Westside Gunn is a 38-year-old rapper from Buffalo, New York, who has had one of the most successful years in all of hip hop. From the critically acclaimed Pray for Paris to his solid Flygod is an Awesome God 2, the Griselda leader has been considered one of the hottest in the game and justly so. For the past few months, Gunn has been hyping up his highly anticipated Shady Records debut, and after months of delays and speculation, WHO MADE THE SUNSHINE is finally here. With a stacked feature list headlined by his family, Black Thought and Slick Rick, will Westside Gunn be able to create his magnum opus?
Despite the somewhat redundant subject matter at this point, Westside Gunn’s one of a kind energy makes this record one of his most entertaining. Starting on “The Butcher and The Blade”, you can feel the high stakes Griselda is under as West, Benny the Butcher, and Conway the Machine deliver one of their best performances as a trio ever. Adding to this, “Ishkabibble’s” with Black Thought adds to this merciless feeling as the pair lyrically lights up the track as they talk about the risks of gang culture. Contributing to the album’s much-needed depth, the Boldy James and Jadakiss collaboration “All Praises” along with “Ocean Prime” featuring Slick Rick and Busta Rhymes pose some fairly interesting thinking pieces. From Jada talking about the Coronavirus’s current state to hearing a 55-year-old Uncle Rick talk about how “the cop shot the kid” over 30 years later, there is a lot of knowledge to take in here. Teaming up with Flee Lord, Smoke DZA, Estee Nack, Steve God Cook$, and ElCamino on “Frank Murphy”, the super team creates a grief-filled emotional anthem about mourning deceased family and friends. “Good Night”, which also features Slick Rick, was a definite highlight as the two tell an in-depth story where Westside Gunn raps from the perspective of a robber, and Slick Rick continues the tale from the view of a rookie cop on his trail. While most of the moments on the record were enjoyable, “Liz Loves Luger” with Armani Caesar was nearly unlistenable as Wetside Gunn’s overly vivid storytelling of him having sexual intercourse was unsettling and quite frankly gross to hear about. Aside from this, even under the radar cuts like “Big Basha’s” and “Lessie” do their job exceptionally well as they ease tension and build upon Westside Gunn’s ever-growing character arc. Ending things off, “98 Sabers” sounded like less of an outro for the record but more like a finale to Westside Gunn’s career as he gets signee Armani Caesar teamed up with his half brother Conway and cousin Benny for one last lyrical annihilation. Overall, while the concept referred to in the “Sunshine Intro” is nearly nonexistent, Westside Gunn’s commercial debut highlights everything that has made him one of the most gifted MC’s over the past five years.
Sonically, WHO MADE THE SUNSHINE isn’t as luxurious as Pray for Paris, but the talented production team behind it makes it feel like a refined version of some of Westside’s grimiest records. While cuts like “Big Basha’s” and “Good Night” contain the straight forward production seem seen on almost every Griselda record, the undertone of each song puts it in a more accessible lense than ever. Stepping up, “The Butcher and The Blade” evolves this formula as Beat Butcha and Daringer strengthen the drums and sample placement to make one of the hardest beats Buffalo’s big three has ever rapped over. Completely altering their sound, “Leesie” and “Liz Lovers Luger” contain some of the most commercially viable instrumentals ever seen from the entire Griselda camp. Production heavyweight Just Blaze’s intense and intricate “98 Sabers” beat leaves the listener with a lasting impact as he creates the perfect closing statement. Even with being slightly redundant within its sonic boundaries, Westside Gunn’s major-label debut has an above-average soundtrack accompanying it.
In conclusion, while WHO MADE THE SUNSHINE is not the mind-boggling offering Westside Gunn hyped it up to be, but it’s still an action-packed experience that captures every single element of Griselda’s empire. From Wetside’s outstanding lyricism to the show-stealing features, there’s so much to be admired here. On the contrary, the repetitive and somewhat bland production harms the record, and the subject matter suffers from the same fate. Going forward, I’m not sure if this will be Westside Gunn’s last album, but if it is, the surreal amount he was able to accomplish in merely four years is mind-boggling and will probably never be matched by any artist past or present.
- Proficient/intricate lyricism
- Amazing posse cuts
- Show stealing features
- Summarizes/wraps up Westside Gunn era in Griselda dynasty
- Excellent Storytelling
- Slick Rick proves he is a top tier lyricist
- Lack of new ideas
- Poorly executed concept
- Beats can feel very similar to other Griselda songs
- Some filler