Unlike his fellow Griselda labelmates, Benny the Butcher took a reasonably sized gap between releasing solo projects, but finally, fans have been blessed with the long-awaited Burden of Proof. Though not his first project of the year, as he led Da Respected Sopranos with his Black Soprano Family imprint to showcase his independent label, this new album is our first taste of Benny’s solo work since the critically acclaimed The Plugs I Met, released in June 2019. To add on to the already growing hype behind the rapper’s latest release, elite producer Hit-boy was behind the boards for all twelve tracks after already having a stellar 2020 by executively producing Nas’s King’s Disease and making major contributions to other major albums like Big Sean’s Detroit 2.
As you could expect from any of Benny the Butcher’s work, Burden of Proof contains stellar lyricism that checks off all the categories a hip-hop enthusiast would look for. Wordplay, detailed storytelling, and especially punchlines are all present throughout the project and keep the audience engaged from top to bottom. The rapper illustrates his lifestyle in a straightforward yet attention grabbing way so that the listener can easily digest what is being said, all while still being impressed by his talent. Each track also feels well placed within the tracklisting and has the perfect transitional flow from song to song, truly distinguishing Burden of Proof as an album opposed to mixtape or an EP. The album also contains one of the deepest, and best, cuts in the Buffalo rapper’s catalog with “Thank God I Made It” which opens up with the bars “I was raised by a woman, so shout out to single mothers, who had to teach their teenage boys to use rubbers”, which already sets up an emotional tone for the rest of the track that follows. Songs like these really expose a lot of vulnerability from rappers, especially from those that try and reflect a stone cold lifestyle on most of their records, and are arguably the best sort of music for fans to connect with.
Burden of Proof contains arguably the perfect number of features, to balance between Benny’s own raps and the help from a couple high profile artists who lend their talents to the album. The first single released, “Timeless”, features Lil Wayne, Big Sean, and Benny all delivering a verse each however it’s Weezy who steals the show and ends his verse by saying, “I chop the hands off the clock, that mean I’m timeless, don’t time me, I’m forever”, truly attesting to his longevity in the rap game. Dom Kennedy, Queen Naija, and Freddie Gibbs all contribute powerful hooks to individual tracks, with the latter also delivering a verse as well. The final credited appearances on the album come from Rick Ross on “Where Would I Go” and Conway the Machine and Westside Gunn on “War Paint”, both being exceptional songs. The vocal contributions don’t stop there as there are a couple outros throughout the album but two major legends in hip hop stick out, those being Pain In Da Ass, famously known for delivering skits on Jay-Z’s first few albums, and The Madd Rapper, a persona first introduced on the classic “Kick in the Door” by the late, great Biggie Smalls, who appear on “Burden of Proof” and “War Paint”, respectively.
Hit-Boy’s production on the album is easily one of the main talking points around the album, as it should be. Every beat feels way different from what fans are used to in a Griselda tape, with a lot more upbeat production, giving the project and genre a completely refreshed sense of feel. With that being said, Benny still finds a way to effortlessly slide on these instrumentals containing these outstanding samples all without compromising his subject matter. Plus, the one and only Young Guru mixed Burden of Proof, proving that only legends were behind the production of the album.
After a couple of listens, the album only gets better, in my opinion, and it is easily a contender for one of the top albums of the year. The only valid negatives against Benny’s work would be within the subject matter and flow, both of which are relatively similar to previous projects. However, when diving into a Griselda album, you know what to expect and Benny goes above and beyond any of the previous expectations fans had.
Interview By: Sushrut Shendey