While being admired for his relentless work ethic, Griselda’s Benny the Butcher has not released a solo project since June 2019s, The Plugs I Met. This year, the 35-year-old Buffalo MC has reached new heights, signing to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, becoming one of the most desirable feature artists in the game, and receiving consigns from Kanye West and Drake, to name a few. For the last year, Benny’s been locked in the studio with industry titan Hit-Boy, who himself has had one of the best runs this year executive producing for Nas and Big Sean. Combining their efforts, the two have delivered the long-awaited Burden of Proof. Being one of the most hyped-up albums of the year, will Benny the Butcher’s newest offering be his best?
Even with lyrically barraging the listener, Burden of Proof sticks out from the rest of Benny’s projects due to the forward-thinking and topical versatility within each song. Whether he’s valuing money over clout on “Famous” or the legacy he’s leaving on “Legend”, the Butcher’s newfound knowledge of stardom seems to have changed his outlook on life. At its pinnacle, Benny uses his drug-dealing past as an allusion to the current corruption within the music industry on “New Streets” as he makes one of the most brilliant storytelling displays this year. Although he’s known for ruthlessly moving weight and catching bodies, Benny is still a human, and for the first time in his whole career, “Trade It All” and “Thank God I Made It” make it visible to all listening. Bringing things full circle, his cousins and label cofounders Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine let out their demons on “War Paint” as the iconic trio makes possibly their final pact ever. Lightening the mood, the Rick Ross featured “Where Would I Go” and “One Way Flight” with Freddie Gibbs shows Benny and company with a positive outlook on the hardships endured over their lives. Furthering these themes of triumph, “Over The Limit” with DOM KENNEDY shows the two staring through their rear views as they make a toast to the future. Even with all of his artistic expansion, the Black Soprano Family leader still gets in a fair share of lyrical jabs on the bangers “Sly Green” and “Timeless” with Lil Wayne and Big Sean. As stated in the self-titled intro track, Benny the Butcher is back and better than ever as he comes full circle as an MC and, more importantly, an artist.
Behind the boards, Hit-Boy’s depth and range as a producer continues to leave me in awe. Creating each instrumental with such intricacy, there’s not a single moment of dullness with its tight running time of 38 minutes. Whether its angelic soul samples on “Where Would I Go” and “Thank God I Made It” or the spine chilling guitar riffs that dominant “Famous”, the emotion packed into the production only further personifies Benny’s top-notch performance. Hit-Boy’s newfound niche for creating engaging minimalistic loops like “One Way Flight” and “War Paint” is seen throughout, and it’s a true testament to his greatness as he has a foot in nearly every style of hip hop production. A definite standout was “Sly Green” as its drums mix with a Hendrix sounding electric gutair riff to form an epic gangster anthem. Adding character to the album, vocal clips from crime movies and tv shows raise the steaks even higher. None were more impactful than “Burden Of Proof”s closing skit as it is an extended version of the Scarface scene used in Jay-Z’s 1996 hit “Can’t Knock the Hustle”. As a whole, Hit-Boy’s impact on elevating artists is yet again proven as his all-around skillset makes Burden of Proof the most sonically pleasing record in Griselda’s history.
For most of 2020, Griselda has only been in competition with themselves as they keep one-upping each other in the race for album of the year. While Boldy James, Westside Gunn, and Conway’s work has been spectacular, everything has culminated into this moment as Benny the Butcher eclipses them all with Burden of Proof. Not stepping away from the moment, the Butcher shows he has ice in his veins, delivering the most powerful and driven performance of his entire career. Completing the experience, Hit-Boy silences Griselda’s doubters as he rips up their gritty roots for something much more fitted to a release of this magnitude. Going forward, I don’t know what Benny the Butcher’s planning next, but I would go as far to say he is the best rapper in the world at this very moment!
- Benny’s most versatile performance
- Addresses deep topics
- Beautifully arranged/produced
- Amazing features
- Offers something for all moods
- Still profound lyrically