GUESS WHAT TIME IT IS? It’s GRISELDA O’ CLOCK!
It’s been a while since I did a review of anyone Griselda-related, and the label has been both gaining some new players and losing some veterans, such as Conway The Machine leaving to focus on his own label Drumwork, and last month there was the Griselda debut of Queens rapper Rome Streetz. But now we focus on the head, the curator, the leader of Griselda Records: Westside Gunn.
Now when it comes to the original trio (Gunn, Conway, and Benny The Butcher) Benny has great rapping skills, Conway is a damn good lyricist, and Westside Gunn is best at curating a project and putting stuff together. And yet for me, I tend to like his albums the most since I started listening to him. His best (and my favorite) projects to me have been Supreme Blientele and Pray For Paris. Now for this one, this is another entry to his mix tape series Hitler Wears Hermes….. so why is it just named Ten?
Well, after some events involving some anti-Semitic nonsense (you know who), I guess they didn’t want to give it any more fuel even though this is the tenth entry of the series (originating in 2012). And yet the previous installments were HWH 8 and HWH 8B (think Windows logic). Originally, this was supposed to be named Michelle Records but that’s been saved for another album at another time. Now we have this, clocking in at 50 minutes with 12 tracks and the question is what did I think of this last (maybe for real) entry of the series?
Okay, before I get into that, I’m going to say that there isn’t really much of a thematic element in here aside from being a Griselda album, and what they do best is have a lot of braggadocios, talking about luxury things, gunplay, storytelling around NY, and just spitting some bars that are dope as hell, and that’s what I got. The intro’s got some usual trimmings with Bro A.A. Rashid doing some spoken word and it’s on production made by….The RZA. No joke, this sounds like something he would make in his heyday and something that people have been wanting him to do again, and it’s off to a good start.
Then in comes “FlyGod Jr.”, where DJ Drama does his thing, talking about the mixtape series being a decade strong and doing a welcome to the mix tape and the song… it just sounds off to me, at least production-wise, as the beat sounds like some Casio keyboard trap shit. “Super Kick Party” does get back into some of that sound that we know him for with Conductor Williams on the beat and the title of the track is a reference of a catchphrase/theme music of The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), a tag-team currently wrestling for AEW who is known for their fast-paced style and repeated use of superkicks. Yeah, I forgot to mention that Gunn is a big wrestling fan.
“Shootouts in Soho” does get into that drug talk with a guest feature with A$AP Rocky, and the verse isn’t too shabby, but then Stove God Cooks came in and delivered another solid feature verse of his. Note: Stove God Cooks appears in the majority of tracks on here.
Off-White clouds, tell me Virgil in the sky
My bitch like, “Is it Ablo or Abloh?” I don’t know
I know coke, I know Balenciaga coats
I know lighter flames under bent spoons, black smoke
Backstroke through the blood money and the crack smoke
“Peppas” instantly became a highlight of mine and that’s due to the featured verse from Black Star [aka the duo of Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def) and Talib Kweli], and they indeed delivered some great bars, and the production by Conductor Williams sounds phenomenal as hell. On “Nigo Louis”, as usual in some WSG records, we get Westside Pootie talkin’ shit.
Ayy, yo, it’s Westside Pootie and y’all already know what y’all is
When Ason was born, he came home in a Lamborghini
Y’all bums can’t even spell Lamborghini
You ever got kicked out of school for bein’ too fly?
I didn’t think so, and I’m only in the fourth grade
And you should’ve seen what the principal was drivin’, hilarious
“BDP” got a great feature with Rome Streetz spitting some coke bars along with Stove God Cooks in the end and even a small snippet of Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” in the middle for some reason. Yeah, I don’t know why that happened. It’s like on HWH8.A where in the song “vogue cover”, a snippet of an Eddie Levert song in the middle of a track.
If they in the lane, they just roadkill on the pavement (Uh)
It’s GxFR, dangerous, nothin’ to play with
It’s pure poison on your playlist
I’m like dark skin Michael Jackson stylin’, moonwalkin’ on stages (Woo)
I’m a lord, they all hit the floor and give off praises
Still got dog food residue on my razor
Ayo, I move mountains, move work through public housin’ (Ah)
Shootout, shells hit the ground, at least a thousand (Grrrt)
My bitch Nina hit like Ronda Rousey (Boom-boom-boom-boom-boom)
Used to sip cups of purple ’til I was drowsy
“Science Class” is probably the weirdest cut in the album considering when you first hear it, you assume the production is from someone like Madlib or Danger Mouse since it sounds like their style, but in actuality, it’s Swizz Beatz, and the song sampled is called “The 8:17 Northbound Success Merry-Go-Round (demo)” by Margo Guryan. They’re the parts that go “We used to be good friends a long time ago,” and not to mention the guest features for this one are none other than Busta Rhymes, Raekwon and Ghostface Killah. They probably delivered some of the best feature verses on the album. “God Is Love” has got some oddly cinematic yet surreal production from Conductor Williams, which is nothing unusual with the feature from Estee Nack, and I still dig it with Nack and Stove God Cooks’ delivery.
Then the one feature that surprised me when first hearing about it is the track “Switches on Everything” which features none other than Run The Jewels. Yes, you heard me. El-P and Killer Mike on a song associated with Griselda and I definitely love this track. This beat from Mike Shabb is perfectly used here with not much percussion, and El-P & Killer Mike both body this beat. It is amazing and yes, Stove God Cooks is on here yet again, and I have to say while I haven’t listened to an album by him, whenever he’s featured on a project he just has a way of being the most solid and interesting dynamic of it with his delivery and his sing-songy flow a few times. “Mac Don’t Stop” got this buttery, jazzy production courtesy of hip-hop pioneer and legend Pete Rock with Gunn on here solo, and it’s definitely a strong track for him to go on his own.
Usually from I hear, the weakest part about Westside Gunn is that sometimes he relies on features too much and he’s more of a curator than rapper, but I think his personality and the way he executes his style makes it work for me and whenever he does do a solo track, he does have some solid bars.
Now that I got that out of the way, the last track of this album, “Red Death,” is 10 MINUTES LONG and packed with features to boot: Benny The Butcher, Conway The Machine, Armani Caesar, Stove God Cooks, Rome Streetz, Jay Worthy and even Robby Takac of the Goo Goo Dolls, and it’s produced by The Alchemist with DJ Drama handling the intro and outro. The song is a bonafide bars fest, and while it’s very long, it’s a fine way to end the track and hopefully this mixtape series. Thankfully the name that’s not gonna be named isn’t brought up except for saying the title of the mixtape.
Having listening to various Westside Gunn projects in the past, this one is pretty solidly up there. Honestly, I think it’s slightly better than the first HWH8 but not as good as the 2nd half of HWH8. While the features have garnered a lot of attention from me, Gunn is still a solid rapper in his own way that I always look forward to whatever he has coming in the works.
FINAL VERDICT: Buy It. I got no clever segue. Hermes is the name of a French designer he’s referencing, not the Jamaican accountant voiced by Phil LaMarr from FUTURAMA.
10 is on Griselda Records/Empire and is available on digital download and streaming services.