Griselda gang assemble, as today we ask and answer: Which member of Griselda is the best member of Griselda? Westside Gunn? Benny The Butcher? Conway The Machine?
Per the headline, the answer is every member of Griselda.
Not convinced? DJBooth Managing Editor Donna-Claire Chesman and staff writer Dylan “CineMasai” Green break down exactly why each member of the prolific Buffalo rap collective is, in fact, its best member.
Their bulletproof reasoning follows below.
Westside Gunn is the best member of Griselda for a handful of pertinent reasons: His voice, his “doo doo doo” ad-libs, his passion for fine art, and his unwavering confidence in himself and his crew. In an era where upcoming rappers sound like offspring of the big three—Drizzy, Kenny, and Cole—Westside Gunn has an unmistakable tone and cadence. Besides, if you ask Gunn, he’s already classic. Fans see Gunn as the figurehead of Griselda. In that breath, Gunn takes his role seriously, always big-upping the crew and talking about his vision for Griselda to be in the same pantheon of hip-hop as Wu-Tang and Mobb Deep.
Aside from his sincerity, Gunn is also the best curator of the Griselda gang. While the collected Griselda discography runs deep, Gunn’s albums feature the most airtight structure, pulse, and dynamic movement. Gunn has an excellent ear for production and pacing. He understands the way a record has to swell and break to keep his audience engaged. Look no further than the chandelier crash of an album that is Supreme Blientele, his high art opus. Each move Gunn makes on Blientele is with the next 10 in mind. With that, Gunn’s albums come together as perfectly crafted bodies of work, not just collections of dope tracks. —Donna-Claire Chesman
Mafioso rap is all about flourish. As the de facto leader of Griselda Records, flourish might as well be Westside Gunn’s middle name. He tells tales of close calls and cut dope, sucking the air out of a room like an aristocrat eagerly describing a new chandelier to their neighbors. He makes lobster and fried rice sound like cordon bleu. With a larger than life personality and distinct squawk, Gunn revels in both the pains and pleasures of life. After all, the Balenciagas mean less if they don’t pay tribute to his family, both living and dead.
That patented mix of grime and opulence further extends to Gunn's ear for production. Every beat he picks sounds like money. His flows move with the music, as fluid and nasty as sewer water in July. From FlyGod to Supreme Blientele, Westside Gunn brings a unique, lively spark to every project he crafts. He sounds excited to be here, and that excitement is infectious. —Dylan “CineMasai” Green
Benny The Butcher
How can anyone beat out Benny The motherfucking Butcher? There’s so much power to his announcing, “The Butcher coming, n***a” at the top of a track. Benny’s gruff vocal and gruesome pen game make him the best member of the Griselda gang. Benny’s boasts are full-bodied and always in the realm of reality. Like any good writer, Benny writes about what he knows, resurrecting his past street tales in vivid detail. His bars not only bring coke raps to an urgent life, but they also remind us that coke raps will never die. Not to mention, on his latest project, The Plugs I Met, Benny was essentially knighted by the patron saint of coke raps, Pusha-T.
We have to award Benny The Butcher the crown because he makes EPs feel like albums, and albums feel like epics. The Plugs I Met packs more fearsome punch and awe than most triple-A releases this year. The layers and allusions to previous work make the EP out to be a discography staple and not a repackaging of throw-aways. There’s also Benny’s incredible work ethic. He recorded “a whole album in two days with Westside and Conway” before jumping into a full project with Smoke DZA. The Butcher is coming, and The Butcher is unstoppable. —Donna-Claire Chesman
Benny The Butcher makes stoicism an artform. What else would you expect from someone who calls themselves “The Butcher”? He knows when and where to direct his energy. Every bar is a jab to the ribs, a pointed and earned slice of dope boy wisdom that doesn’t go to waste. Holding his own with veteran dope boys Black Thought and Pusha-T on the same project should be all the proof we need.
Over the past few years, Benny has proven to be the most well-rounded member of the Griselda Gang. His bars are fierce, his technique is solid, and his perspective is clear and cutting. Crafting an EP like The Plugs I Met to have the same impact as a full-length project like Tana Talk 3 is no small feat. Neither is stealing the show from his flamboyant cousin Westside Gunn on three separate features on Supreme Blientele. It’s all in a day’s work for The Butcher. —Dylan “CineMasai” Green
Conway The Machine
I mean, come on, he’s called “The Machine” for a reason. Just listen to his gnashing delivery, his admirable ear for horrifying beats, and allow your skin to crawl at the sight of his ghastly writing. Conway does not busy himself with long-winded metaphors or overwrought imagery. As a writer, he gets to the chilling heart of the matter. Take the opener, “Devil’s Work,” from 2018’s BLAKK TAPE, where Conway calmly recites: “Raised up by our granny, sleep on the floor in the living room / Seen my man mama puttin’ the lighter to a dinner spoon.” There is no sensationalism here, Conway is merely a reporter on the scene. For that reason alone, we must admire him.
Conway The Machine’s face is half-paralyzed, and yet, he spits better than a majority of the rappers in his peer group. His delivery is crushing and absolute. Conway positively mauls every beat he finds. Nothing stands between him and his passion for music, as well as his passion for his brothers in Griselda. He’s the street-dreams everyman we’ve all been waiting for. As Conway told us earlier this year, “We ain’t playing. We at everybody’s neck. Foot on neck season!” —Donna-Claire Chesman
The fact that Conway The Machine is rapping at all is nothing short of miraculous. A bullet to the back of the head paralyzed half of his face and almost ended his life in 2012; but, like Supreme prices, he rises. There’s a confidence in Conway’s voice that’s undeniable. “My shit is album of the year, and it ain’t even out,” he shouts on “Brutus,” and I’ll take him at his word every time.
More than anything, Conway values technique. His use of slant rhymes and stilted bars make for a flow that is both vicious and understated, striking like a cobra. He keeps you off-balance but invested. —Dylan “CineMasai” Green