Not even a week into 2021 and the scorching hot Griselda Records is back with a brand new project. Accompanied by member Benny the Butcher’s Black Soprano Family, the two Buffalo powerhouses have released a 15 song soundtrack for Griselda’s first-ever feature film Conflicted. Led by art connoisseur and label founder Westside Gunn, he has brought in big names, including Wale, Smoke DZA, Lloyd Banks, and Dave East, to create the ultimate collaborative experience. With all of this talent scattered around on one record, will Griselda and BSF make hip hop’s next classic soundtrack?
While recent times have shown efforts like these to be poorly arranged scatters of decent moments, Griselda manages to curate this effort in a passable cohesive arrangement that feels cinematic in itself. Between the skits pulled straight from the movie like “Intro” and “I’m Not The Enemy” to the hard-hitting posse cuts like “The Hurt Business,” it’s clear the soundtrack was crafted with a vision many other rap oriented film scores are lacking. Another astounding quality each cut withholds is the lyrical flair and grit the movement is renowned for. Whether it’s Chase Fetti, Heem, Billy V, and Benny’s Black Soprano showcase “Mobbin” or Elcamino, Rick Hyde, and Smoke DZA’s “Squaaaaad,” every name featured brings their A-game. When it comes to the art of collaborating, this is another category the record thrives in, especially on the clash of underground moguls Westside Gunn, Flee Lord, and Eto’s “Ain’t Hit Nobody” and also the Griselda rhymefest between West, Benny, and Armani Caesar on “Mission Accomplished”. On the note of Armani Caesar, hearing the 31-year-old MC in her own space for the first time since her acclaimed debut THE LIZ on the sassy “Nerve of You”. On the other standalone tracks, we see up and comers like the carless YN Billy turn up on “Rank,” while also seeing the socially aware Ransom pour his heart out on the introspective “Pride”. In addition to these hungry artists getting their time to shine, we see the legendary Lloyd Banks show off his god-level pen game on the fierce “Element of Surprise”. As the rest of the record goes, some of the best moments include Flee Lord’s storytelling pinnacle, “Conflicted,” and Boldy James’ newest standout performance on “Voices”. Through all of these typically intense gangsta and coke rap anthems, the one cut that stuck out as emotionally bearing was ‘Welcome Home DMX,” which showcases Dave East and BSF member Jonezy at their lowest. Topped off with a heartwrenching hook from an unmanned female vocalist, the power of this moment is priceless. Out of all these moments of pure passion, both positive and negative, no song is greater than Benny the Butcher’s “3:30 In Houston”. Being made following an attempted robbery that left him shot in the foot multiple times, the 35-year-old MC brings up some of the most scarring topics he has ever covered. Between Griselda, BSF, and the other collaborator’s efforts, the final product manages to contain some of their best performances in recent memory.
Behind the boards, the production is pretty much on par with Griselda’s in-house 2020 efforts, but this is far from a bad thing. You have your hard-hitting Daringer beats in “Ain’t Hit Nobody” and “3:30 In Houston,” but we also see some more unique soundscapes in Ransom’s self-produced soulful “Pride” and Miguel Da Plug’s trap oriented “Rank”. None of the producers who worked on the soundtrack had more input than the late DJ Shay, who created multiple of the project’s best instrumentals. The angelic “Welcome Home DMX”, the energizing “Squaaaaad,” and the lo-fi boom-bap crossover “Voices” are all intuitive and memorable in their own way. Hearing Griselda’s fallen father figure’s instrumentals come to life months after his passing is truly beautiful and a fantastic way to honor his legacy. Besides the previously stated tracks, Icerox’s “Mobbin”, GHOSTDAVE’s “Conflicted,” and Nothing But M’s “Element of Surprise” were some of the other defining sonic showings. While there are no barriers broken here, the in and out of house producers all do a perfect job at upholding the name Griselda has worked relentlessly to build.
In conclusion, Conflicted is honestly right up there with the great rap soundtracks ever made. There’s not a single lackluster track, which is mainly attributed to both the rappers and producers bringing there all. Going forward, I’m super excited to watch Griselda’s brand new movie next week and on top of that, I’m even more eager to see how their reign of dominance will continue in 2021.
- Everyone featured gets their time to shine
- Production does a great job at embodying the Griselda movement
- Artists like Benny the Butcher & Lloyd Banks have some of their most spine chilling performances in recent memory
- Some DJ Shay’s best production is seen here
- Some songs sound a little too repetitive
- Its a movie soundtrack, so the ceiling is only so high