Album: “The Plugs I Met 2”
Artists: Benny the Butcher and Harry Fraud
Label: Black Soprano Family
Release Date: March 19
Buffalo native Benny the Butcher has enjoyed a steep rise to stardom over the past few years.
Despite his Wu-Tang Clan influenced music representing a stark contrast to the mainstream sounds of rappers like Travis Scott and Lil Baby, Benny received a co-sign from Eminem at the tail-end of 2019. In 2020, Benny teamed up with producer Hit-Boy to release their collaborative project, “Burden of Proof”, which peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard 200 record chart, and contained features from rap legends Lil Wayne and Rick Ross.
Now, after a five-month absence, Benny has returned with the ninesong EP “The Plugs I Met 2”, a sequel to his 2019 EP, this time armed with producer Harry Fraud.
Much like the original “The Plugs I Met,” “The Plugs I Met 2” plays out like a cinematic tale of crime, family and betrayal, and rightfully features the original EP’s motif of iconic film characters Tony Montana and Alejandro Sosa (from the film “Scarface”) on the cover. The album's lyrical themes of life on the street feel very similar to Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon’s 1995 classic, “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,”— an album which directly samples “Scarface” —.. Benny’s bars tell a story, and are paired perfectly with Fraud’s darkly reflective production, as both are at the top of their game.
Right off the EP’s appropriately titled opener, “When Tony Met Sosa”, Benny makes it clear he’s pulling no punches. Benny raps about his rise to fame and life on the East Side of Buffalo across Fraud’s beautiful woodwind beat, providing a smooth rhyme that expresses his vulnerability while maintaining his hardened persona.
“When n----a- said they need less trappers and more poets / I kept talkin’ to hustlers that’s more heroic / It’s a difference when you rise out of the ghetto, come back and grow it / The game broke my heart in three places, I never show it.”
The biggest surprise comes in the sophomore track, “Overall”. The track features a shocking verse from the late NYC rapper Chinx, and has Benny rapping about how he will never need to flex his winnings as a rapper, but can still always bask in the knowledge that he has proved his haters wrong.
With an optimistic boom-bap beat to ride on, Benny paves the entire song for Chinx’s verse at the finale, who provides a reflective verse about his place in the rap game as well as high class apparel and close friends.
“Catch ‘em speeding in that cockpit with Gucci goggles on / I got Haitians that got choppers that put you on the wall,” Chinx raps.
Chinx isn’t the only NYC veteran to make an appearance.
As if passing the torch to a new generation, Benny gets the chance to rap alongside legends Fat Joe and Dipset’s Jim Jones, who appear on “Talkin Back” and “Longevity,” respectively. While both artists have been out of their primes for many years now, they perfectly compliment Benny and his NY influenced raps, essentially giving fans a modern Buffalo/’90s-mid-‘00s NYC crossover, hopefully with many more to come.
No song better exemplifies Fraud’s production skills than “Plug Talk,” which samples a 1977 song from Japanese singer Yoshiko Sai. While this song may sound unorthodox on paper, Fraud effectively ties it in with the rest of his tools, continuing the EP series’ trend of evoking the dark feeling of hope felt when watching criminals rise to the top in films like Scarface, Goodfellas and Casino.
Beats aside, Benny utilizes his verse to make an honest man out of himself, admitting that his peers have given him little reason to trust them, even if he can’t prove it.
“True Story, got a quarter from my plug / on the day I got raided / held it down, I ain’t lose it / Think he told, but can’t prove it.”
But the real star of “Plug Talk” is Georgia rapper 2 Chainz, who comes with a boatload of head-turning lines that will impress even his biggest doubters, referencing everything from Colgate toothpaste to Tesla cars. His shining moment comes early in his verse, when he spits an impressive bar about his 20s: “By 21, I was a savage / By 22, I had a foreign / By 23, I had crashed it.”
“No Instructions” paints Benny as a renaissance man of sorts, as he explains how life on the streets has forced many into a seemingly unbreakable cycle of violence. Benny’s lyricism is on point here, with a heartfelt line about his imperfections and how he has misread relationships in the past, which led to hurtful betrayals at his own expense, made even sadder by an extremely dreary beat from Fraud.
The penultimate track (and final non-single), “Survivor’s Remorse,” plays out exactly like the finale to a good crime flick, serving as a reflection on how far our hero has come while still acknowledging his demons. Painted perfectly by Fraud’s beautifully dark piano beat, Benny and fellow Black Soprano Family member Rick Hyde rap about pulling themselves out of their past lives, as Benny bluntly puts it: “To be this clean, I had to live through the filth.”
Like Jesus rapping about Judas, Benny reminds his listeners that many people will flock to them once they make it, but to also remember those who were there for them before that time comes.
“Your dog’ll get you peeled, for you to stand this tall, I gotta get you stilts / You got plans on getting rich? Well consider this / The ones who expect the most favors ain’t give you s--t”
Despite its excellence, “The Plugs I Met 2” falls short of surpassing its predecessor, failing to recreate the same polished product. The bars, grittiness, production and vulnerability of the sequel are all still amazing, but it would have been nice to see Benny branch out more instead of maintaining the same “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset.
As it stands, “The Plugs I Met 2” is one of the best rap projects to come out 2021, and gives a promising look into the future of Buffalo hip-hop.
Alex Falter is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com