Album: “Who Made the Sunshine”
Artist: Westside Gunn
Release Date: Oct. 2
Westside Gunn has never been afraid to be himself.
Throughout his career the 38-year-old Buffalo MC has pushed the boundaries of mafioso-rap to become one of the most unique acts in underground hip-hop. A love for professional wrestling, an insane sense of confidence and tales of drug distribution and street violence have made Westside Gunn and Griselda Records a one-of-a-kind act.
“Who Made the Sunshine” is Westside's third album of 2020 following April’s “Pray for Paris” and July’s “Flygod Is an Awesome God 2.”
Like all Westside Gunn projects, “Who Made the Sunshine” is exactly what his die-hard fans want. He doesn’t stray away from what works and continues to be one of the most consistent acts in hip-hop.
Despite being his major label debut on Eminem’s Shady Records, “Who Made the Sunshine” doesn’t sacrifice artistry for commercial appeal. The album is produced almost entirely by Griselda’s in-house producer Daringer and frequent collaborator Beat Butcha. The two provide Westside with a variety of instrumentations to rap over ranging from dreamy loops to aggressive drum and piano patterns.
The project also finds Westside working with his contemporaries more than showcasing his individual skills. All but one track contains features, as guests include the usual suspects — Griselda members Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher, Armani Caesar and Boldy James — as well as frequent collaborators El Camino, Flee Lord, Smoke DZA and Stove God Cooks. “Who Made the Sunshine” also features appearances from hip-hop royalty Slick Rick, Busta Rhymes and Jadakiss.
The album's cover features a drawing by Westside's 6-year-old daughter, Westside Pootie. The innocent drawing of an individual surrounded by a car and a rainbow on a bright sunny day is met with red splatters of paint that–– knowing Westside Gunn–– could only represent bullet wounds. Westside Pootie, who has appeared on multiple Westside Gunn albums, makes another appearance on “Lessie” where she talks about how well Westside treats her financially and how rappers are still stealing her dad’s style, “Three years ago, I told y'all to stop copyin' off my daddy / And y'all still broke, this is Griselda.”
The intro track, “The Butcher and The Blade,” doesn’t give the listener much time to settle into the project, as Westside, Benny and Conway immediately begin trading ruthless bars about drug dealing, an infatuation for guns and putting a new meaning on the term “dope MC.”
Westside raps, “Peace seven, I had a fetish for the MAC-11s / Since an adolescent, learnin' lessons, got my shot perfected / Opps beheaded, cocaine pot fanatic / Fiends light up the static, fully loaded ratchets for action.” He also makes reference to his love of professional wrestling, rapping that he can torture his enemies via guns or physical violence: “Fire out the nozzle, Ricky "Dragon" Steamboat / Inshallah, it's more clips in the peacoat / Bodyslam, two thousand grams, Steve Regal.”
Despite rapping over a layered, lush beat, Westside doesn’t hold back on the Slick Rick and Busta Rhymes-assisted “Ocean Prime.” Westside paints a shockingly vivid picture about the decisions he’s made in his life and how it’s impacted him. This verse coming over one of the albums lighter beats shows that even when things seem to get lighter, darkness always follows him: “The first body made me anemic, Draco up close / Chop him in pieces, out the Black Badge Ghost, take it or leave it / Thousand and eight grams, parade it, turbo take hands / Shake hands with the devil, I send shootout to take lane.”
Posse-cut “Frank Murphy” showcases lyricism at its finest. Despite an extremely unorthodox and off-kilter beat, Stove God Cooks, Flee Lord, Estee Nack, El Camino and Smoke DZA all manage to put on a great lyrical performance. Their flows are creative and their bars are sharp, and since the beat is so strange, it's a lyrical free-for-all.
Westside collaborates with Philadelphia legend Black Thought on the gritty “Ishkabibble’s.” Westside raps about his usual subject matter of drugs and guns, so Black Thought follows suit and sticks to the subject, matching Westside’s energy. The two rap effortlessly over Daringer and Beat Butcha’s production, fulfilling the rap-nerd’s dream of hearing Black Thought and Westside Gunn on a track together.
Boldy James and Jadakiss team-up with Westside on “All Praises.” Westside and Boldy both deliver strong performances but Jadakiss shines with multiple memorable bars, showing the world that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Jada carries the theme of drug distribution into his verse while also keeping a socially conscious eye open to the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming election: “Smell of coke in my clothes, that's just a sign of us / No matter what, my connect will remain anonymous / That's just a stereotype, they ain't definin' us / Unlimited funds, ain't no declinin' us / Everybody woke now, they want us to vote now / COVID-19 is the stamp on the dope now.”
Closer “98 Sabers” is a Griselda banger with Benny, Conway, Armani Caesar and Westside all rapping over a booming Just Blaze instrumental. The title pays tribute to the Stanley Cup Finalist 1998-99 Buffalo Sabres and implies Griselda forms like a team. Just like the ‘98 Sabres, they aren’t the team you want to bet against.
“Who Made the Sunshine’s” long list of collaborations show how Westside Gunn is viewed by his peers. Through years of mastering his craft and respecting those who came before him, he has earned the respect of hip hop’s elite. The album makes the most of its collaborations and displays how an artist can flood a project with features, yet still shine individually.
Every Griselda release highlights Westside Gunn’s artistic vision as well as their loyalty to the city of Buffalo. Even while getting more global with their features, Griselda continually represents Buffalo.
“Who Made the Sunshine” expands the Griselda universe and continues to solidify Westside Gunn and the Griselda camp among the most original acts in hip-hop.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DeCicco42.
Anthony DeCicco is the Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum. His words have appeared in outlets such as SLAM Magazine andSyracuse.com. In 2020, he was awarded First Prize for Sports Column Writing at the Society of Professional Journalists' Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. In his free time, he can be found watching ‘90s Knicks games and reading NFL Mock Drafts at 3 a.m.