If there’s one word that describes Benny The Butcher’s rapping style, it’s consistency. For years, he’s been a staple of Griselda Records’ old-school lyricism alongside his cousins Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine. Together, they form the core of what is arguably the most adept 90’s-style hip-hop group since Death Row Records. Benny and his cohorts know their niche, and they’ve carved out a role in the hip-hop industry where they continue to build on past successes.
Unlike most rappers today, Benny does not rely on the crutch of banging 808’s and hi-hats to make his lyrics pop. Furthermore, he doesn’t need to spend seven figures to get a pop singer to drop a catchy hook so his verses become bearable. He is true to himself, and that authenticity never ceases to translate into his music.
With each new album, Benny’s crafty flow and unique anecdotes transcend his past self. Tana Talk 4 is the pinnacle of his eighteen-year journey to stardom. It is the culmination of not just the Tana Talk series, but his entire career. As he stated in an interview with Apple Music’s Ebro Darden, “Tana Talk 1, I took over the hood…Tana Talk 2, I was still in the hood. I took over the city, though. Tana Talk 3, I took over the underground. Tana Talk 4, I feel like I’m taking over the world, honestly.”
Benny unquestionably broke out of the underground and into the world of mainstream hip-hop with this album, all while reflecting on the gritty roots that made the Buffalo MC who he is today. He draws the audience in right away with the first track, “Johnny P’s Caddy”—a classic OG drumbeat with a melodic sample made for cruising around on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Before going into his first verse, he sets the tone for a deep, personal journey into his troublesome past, saying “…this s*** mean a lot to me, you know what I mean/ This street s*** made me what I am today.”
The only mistake he made on this track was putting it first on the album, mainly because of the J. Cole feature anchoring it. Very few rappers are capable of outshining Benny the Butcher lyrically, but J. Cole is definitely one of them. His verse makes Benny the Butcher’s look like child’s play in comparison. Cole gets deep immediately with vivid metaphors and profound biblical allusions, saying “I’ll probably go to Hell if Jesus asks for a feature.”
Musically, the album is a polished exploration of vintage hip-hop subgenres, from the Biggie-esque R&B samples on “Weekends in the Perry’s” and “Billy Joe” to the haunting war stories of “Super Plug” and “10 More Commandments.” The rest of the features include many talented artists from Griselda Records, who’s cohesively lyrical styles blend seamlessly with Benny’s bar dropping delights.
The crown jewel of this album is “Tyson vs. Ali” featuring Conway the Machine. Throughout this track, Benny and Conway skillfully reminisce on their come-up over bouncing bass and elegant piano arpeggios that scream “we made it.” They proved themselves as a silky smooth dynamic duo that can stack up against any hip-hop pairing. If Outkast is the proverbial Muhammad Ali, then Benny and Conway would be Mike Tyson the way they scrappily uppercut each stanza.
Like his name suggests, Benny the Butcher’s ability to slice and dice a verse is uncanny. He’s been paving his own lane for years, and Tana Talk 4 is the final slab of pavement on his long road to becoming a hip-hop icon. He stands alone, a self-made Buffalo legend amidst a sea of super-senior mumble rappers and fake flexers.
The question is, where will he go from here? There’s no doubt that he can dominate on a slow and steady boom-bap beat, but does he have the versatility to expand beyond his comfort zone into a true international superstar? Can he implement new genres into his style the way current hip-hop greats like J. Cole, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar have? Only time will tell, but either way Benny the Butcher has established his place in the hip-hop world on the oxymoronic Mount Rushmore of modern old-school rappers.