Album: “Burden of Proof”
Artist: Benny the Butcher
Release Date: Oct. 16
Buffalo rap collective Griselda has dominated 2020 with projects from Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, Armani Caesar and Boldy James setting the bar extremely high.
Yet, somehow Griselda managed to save the best for last.
Despite putting out multiple exceptional projects over the past three years, “Burden of Proof” is Benny the Butcher’s magnum opus. Throughout a compact 12 tracks, Benny raps about his journey of struggle and pain resulting in his ultimate triumph. From selling drugs on street corners to running from police, Benny is as descriptive and lyrically sharp as ever.
“Burden of Proof” is produced by Hit-Boy, Corbett, G. Ry and Jansport J. Fresh off producing Nas’ well-received “Kings Disease” and multiple collaborations on Big Seans “Detroit 2,” the grammy-winning producer Hit-Boy provides Benny with some of his best beats to date. The album finds Benny rapping over soulful boom-bap, delivering his most memorable bars to date.
The album’s opener, “Burden of Proof,” happens to be the title track, and it sets the tone beautifully. Benny absolutely annihilates a loud, booming Hit-Boy beat while highlighting his journey to get where he is today. He flows effortlessly over the beat and paints vivid pictures of his experiences. The double entendre of $50,000 sitting on his refrigerator representing the mountain of cocaine he possesses is brilliant: “I was young in my prison phases, how you know you really gangster / Jail cells while I learned decision makin’ / Fifty grand in the ‘frigerator, living room, killers waitin’ / Plastic on the floor like we renovatin’”
The Freddie Gibbs-assisted “One Way Flight” is as introspective as we’ve seen Benny, with the normally rough and rugged MC rapping about the decisions he’s made and his individual growth. He even says that being tied to the streets is his biggest flaw and he’d love to see the world from another lense, but it’s too late. He knows his experiences are also a huge strength through the lessons they’ve taught him, creating a double-edged sword. He’s entirely authentic and you’ll either love him or hate him for it. The track includes Freddie Gibbs’ instantly recognizable voice on the hook and a verse at the end, exhibiting the pair’s great chemistry.
Benny is also assisted by some of the biggest names in hip-hop including Rick Ross, Big Sean and Lil Wayne. Benny and Rick Ross make a great pair on the soulful “Where Would I Go” with Rick Ross sounding luxurious, giving off the vibes of a Mercedes CLS packed with rubber bands of money and designer shades. Lil Wayne and Big Sean trade verses with Benny on lead-single “Timeless,” giving Benny a commercial appeal not seen on his previous efforts.
As great as Benny’s technical and conceptual performances are on “Burden of Proof” , executive producer Hit-Boy deserves his fair share of credit as well. Every beat fits the vibes of Benny’s verses and he provides the Buffalo MC with a variety of soulful beats as well as hard-hitting bangers. He challenges Benny to rap over a variety of beats and not only keeps the listener engaged, but helps tie the themes of the project together.
“Sly Green” features Benny at his technical pinnacle. Not only does he glide over the fantastic Hit-Boy production, but delivers some of the hardest bars of the year. Most rappers have quotable bars, Benny has quotable songs. The entire track is a display of lyrical mastery as Benny raps about his place in not only the rap game but the street game in a way only he can.
“I’m a Christian Dior shirt rocker, two Glock wearer / Only rapper that would’ve thrived in the 2Pac era / I'm talkin’ ‘98 drug money, shoebox era / I proved my point once, in every take, the proof got clearer / Y’all n---as make threats, we pay killers and take bets / F--k with us and end up bad like dope you can’t stretch.”
What ties the album together are the soulful self reflections. “Famous” highlights Benny’s uncomfortable state of being famous but not feeling like he is. Coming from the streets, he feels like a regular person. He had no social training like NBA players do when they get drafted. Once he became a star, he was expected to act like one, but all he wants to be is normal.
“Trade it All” finds Benny lamenting the loss of his brother and the impact it had on him. All the riches he has now came with the huge cost of seeing loved ones die: “Sold my story to the world, so everything I afford / Came from me losin’ my brother, and all the pain I absorbed / I’m down soldiers, all the members of the gang I done lost / On this road to success and, yes, it came at a cost”
Hit-Boy and Benny close the album on a triumphant note with the reflective “Legend.” Benny stakes his claim as a hip-hop legend based on the impact he’s had on his hometown. His street background made him the man he is today and he loves Buffalo for shaping him into one of the best MC’s in the world. No major company can put a price on the value he brings, that’s why he stayed with the Buffalo-based Griselda despite offers from other labels: “Master’s in dope, before that, I had a Bachelor’s in coke / I’m like Ali, I fight better with my back on the ropes / Labels, I passed ‘em up, it's like they after the flow / And my legacy, it’s like they want a fraction of both.”
Benny’s best characteristic is his loyalty. Not all money is good money and he knows what matters most to him.
Benny’s 2018 album “Tana Talk 3” had a track titled “‘97 Hov” where the rapper compared himself to prime Jay-Z. “Burden of Proof” supports that bold claim. Between his supreme lyricism and slick street talk, Benny the Butcher is on another level.
“Burden of Proof” is a lyrical exhibition worthy of the acclaim it’s receiving. Benny and Hit-Boy don’t miss on one track and give the listener an experience so authentic it can’t be replicated. Despite insecurities with fame and his new role in hip-hop, Benny doesn’t need anybody else’s approval. He has all the approval he needs: right in the city of Buffalo.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @DeCicco42.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.