Oh, lookie! It’s that time again! It’s GRISELDA ‘O CLOCK!!
Usually, when it comes to Griselda and its affiliates, they would have an album every few months or so, but that’s been Conway the Machine in 2023 (even though he’s not on the Griselda label anymore). Benny The Butcher has been quiet outside of a few features here and there as we still wait for his Def Jam debut but that’s all. And thus, we have Westside Gunn, who’s also been relatively quiet on the music front, outside of doing a feature on Travis Scott’s Utopia a few months back.
Last year, I reviewed 10, and I thought that mixtape was good (and thank god he managed to avoid naming it that other name), but we now have his fifth and final studio album with And Then You Pray For Me, the sequel to his 2020 album Pray For Paris. Before you ask, he isn’t planning on retiring soon, he’s just not going to do studio albums anymore.
There’s been some anticipated buzz surrounding the album, mainly from pics of him hanging with JID and Denzel Curry as they are some of the buzzed about features on the album. So, with this being the last studio album of FlyGod, how was it?
First off… this is a very hefty album. 21 tracks running over an hour and 15 minutes and surprisingly, not the longest album released in October so far (thank Drake and Bad Bunny for that). Given this is his final studio album, he’s going to give it his all, and this is where we go to the production. If you’re expecting the same production we got on Pray for Paris, you are going to be so sorely disappointed.
Like on 10, you do get a mix of that classic boom-bap sound with soul samples and loops, but you also get some trap sounds. I get the sense that the hardcore Griselda fans may not like that but honestly, sometimes even the boom-bap by itself can get stale so it’s fine that there’s a mix of trap beats in here. However, when it comes to Westside on these beats, his flow on them is slower on here than most. A good example is the track “Kostas” where Gunn’s verse is fine and his flow might be slow yet never awful. However, he did get outshone by Benny The Butcher and Conway The Machine as them and trap production often goes hand in hand, even if Conway did his verse while he was on anesthesia (No, I don’t know why he did that). Props to Tay Keith on the production as it delivers on that ferocious and punchy sound that strikes.
Then there’s “1989” with DJ Drama and Stove God Cooks where Gunn’s vocals are lowered and saturated, DJ Drama doing the intro, outro and the usual ‘Gangsta Grizills!”line, and Stove God Cooks being what he always is in these projects: the MVP of the album (we’ll get to that later). “JD Wrist” has Gunn and Stove God again with Estee Nack and The Trap-A-Holics mostly there for ad-libs. And in case you don’t know who they are, they’re the ones that go “DAMN SON, WHERE’D YOU FIND THIS?” This sounds like the mix didn’t go so well, like they’re far away, especially with Estee Nack’s verse. I did like his flow on the track, though.
Oh, and Westside Pootie delivers another ‘f the haters’ skit near the end of the track. It’s always hilarious.
Big booty on my lap, big bankroll don’t fit in my pockets
Midnight riding ’round town, get his ass whacked tryna get at my profit
Put a nigga down, every service leaking like faucets
I be drippin’ in designer sauces, got a bitch living like bosses
I didn’t care much for “LL BOOL GUNN” as some of the production from Miguel Da Plug was kind of meh. I would comment on how brief the song is but this album is long enough. “DunnHill” was decent with the Rick Ross feature, “Ultra GriZelda” with Denzel Curry is a banger, and I enjoyed “Steve and Jony” with EST Gee, as the latter’s got a nice flow from both Gunn and EST Gee. “Disgusting” with Giggs has that dark and eerie vibe, and it was fine as well: very fitting to Giggs to rap on something like this.
Kissed me on both cheeks and said “Westside, you look like money” (Mwah)
Fishbowl on the Maybach truck, sippin’ Ace while it’s jumpy (Ah)
McLaren Road, in a McLaren Road (Skrrt)
You niggas is food (Ah), see me fashion week June
I’m not in the mood (Uh-uh), bitch, don’t fuck up my groove (Fuck up my groove)
I fuck ’em in twos, look at my jewels
Yeah, I know that I’m starting out with the tracks that are the most trap-sounding because I knew that some people might not love, it but the trap sounds are decent and while Gunn rapping on them can vary from decent to meh, at least he’s willing to do some different stuff instead of being in this box that most of his die-hard fans put him in.
That being said, most of them ended up being my favorites on the album.
The one standout is “Kitchen Lights,” with Stove God Cooks and production from this producer based in Russia named DJ Benoit. This is a heavenly sounding song, like you ascend from the Earth to the heavens once you hear that drum-less loop mixed that with SGC’s singing on the hook, and it’s beautiful.
“Mamas Primetime” was a good starter (after the AA Rashid intro) to the album, and we get JID on some of these Griselda beats who sounds immaculate.
Niggas know they can’t compare
My attitude is Laissez-faire
You do you and I do me, I’m down the street, stay over there
Clip long as well, when it block, it look like Clint Capela
Story teller sellin’ Snow White, weed, even Cinderella
Either way, ain’t nobody gon’ get nothin’ for free, I’m takin over
I can make the Devil sell his soul to me
“House of Glory” has this enduring soul sample that’s mesmerizing but whenever it gets to the vocals, it immediately gets cut. What’s also surprising is that this is produced by The RZA. Granted, RZA and Griselda have linked up before, and this is pretty close to the classic sound that RZA is known for. I also never expected to hear Ty Dolla $ign on a Westside Gunn track with “Chloe” but thinking about it, it is basically a Westside Gunn love song so he might be needed there. It’s not as unromantic as “Liz Loves Luger,” but it does the job right.
For songs that have that Griselda grimy feel, “Jalen Rose” and “The Revenge of Flips Leg” fulfills that need with Daringer and Conductor Williams on the production, respectively, and they killed it. Plus, the features from Boldy James and Rome Streets are always great as well. Then there’d the finale, being the title track “AND THEN YOU PRAY FOR ME” with KayCyy… although it’s mostly him on the track solo and it ends.
I’ll say that going through a lot of re-listens of either the whole album or each individual track on occasion, that this might be the most polarizing album in terms of Westside Gunn’s studio albums. When he does rap on something that isn’t always boom-bap or anything with a soul sample, he can sound good on it; maybe not the best when there’s some features with him but he doesn’t sound horrible on them. A bit slow but he’s good with the flow on them and of course, the boom-bap section does hit well although I wish he had some Alchemist or Camouflage Monk production in there.
If I had to rank this out of his five studio albums, this one would be 4th. (Supreme Blientele is #1, Pray For Paris #2, FlyGod #3 & WHO MADE THE SUNSHINE #5) Still, it’s another solid Westside Gunn album and while this is his last studio album, he isn’t going away anytime soon.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY IT…..and then you play for me.
AND THEN YOU PRAY FOR ME is on Griselda Records/Empire and is available on CD, digital download and streaming services.