Pre-2020 criticisms of Griselda were founded in monotonous flows, stale production, and overly-hypebeast attitude. But with seven stellar albums this year from Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, Armani Caesar, and Benny the Butcher, not to mention a wonderful project from fellow Buffalo resident Billie Essco, Griselda has proven that Buffalo is here to stay.
Stamping Griselda on the map for many casual listeners in 2020 was Westside Gunn’s elite-tier album Pray for Paris, which dropped April 17. Led by smooth single “327” amidst a blizzard of a tracklist which features drug-pushing lyricism and a memorable, high-pitched delivery from Westside, this album was well-timed and established momentum for the group.
And while it took until later in the year for things to heat up, with Flygod is an Awesome God 2 falling flat in the heat of summer, September and October would be two huge months for the group. Each member of Griselda dropped in these eight weeks, making them impossible to avoid.
Conway the Machine’s From a King to a GOD was the first of this latest flurry, with A+ production from contributors such as Murda Beatz and complementary features that support Conway’s talents, keeping his voice interesting throughout the whole album. “Anza” is one of the album’s biggest highlights, featuring labelmate Armani Caesar, rocking a stripped-down, bop-ya-head beat that Conway rides like a Lamborghini on the highway. Armani’s verse is just as smooth, completing the track as one of the most streaming-friendly tracks on the album. “Seen Anything But Jesus” silences the haters that say Conway can’t sing, as he takes on the hook and chorus, ceding room to friend of Griselda, Freddie Gibbs, for the verses. All in the span of 50 minutes, Conway plants the Griselda flag smack dab in the middle of the hip-hop landscape, demanding to be heard as the God he knows himself to be.
Following that up was Griselda’s First Lady, Armani Caesar. On Sept. 18, she dropped THE LIZ, a no-bullshit album full of hard-hitting bars. Her raps are on point throughout the project, showing off over a set of beats that range from signature Griselda, with frenetic piano sections and heavy hip-hop drums, to more bouncy instrumentals that see her flex an ear-catching flow.
Westside Gunn turned the heat back up with WHO MADE THE SUNSHINE, which dropped Oct. 2. While satisfying many fans, I doubt it reached much further, as dull basslines and muted piano riffs flattened his signature high-pitched flows. It was frankly confusing, given the beautiful heights he reached on Pray for Paris.
(in the caption in the block of the embedded video, give credit to @nickenaigbe on IG)
Perhaps the next best of Griselda’s great 2020, Benny the Butcher lived up to hype with his second solo studio album, Burden of Proof, dropped Oct. 16. With head-banging, lip-snarling coke-anthems throughout the project, the combination of Benny and celebrated producer Hit-Boy turned out to be a beautiful thing. “Burden of Proof,” “Sly Green,” “One Way Flight (ft. Freddie Gibbs),” and “Timeless (ft. Lil Wayne and Big Sean)” are standout tracks. Also, in my favorite bar of the whole project or maybe the year, Benny raps, “The promotin’ I did, Pyrex should be givin’ me pots.” Benny is looking for a brand deal for his cocaine-whipping expertise, and I respect the hustle.
It’s hard to imagine Griselda’s best will keep dropping albums at this rate for much longer, but with how high they’ve kept their standards, we can’t doubt them.