"Burden Of Proof" has the potential to be the most popular Griselda album of 2020. Nevertheless, Benny's follow-up to his underrated "Tana Talk 3" feels a little low-impact and mismatched.
Each member of Griselda has so much talent and potential to come outwith some of the most essential hip-hop releases of the next years. Whilst, Westside started the year with a bang as he released the most cohesive and vivid Griselda release, "Pray For Paris", Gunn has only underwhelmed since then by saturating his sound with two unnecessary LPs. Conway started subtly with a collab EP with The Alchemist and then burst through with his own LP, "From King To A GOD". His effort might've been a little inconsistent to my eyes, yet he still defined his space in Griselda and came through with some of the most introspective and thought-provoking moments on the Griselda timeline. Griselda have used 2020 to elevate their status from some new key signings like Boldy James and Armani Caesar to Conway and Westside's hard work in the booth. Benny however has played in somewhat low-key. We got an unimportant 8-song project with the Black Soprano Family n the last months, yet Benny has spent most of 2020 spreading his style into more mainstream circles in an effort to grow his name. From Lil Wayne, Freddie Gibbs to Russ. Compared to his peers, he has been hesitant with new material in 2020. However, from what I've listened to from Benny, I know what he's capable of. There's no disputing that the guy can spit BARS. So, there's no reason to expect anything but greatness from this new Benny album.
However, this is a rare instance where one aspect of this album just sort of ruins it for me. Feel free to dismiss my opinion, this is PURELY subjective. Benny lost his bite. Look, Hit-Boy has had an INCREDIBLE 2020. However, I think these beats on here are his roughest and most grating. LIke, at times, I think he confused having a nostalgic value with just using some irritating sampling method. Seriously, like from "One Way Flight" to "Timeless", I can't imagine returning to these instrumentals. Not to mention, the mixing on these tracks is so messy, the beats are so deep in the mix, there are times where they don't even feel present. Anyway, my main point is that Hit-Boy's production aesthetic just doesn't play to Benny's strengths.
Go listen to Benny's feature on "Frank Lucas". That shit is iconic. The bars and flow are equally gritty, dirty and heartless matching the menacingly minimalist production. There is none of that on "Burden of Proof" and that's the problem. The production focuses on trying to capture a "jazz rap" energy, yet that really doesn't inspire Benny to be his best. Sure. The guys is still talented. He's guaranteed to come through with some clever and memorable bars on each song. However, without that cold energy radiating from the production, Benny fells out of his element. Even when he's going all in like on title track, he's held back by how awkward the match feels. On top of that, I think this shift production-wise leaves Benny directionless. Christ, after hearing Conway's project, this one feels like a MESS. Few songs have any focus at all, except for some welcome tracks like "New Streets". Benny really is stuck on repeat as it seems like he's just repeating the same slang, concepts and ideas. I know not to expect the most variety or diversity in content, but it's just painfully clear that Benny has no independent ideas for each track. It's frustrating.
Not to say that there are no highlights. "Sly Green" suffers from the same things I've previously mentioned but Benny's bars are so strong, I simply can't ignore it. He fucking goes in. "New Streets" is one of the only times Benny goes "introspective" and comes out with something which genuine feels honest and emotive. Especially compared to some of the awkward attempts at getting deeper like on "Thank God I Made It" or "One Way Flight". "Over The Limit" is the one time where Hit-Boy goes nocturnal ith the production and it's all the better for it. A true banger that I'll be returning to. The album also ends with some bright moments like "Legend" with it's simple but infectiously celebratory refrain and sunny production. "War Paint" is the trademark Griselda cut, however this time around Conway steals the show, clearly outshining Benny and Gunn with some insanely sharp bars. Goddamn.
This is a bad review, but I can't just explain my issues with this album apart from Benny just doesn't sound natural on top of these beats, plus this far from his best work. The content quickly grows stale and Benny isn't going hard enough to make up for the other mistakes in the creation of this album. Of course, it's still a good album. Benny and Hit-Boy are good artists, and both shine separately, they just don't bring out the best in each other.
BEST TRACKS: "Sly Green", "New Streets", "Over The Limit", "Legend"
WORST TRACKS: "Timeless"