An immediate yet introspective return peppered with soulful Hit-Boy production...

Griselda’s remarkable run of form is one of Stateside hip-hop’s most remarkable upon 2020 phenomenons. With core members such as Conway The Machine aiming for God-status and Westside Gunn producing career best runs, the Buffalo stable is clearly riding the crest of a wave.

‘Burden Of Proof’ finds Benny The Butcher tapping into this seam of gold, and it’s a crisp, soulful exhibition from an MC with talent to burn. Executive produced by Hit-Boy – who also worked on the recent (excellent) Nas LP – it’s a diverse but succinct collection, one that drops street grit in favour of an emotional pull.

Superb album opener – and title track - ‘Burden Of Proof’ sets the tone, the boom bap leaning production amplified by some 2020 effects. Rick Ross peppers ‘Where Would I Go’ with some supreme gravitas, while Freddie Gibbs is on typically electrifying form on early LP highlight ‘One Way Flight’.

The features are carefully chosen, the mark of an album that wants to platform Benny’s talent, rather than seek co-signs. Indeed, the rapper is the continual keystone, with his bars on ‘Famous’ and ‘New Streets’ standing alone, a stark depiction of his persona.

Lil Wayne and Big Sean are an incongruous team up, but their features on ‘Timeless’ do actually work to a degree, serving to highlight to respect Benny The Butcher’s artistry has earned from the major leagues. The album is at its best when he opts for the personal, though, such as Queen Naija’s lilting guest vocal on ‘Thank God I Made It’ - a beatific counterpoint to the poignant exhibition of grief illuminated by Benny’s words.

Griselda cohorts Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine appear once more on ‘War Paint’, and it serves to tie in ‘Burden Of Proof’ to their own work. Expertly thought through, the production matches rugged club elements to something a little deeper and more thoughtful, and it’s this balance that seems to serve the label so well right now.

Closing with the aptly named ‘Legend’, ‘Burden Of Proof’ pushes Benny The Butcher back to the forefront, and offers further evidence that Griselda is one of the most vital labels in North American hip-hop right now.

8/10

Words: Robin Murray

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