'Pray for Paris' : Westside Gunn - Album Review
We have yet another Griselda project in 2020, this time from Westside Gunn. There's just something about this one that feels different. A tracklist was posted two weeks ago boasting involvement from Tyler, The Creator, Joey Bada$$, Wale, Freddie Gibbs, and DJ Premier. Is this the push they need to secure their fate in the history of hip-hop? Who knows, but Westside Gunn survived the coronavirus to release this shit. So it's safe to say it's going to be something monumental.
Sometimes, I'm not a huge skit guy. Most of the time, I'm not a huge skit-to-open-up-the-record kinda guy. "400 Million Plus Tax" sets the tone perfectly though for what Gunn’s been about and what your next 40 minutes are going to be about.
This is going to be (and is) Fine Art. He's got none other than Virgil Abloh, head of Off-White and Menswear at Louis Vuitton, on the Cover Art.
Hitting the thirty second mark of the first real track, "No Vacancy", had me in an awkward spot because I have always been least impressed with the rapping of Westside Gunn out of the trio he came up with. I was really thinking that this wasn't going to be that perfect album he's been hyping up, but boy was I wrong. Gunn delivers new flows and carries on a rhyme pattern for the near entirety of the track:
"You ever threw up from smellin' too many kilos?
The Migos, Nigos, we reload the free throws
The Margiela peacoat, the regal
Four story house I got off Ebro, the VLONE
Rest in peace Vino, rest in peace Kino, the Spiegel
The seagulls, April fresh ego
Welcome home Tito, you proud and sippin' pinot
My shooter shot five niggas in a row, we yell "Bingo", my nino"
Out of all the triple threat tracks the Buffalo Boys have, "George Bondo" might just be the best. This song is a lyrical slugfest. Literally, the verses are basically just big threats. Also noteworthy is the production, the haunting piano melody is very engaging. Props to the usuals, Daringer and Beat Butcha.
It’s this album, though, that we see Gunn make the first “move” in crossing over. We've heard about Drake trying to work with Benny the Butcher, but finally the love Griselda has been shown in the last year has been embraced.
This is the transition, the crossover. It is never more apparent than on the fourth track, “327”. It made the Rap Life playlist on Apple Music for god's sake. Both Joey Bada$$ and Tyler, The Creator bring the bars, but they also deliver incredible vocals on their hook and interlude. Tyler’s flair is present on the track as he rhymes about the bliss he's felt in life following his second critically acclaimed album. He raps:
"Yes, I'm is, I'm so happy
I turned nothin' to somethin', skin glowin', my hair nappy
My health good, my mama good, my niggas too
And they only wanna have good times like Josh Safdie" That's an A24 bar for your headtop. Sponsored by the Fro & The Flow. Listen anywhere podcasts are available.
Westside recruits Wale to come aboard for a boom-bap love song and he delivers on "French Toast". It's quite beautiful to hear Wale make a wrestling reference on a Westside Gunn song, as if it's always been meant to be. It was so good I'll try to forget that Conway The Machine had just ended a bar with Eric Bischoff… two songs ago... c'mon man.
If the next track is "Euro Step", then it was executed by James Harden. Gunn’s flow is incredibly shifty, but its rapid changes compliment the loopy beat and loose percussion perfectly. Production is handled by Conductor Williams, who deserves a round of applause for what might just be the best instrumental on the project.
"Allah Sent Me" has the chemistry of “George Bondo”, but brings you the bars in a more rapid-flowing fashion. Gunn, Benny, and Conway trade bars over an extended verse in between a Westside Gunn chorus. This is where the album lost me for the first time. I love the ad-libs, but Gunn's singing is real hard to listen to.
"$500 Ounces" brings together what's almost a coke rap all-star team with Freddie Gibbs, Roc Marciano, and the Alchemist.
How do you think it turned out? It was incredible.
Al The Chemist continues his recent hot streak with Griselda after working with Conway The Machine on their LP “LULU” as well as Boldy James on “The Price of Tea in China.” Freddie Gibbs lets off a clever line with:
"Yeah, it's just the way that God be plannin' shit
An NBA bar courtesy of Gangsta Gibbs, once again sponsored by Fro & The Flow. Apple Podcasts. Spotify.
"Versace" was a track I found interesting due to its gospel chorus instrumental, which is actually produced by Jay Versace. This track though was in my opinion, the low point, and by no means is this a bad song.
The Alchemist rejoins us on track 10 with “Clairborne Kick”. I loved where he and Boldy went with their collab album, and this felt like a direct continuation of that slurred sound. The delivery of Westside and Boldy is delayed perfectly so their punchlines can catch up with them on the beat.
Who could even begin to think about following up The Alchemist?
DJ Premier. That's who. Westside Gunn brings us an excellently-executed old school cut, where he humorously asks if you have ever eaten burgers on a Wednesday followed by chicken on a Thursday. Now's that's a reference to some federal penitentiary times.
How right does this feel for the culture? Tyler, The Creator producing a track for Westside Gunn entitled “Party Wit Pop Smoke”. Beautiful track that features a frequent guest of Griselda, Keisha Plum. She comes through with a jarring spoken word verse to wrap up the song. The female guests throughout the entire tracklist delivered, shoutout to Joyce Wrice.
The title of the closing track, "Le Djoliba", comes from a Senegalese restaurant in Paris, France. It wraps up the project perfectly with its conflicting themes of elegance and grime. Heavy gun ad-libs layered over choral samples precede a tap dance solo from Cartier Williams.
Pray For Paris was the result of hard work. Griselda had a long journey, but it's obvious now that these guys are here to stay… at the top. From start to finish, Westside Gunn brought us some of the most polished Griselda work to-date. We got mainstream outreach from Tyler, The Creator and Joey Bada$$, top tier production, and the most engaging flows from Gunn to-date. It'd be a pretty safe bet to say that this is only the beginning for these guys.
In the comments, feel free to let me know your favorite song off of P4P, your favorite member of Griselda, or who you would like to see them collaborate with next. ~Howard Butler~