Question: is there a label right now out there that has the streets on lock more than Buffalo-bred Griselda Records? I’ll wait. That’s enough. The crew/label is responsible for some of the most gutter Hip Hop we’ve heard since the late nineties. The team consisting of Westside Gunn, his brother Conway The Machine, their cousin Benny, and fellow Buffalo artist El Camino have been killing the underground scene from for the better part of a decade now, and their clout has risen substantially with the signing of Gunna and Conway to Shady through Griselda Records.
Until their major label debuts hit, they still are supplying the streets with that coke for your ears. With that being said, let’s get into the best projects to emerge from this label.
15. Conway The Machine & DJ Green Lantern - More Steroids
Production: Daringer, Green Lantern, The Alchemist, Statik Selektah – We start off with the self-professed “grimiest of all-time” Conway aka The Machine. Known just as much for his facial distortion due to complications of Bells Palsy that resulted from his getting shot some years back as he is his lyrical viciousness, Conway brought his distinctive brand of massacre music in full force with the sequel to his Reject On Steroids mixtape. Relentless, uncaring, and definitely aggressive, Conway provided that murda music for your ears.
14. Westside Gunn - Hitler Wears Hermes IV
Production: Daringer – Part four of the acclaimed Hitler Wears Hermes series continued Gunna’s brand of gutter music for the soul. In this case, it was accompanied by arguably the most personal cut to date from them in “The Cow”. This cut was known particularly for Conway’s gripping verse that recounts how their best friend, Machine Gun Black (Benny’s brother), was gunned down and his feelings about it all, plus him dealing with his deformity. As he said it’s “this is the realest s*** in my pad I wrote”.
13. Westside Gunn & Conway - Hall & Nash EP
Production: Daringer – One thing these two brothers are known for is implementing their love of professional wrestling into their music. It’s clear they’re fans for the long haul, as they’ve nicknamed themselves Hall & Nash, after WWE Hall Of Famers Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. These guys were bullies and were responsible for an entire shift in the business along with Hulk Racist Hogan in ’96. Carrying the attitude of Hall & Nash, Con and Gunna presented an EP filled with enough bullets to start riots. Although individually they can go for the gusto themselves, they’re even more lethal when together, which is a problem, just like the real Hall & Nash.
12. Elcamino - Elcamino
Production: Boodeini, Lucky Seven, Rowland – Unless you’re really deep into the Griselda camp, you’re likely somewhat unfamiliar with Elcamino. This Griselda affiliate isn’t on a bunch of GxFR releases, but he’s definitely a part of the camp, and he released his debut self-titled mixtape in ’17. The mixtape very much fits right into what the label is about: hardcore street s*** with a point. This mixtape is also poignant in the fact that the late Prodigy made an appearance on it with a posthumous verse that makes you profoundly miss the legendary emcee. It’s only a matter of time before we’re talking about Elcamino just as much as we’re talking about Gunna, Conway, and Benny.
11. GxFR - Don't Get Scared Now EP
Production: Daringer, The Alchemist – Griselda, as a label, dropped their debut compilation EP in ’16 and it was complete fire. Although missing Benny, we got former affiliate Mach Hommy featured on two tracks, and it was clear at the time he definitely belonged. Cuts like “Chyna” and “Ajax” are so chilling that you’ll swear you got numbers on your own head. With the cut “Benz Window”, Conway and Prodigy deliver heat to where you would swear you could hear a whole full-length project from them (although their Still Hell On Earth EP was flames as it was).
10. Westside Gunn & DJ Green Lantern - Hitler On Steroids
Production: Daringer – Gunna and his Hitler Wears Hermes series is a considerable reason why the label is flourishing to this very day. For this one, he teamed up with DJ Green Lantern and delivered a mixtape that was filled with oldies but goodies as well as new heat. While we greatly appreciate previously heard cuts like “Stoves”, “Rex Ryan”, the pounding standout from FLYGOD “Dunks”, and “Mr. T”, it’s the newer cuts on here like the Royce-blistered “100,000 Machine Gunz”, “Summerslam ’88”, and “Looking Like The Greatest” that show how Gunn firmly hears the praise of the streets and thus he keeps coming with rawness and realness.
9. Westside Gunn - There's God and There's FLYGOD...Praise Both EP
Production: Daringer – This has to rank among the most visceral releases from the Griselda camp. This is a very murky-sounding album, but Gunna presents his own in-your-face music so precisely and distinctively, it meets this production like hand-in-glove. Much like Ka’s The Night’s Gambit, this project makes you feel you’re on project benches at three in the morning waiting for something to jump off, and this is definitely that soundtrack. Although only six tracks long, there’s a ton of flames within them.
8. Conway The Machine - Everybody Gets F.O.O.D.
Production: Daringer, Pete Rock, Green Lantern, Statik Selektah – With every project Conway releases, it’s like the chip on his shoulder gets more and more pronounced. The artist known as “The Machine” is among the most vivid emcees around and he makes it a point that he belongs on your modern day GOAT list. With this album, he creeps closer and closer to that distinction of being on the list for today’s era. Cuts like the autobiographical “Bullet Holez In My Neck” the menacing “ODB”, and the stinging “Sigel In State Prop” show how he has a rightful claim to being among the coldest and realest emcees alive today.
7. Westside Gunn - Hitler Wears Hermes V
Production: Daringer, The Alchemist – Of all the HWH series, this one may be the most gutter of them all. Nothing pretty here. Not one single thing. Some of the most brooding beats you’ll hear in today’s age are prevalent here, plus Westside presents an effort that comes as close to matching the grandeur that was FLYGOD up to this point. Plus his affection for wrestling takes hold with titles like “Finn Balor” and “RIP Bobby” (after the late great Bobby “The Brain” Heenan). BTW, you want one of the greatest Alchemist beats ever heard in your life, peep the second half of “RIP Bobby”, as if the cut wasn’t already ridiculous enough. Arguably his most acclaimed of the Hermes series, Gunna kept reminding people of why he and Conway were signed to Shady in the first place.
6. Benny & DJ Green Lantern - Butcher On Steroids
Production: Daringer, Camouflage Monk, Green Lantern, others – Gunna and Conway’s cousin is affectionately known as “The Butcher”, Benny. Every bit as raw and grimy as his family, Butcher has been slightly more slept on than his cousins. However, he dropped his eagerly anticipated Butcher On Steroids mixtape with Green Lantern, and it was every bit the hard street s*** you would expect from him. Although not quite as nihilistic as Conway, his tales of hustling, drug supplying, and dealing with enemies are still nothing to sleep on or play with. While presenting original music with cuts like “Hustler’s Wife”, “Benny vs. Carlito”, and “Change”, he also kills it over instrumentals such as CNN’s “Blood Money” and Beanie Sigel’s “Mom’s Praying”, thus showing he’s in nobody’s shadow and he’s ready for that limelight all to himself.
5. Conway The Machine - Reject 2
Production: Daringer – This is the project that made people stand up and take notice of The Machine. As gritty of an album as you’ll find in this day and age, Conway pulls no punches on this excellent effort. This album isn’t for the weak, as he makes the listener look over their own shoulder just from the visuals of the bloody streets of Buffalo. Assisted by the likes of Roc Marciano, Skyzoo, and brother Gunn, this album will bring a screwface on you without warning. If you’re a fan of that old Mobb Deep/CNN/Lox/Raekwon type of Hip Hop, this will quench your entire thirst.
4. Conway The Machine - G.O.A.T.
Production: Daringer, The Alchemist – In case you were wondering when Conway was going to “arrive”, this is the album that does it. The Machine is as raw as ever on this brutal release. Filled with angst, violence, and vengeance, Conway can confidently rest assured that he dropped the hardest shit of the year, as there’s likely nobody else this year besides his Griselda brethren that will match the vivid intensity and remorselessness of this album.
This is an album where you can virtually smell the gunpowder from your speakers as you blast the project. With Alchemist contributing one track in the venomous “Trump”, Daringer does an outstanding job continuing to give the album its genuine Griselda feel from top to bottom virtually (The cut “Bishop Shot Steele” is one of the single chilling productions within Daringer’s production discography). If you slept on Conway before, with this album, now you wake up.
3. Westside Gunn - FLYGOD
Production: Daringer, The Alchemist, Apollo Brown, Camouflage Monk, Tha God Fahim, Statik Selektah – The album that started getting Griselda its proper buzz. Westside’s full-length debut, FLYGOD, is the epitome of what the label is about. A hard as nails release filled with uncompromising rhymes and a street essence about it we haven’t felt and heard in many years.
Critically acclaimed and streets revered, Gunna presented us an underground classic that marked the official beginning of the Griselda movement. This is a top to bottom smash, as we see glimpses of just how talented his Griselda squad is, including himself. It’s been said this was the effort that made Eminem sign Gunna and Conway to Shady. If that’s the case, then this album will be considered more iconic then it already is in the streets. Much like Power Of The Dollar was the beginning of 50 Cent’s notoriety before the Shady deal, this is Gunna’s introduction to mainstream greatness.
2. Conway The Machine - The Blakk Tape
Production: Daringer, Beat Butcha, others – In a word: HARD. Very much like his prior nihilistic classic G.O.A.T., this album is not for the shook, squeamish, or square. Conway is out on a mission to make him be in the top elite of emcees for today’s generation, if not all time. Cuts like “8 Birds”, “Biscotti Buscuit”, and “Fish Fry” are so ominous and hair-raising that they’ll leave a mental mark in you, as Conway spares no expense to let you know how much he doesn’t give a f***. He’s not just your average tough talk guy. You get the general impression that he walks it like he talks it. The only moment of humanity comes in the form of “Pavement”, in which he pours out some liquor to those he’s lost. Conway further establishes his potential to take over as Hip Hop’s truly hardest emcee.
1. Westside Gunn - Supreme Blientele
Production: Daringer, The Alchemist, Pete Rock, Sahdu Gold, 9th Wonder, Harry Fraud, Statik Selektah – Many consider FLYGOD to be a hood classic and one of the best Hip Hop efforts of the decade, and rightfully so. However, this second full-length solo effort from Gunna is definitely more cohesive and even more cleverly put together.
Besides the fact that this is arguably the best-produced album of 2018, Westside comes off with even more focus and sounds like he knows he’s a star. Folks, there’s literally no blemish on this album. In the spirit of the album this effort this was named after, Supreme Clientele, Gunn sounds extremely good over the beats laid out for him, and showed FLYGOD was no fluke. Taking the best of his mixtape efforts and FLYGOD, he presented an effort that has now set the new standard for the label and could be seen as one of the more impactful NYC albums to come along in many years.