EDITORIAL – It was long understood — based on numerous interviews — that Westside Gunn had never set out to be a rapper. It was something he fell into, mainly to keep his bubbling brand cooking after his brother Conway The Machine (who he was managing at the time) got shot in the back of the head.
The twist of fate has since seen the Buffalo-curator take his Griselda brand from underground acclaim to Billboard placement and BET award-nomination without making any concessions. With 2020 proving to be his commercial breakout (hitting an apex with Pray For Paris), it remains that — in his own words — this will be his last year rapping.
“Even tho I won’t be rhyming I still will be the most impactful person for the culture, GRISELDA is just getting started,” he tweeted late last year.
It’s that lens that dominates Gunn’s latest offering, Flygod Is An Awesome God 2 — a project slathered in a transitional tone. An offering that, in usual WSG fashion, brings the best out of those involved.
In fact, there is only one song that doesn’t feature somebody — though, in this case, it’s not a handful of high profile names like PFP. Instead, it’s a spotlight on the next generation … Griselda 2.0.
His latest signees sparkle; he pairs Boldy James with Benny The Butcher on “Buffs Vs. Wires” and lets Armani Caesar prove her worth on the aptly titled “Lil Cease.” But those are only the voices we know for sure are being given the keys to the kingdom.
Things happen fast and furious in Gunn’s world, but one thing he stresses is a long term outlook, or a master plan (if you will). With that, we’re left to wonder whether Stove God Cook$ — who appears on three songs — or Rome Streetz (who stands out gloriously on the Sadhugold-produced “Steve Behr”) will ultimately find themselves in the fold.
Then there is the mysterious uncredited MC who appears on the tracklist via the two-year-old Sadhugold-produced song “Greatminder” (that features no Gunn vocals at all), which without warning replaced the pseudo-love song, “Drive By Love“ featuring Keisha Plum.
Whether it’s all a form of prospecting for Griselda’s succession plan or using his platform (as the scene’s most prominent figure) to elevate peers, there’s no denying the way the pieces of the puzzle seem to come together under his watchful eye.
With Benny’s BSF also on the rise — and with his recent call to artists — it’s clear that the name of the game in this circle is legacy. With the door propped open and the commercial viability of the wave having been demonstrated at exaggerated heights, the time is now to start watering the seeds they’ve been germinating within Griselda’s fertile Buffalo soil.
While Pray For Paris proved Gunn’s ability to crash what once seemed like a glass ceiling in his lane, this sequel to Flygod Is An Awesome God begins to answer the question “what’s next” with more definition — because nobody can rap (in this lane) forever.
For fans who may question the direction of the ship, this latest dose of Griselda further instills confidence that West’s way-finding will keep the vessel afloat — even when he’s no longer directly steering.
Just dive into the vibes found on “Drive By Love” and tell me you don’t agree?