By Jared Graf, Asst. Arts & Features Editor
Another month, another Hit-Boy produced album – this one coming in the form of Benny the Butcher’s second studio album, “Burden of Proof.”
Released just last month, the project is a gritty, yet intimate masterpiece that finds Benny out of his element and proves Hit-Boy can adapt to any artist’s style.
With only 12 tracks, there’s not much room for error on “Burden of Proof,” and remarkably there is none.
The project starts off strong with the self-titled introduction, which finds Benny rapping with a chip on his shoulder. Over boom-bap production that the Buffalo native is no stranger to, his tough-talking tirade begins.
“I was young in my prison phases, how you know you really gangster / Jail cells where I learned decision making,” Benny spits over production reminiscent of early Roc-A-Fella days. On a song complete with high caliber rap and immaculately chopped up samples, the only complaint is that it should have been longer.
The same formula is used on “New Streets,” as we get one long verse from Benny over a classic soul sample loop – the only difference is the laid-back tempo. The song is the offspring of drug-laced rap and your grandma’s favorite oldies tune, and although that may seem like an odd combination, it doesn’t sound like one.
Contrary to most of his peers, Benny attempts to vilify street life by speaking on the real consequences that came with his drug dealing days, such as death and prison.
The rapper gets his message across by relating rather than preaching. “I was you, not comprehending or understanding it / Losses turn into pain, then they become advantages,” he says at the end of his verse.
“One Way Flight” has a similar tone, as old-school vocal samples accompany modern-day drums, allowing Benny to properly boast about selling drugs and his multiple flings with women.
Drug-rap kingpin Freddie Gibbs assists Benny with the hook, and contributes a verse of his own toward the end. “You gon cry in that Toyota or this Maybach?” Gibbs facetiously asks his female companion.
The album’s pinnacle comes at the half-way mark with “Famous,” a grimy joint with hard-hitting drums and a woozy bass line.
The track serves as a reflection of Benny’s past and coming to terms with his newfound notoriety. His raps are visceral, as there’s more storytelling than thought in them.
“Get in the booth, I recall it then record it,” Benny says on “Famous.” Almost every line on the project touches on real life experiences, making for quality content that isn’t fake or dramatized.
The 35-year-old rapper’s aggressive delivery is best displayed on “Sly Green,” a track full of braggadocious quotables and fierce wordplay. “I’m a Christian Dior shirt rocker, two Glock wearer / Only rapper that would’ve thrived in the 2Pac era,” Benny spits on the track’s opening lines.
“Over The Limit” is Benny’s attempt at game-day music, and he knocks it out of the park. The song is the soundtrack to an exuberant lifestyle, and Benny affirms this as he even compares his driveway to a highway rest stop at one point.
On “Timeless,” hip-hop heavyweights Lil Wayne and Big Sean join the Butcher to spit motivational bars over a scrapped “Watch the Throne” beat Hit-Boy made nearly 10 years ago.
Although the production is old, the rappers are able to make it sound fresh and contemporary.
The production on “Burden of Proof” is noticeably less polished than Hit-Boy’s other releases, but that’s to be expected when paired with Benny’s raw style – which is why it works so well.
Fans have come to know and love Benny for his sinister, grimy sound, but the crisp, up-beat production from Hit-Boy proves he can flourish without relying on frequent collaborators, such as Alchemist or Daringer.
There’s not a single skip on the album – each track is adrenaline-pumping victory music, even those with soul samples. The Butcher’s style is so unique and energetic that he could rap about paint drying and make it exciting.
He doesn’t necessarily rap fast, but packs so many syllables into a line that it’s surprising to hear them all fit. Each bar is woven together so tightly that there’s barely any breathing room on the album.
Benny literally does not miss a beat.
“Burden of Proof” is the Buffalo wordsmith’s first real taste of victory, as he highlights more wins than losses and expands his palette to new sounds.
The project sounds more like a scoring for “Scarface” than it does a Griselda album.
Soul samples have never made drug rap sound this good.