are looped to create a gentle melody, which gives the track a floaty, nostalgic feel. Detroit’s Boldy James has the standout verse on this track, his continuous talk-style flow reminiscent of an Earl Sweatshirt rap.
No Griselda project would be complete without a feature from Conway and Benny, and it is on the eerie and elegiac “Kool G” that they deliver. This is the lead single from the HWH7, and perfectly captures the distinctive, gritty, East-Coast feel that Griselda have been pushing in the underground scene for the past few years.
The Alchemist, who has produced many notable projects for East-Coast artists, teams up with Daringer for this one, a partnership fans may hope to see more of in the future. Gunn opens with a particularly lyrical verse, his flow paying homage to Kool G Rap, a rapper widely considered to be one of the greatest of all time.
There are some lyrics that are typically Griselda here, comically blending violence with fashion – “Fendi stockings over the face, now where your bricks at”. With effortless one-liners, Conway demonstrates again why he is one of the hottest artists out at the moment; “Gave her six stacks for any mishaps, from New York to Dallas like Kristaps”. Benny The Butcher ends the track with an equally impressive verse, whilst confirming that the constant Griselda albums won’t stop with Tana Talk 4 on its way.
Hitler Wears Hermes 7 is another staple release in Westside Gunn’s ever-growing discography. Easy-on-the-ear instrumentals coupled with transparently violent lyrics, has come to characterise Griselda Records and set the artists apart from other rappers in today’s world.
It seems to be a formula that is working, and is what recently made Jay-Z sign Westside Gunn and Benny The Butcher to Roc Nation. With Conway also having signed a deal with Eminem’s Shady Records, the future looks bright for Buffalo’s finest.
Westside Gunn’s Hitler Wears Hermes is out now via Griselda Records, purchase it on iTunes here, and stream it on Spotify below.
Words by Kyle Roscoe