griselda
Michael Tyrone Delaney

Consisting of brothers Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine, and their first cousin Benny the Butcher–Buffalo’s, Griselda, are a gritty throwback rap group in the same vein as Wu-Tang and G-Unit. The beats are grimy, the bars are dense, and choruses are an afterthought. Simulated machine gun vocal ad-libs, and luxury fashion references punctuate distorted stuttering drum patterns and choppy samples, as the trio goes bar-for-bar spitting about shopping on Fairfax and bagging up cocaine in the same verse.  On “Dr Birds,” the catchy refrain of ‘tell Virgil write brick on my brick’ is about as close to a hook as they get and is emblematic of their visceral balance of substance and style. They caught the attention of Eminem a few years back and released their Shady Records debut, WWCD in late 2019. They also recently signed to JAY-Z’s Roc Nation management, meaning two of the top rappers of all-time have given them a very firm co-sign. 

Sarah Jacobs/ONE37pm

Westside Gunn aka “Flygod” raps in a frenetic, high-pitched tone and his verses feel at once anxious and self-assured. His Hitler Wears Hermes mixtape series is both critically acclaimed and standoffish, with the name purposely featuring obvious allusions to abject violence and high-end luxury. This almost feels like a more threadbare, Post-Modernist approach to Notorious B.I.G’s tactic of paralleling “machine-gun funk” and his “ashy-to-classy” homage to opulence and good taste. Gunn’s deft ability to make you feel simultaneously aspirational with references to high-art and high-fashion, and terrified by his gritty, barebones accounts of the drug game is as good an example of the duality of hip-hop as there is. Popular culture looks to rappers both as icons to be emulated, and pariahs to be feared which is a viewpoint that can also be ascribed to America’s treatment of black culture on the whole. We appropriate and profit off of their art but refuse to give them proper credit for its creation, instead downplaying the skill that goes into lyrics such as: 

“Up the Whitney, got the mac with me
Hid behind the Warhol, dip to Bergdorf, shot up the whole store
Cherry ’57, in the ‘Bach learning lessons
Crack ain’t dry, and it be ready in a second
Forty chains on, halo, I’m a God,
Fear of God jogger, rocking n*gga, I don’t even jog”

  • Taken from “Dr. Birds” off of Griselda’s WWCD

Those six bars almost read like a plot summary of a Scorsese film, or at the very least a classic Guy Ritchie heist flick about art thieves obsessed with luxury brands. It’s no surprise then, that Gunn has dabbled in fashion design with atypical merch drops without direct references to the artist himself. His pieces instead feature doctored images of iconic pro wrestlers like Rick Flair and Owen Hart, and the Russian word “cemokhnot,” which translates to a God-like omnipotence; probably a play on his Flygod alias. 

Patta

If Westiside Gunn is the jumpy younger brother, Conway the Machine embodies the tough, confident older brother persona. His voice is gruff and menacing, and his flow is smooth, and consistent featuring multiple consecutive rhymes and internal syllable patterns rather than stand-alone referential bars like Gunn. He suffers from Bell’s Palsy facial paralysis as a result of being shot in the head and neck, which ads a slight RZA-meets-50 Cent lisp to his gritty flow. He is significantly more subdued than 50 or RZA though, and he carries himself with a nonchalant swagger that stems from being both supremely confident and absolutely fearless. He can hold his own bar-for-bar with top rappers like Eminem, but his delivery actually downplays his ability to turn out complex rhyme structures. You barely notice as he spits 16 consecutive bars all playing off of the same rhyme sound, because he sounds like it means nothing to him: 

“Look, lil’ brodie let off his .30, he ain’t even flinch
Caught the body, dipped to the A, nobody seen him since
560 Benz and I ain’t need the tints
My weakest scent cost more than your momma need for rent
That’s just one zip, the drum rip, leave you rinsed
Hide the body for a week and it’s gon’ leave a stench
Rappers come to my city, they gon’ need consent
Cause we already know you pussy n*gga, we convinced
I told Virgil, write “Brick” on my brick
The nicest with this shit, ain’t write this, I just spit
White bitch on my dick, this ice drip on my fist
No shoe deal, but look at all this Nike shit that I get
On dope street, it’s white shit that I pitch
Two in the morning, on the corner, night shift with my blick
No soda in this Off-White shit that I whip
I’m rich, put all this Off-White shit on my bitch”

  • Taken from “Dr. Birds” off of Griselda’s WWCD

His latest release, an EP called LULU with famed producer The Alchemist, dropped March 30 and is being promoted alongside a capsule collection with Dutch streetwear brand, Patta, featuring a suitably menacing image of a great White Shark with jaws wide open. The lead single, “Shooting Sideways” features top West-Coast rapper, Schoolboy Q, in an interesting role singing the hook over a rolling, hypnotic loop that feels vaguely similar to the Jaws theme. Conway obviously comes correct, and his verses feel like he is spitting them while driving around the city with his car seat reclined way back, as he stares down any challenger who gets in his way. The beat, bars, and hook make this one an instant classic. 

WireImage/Prince Williams

Benny the Butcher slides perfectly in between the high-energy, high-pitched statement style employed by Gunn, and the laid-black, rhyme-heavy nonchalance of Conway. He is the mid-point between the two, but definitely stands alone as an artist. His bouncy flow could fit solidly on any Wu-Tang group track and he specifically sounds a bit like a combination of Inspectah Deck and Black Hippy’s, Ab Soul. He almost raps like he is sparring or shadowboxing, with individual couplets representing a jab and punchlines punctuating like an uppercut. He knows the weight of his words and doesn’t let any bar fall short; he follows through on every stanza. His lyrical content is classic East Coast mafioso braggadocio delivered in a smug, New York state accent with a matter-of-fact tone. Mob imagery from his lyrics extends onto his album artwork with “The Plugs I Met” featuring doctored stills from Scarface, and “A Friend of Ours” pulling art from The Sopranos. His straightforward, cypher MC style is easy to digest, and almost journalistic in its simplicity, as evidenced by the verse below:

“Yo, I gave cocaine to users, and okays to shooters
I’m cocky, vintage Versace with the stone face Medusas
Sopranos, and Margianos, we got gold-plated Rugers
This pistol’ll backflip you and blow your whole frame to puro
Got all eyes on us, can we chill? Eatin’ with snakes’ll probably get him killed
‘Cause trust me, every family got a Henry Hill
And every man don’t got a BENNY skill
When you this dope, it take least fifty mil’ just to sit me still” 

  • Taken from “Dr. Birds” off of Griselda’s WWCD

Like the Wu-Tang Clan and G-Unit before them, they definitely benefit from strength in numbers, but every one of them has merit as a solo artist and adds a different element to the group’s overall appeal. Layer-by-layer, or “brick-by-brick” as they might say, Griselda is carefully stacking up accolades, co-signs, and classic tracks as they position themselves as next-in-line for the crown as rap’s top rap group; an empire in the making. Fresh off of touring on the back of WWCD (which stands for ‘What Would Chine Gun Do’) Griselda might just single-handedly bring gritty street rap back to the forefront. If not, they’ll definitely turn a few heads trying.