EXCLUSIVE – Benny The Butcher has been pumping out mixtapes since 2004 but only rose to rap prominence over the last few years. Proof that hard work and perseverance pays off, Benny and his Griselda brethren — Conway The Machine and Westside Gunn — are attaining the kind of success they dreamed of as young kids growing up in the art-friendly yet gritty rust-belt of Buffalo, New York.
As Benny prepares to drop his highly anticipated follow-up to 2019’s Plugs I Met, the aptly titled Plugs I Met 2, on Friday (March 19), he’s primed to deliver another batch of potent, lazer sharp bars, this time with producer Harry Fraud. Guests include Fat Joe, the late Chinx, 2 Chainz, French Montana and Jim Jones, among others.
On the album highlight “Overall” featuring Chinx, Benny raps he’s “trying to catch up to legends,” which suggests he’s well aware of the road that lies ahead and recognizes Hip Hop’s hierarchy at the same time.
During a recent interview with HipHopDX Senior Writer Kyle Eustice, Benny references the 2020 Conway song “Spurs 3” in which he spits, “This a man’s world, you at your best when you middle aged” and at 36 years old, that time has arrived.
“I’m a big advocate of saying this is a grown man’s game,” he tells DX. “I spoke about this before. Like I said in one of my songs, as a man, you’re at your best when you’re middle age. I know the labels and everything, they chase the young guys and everything like that, maybe because they feel like they fresh talent. Or maybe they feel like the business is maybe easier to run with a 20-year-old than it is to run around with a 30-year-old.
“A 30-year-old got higher expectations and expect more. But trust me, this is a man’s game and you gotta be well seasoned and you got to be good at life to be a good person and to be an icon like Chuck D is and all the other OGs.”
But with notoriety of course comes fame, which Benny said he never really felt until he was shot in leg while leaving a Houston Walmart last November. To him, he’s still very much a “regular person” so when all eyes are on him, it can get slightly uncomfortable.
“It’s OK,” he admits of fame. “It’s not the best thing in the world. I’m saying fame is one of those things that if you don’t have it, you want it. And when you get it, you’re like, ‘OK, it’s all right.’ It’s not all it’s cracked up to be because different things come with fame. And like I said, I love being a person who people admire or look up to or aspire to be like. That says a lot about what I’ve been doing with my life.
“But it’s a lot of bad things that come with fame. I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not in love with it, but it’s cool though. And you can’t turn it off, neither.”
As Jim Jones said following Benny’s shooting, being a rapper is also one of the “most dangerous jobs in the world,”something Benny now understands all too well.
“I agree,” he says when the topic is brought up. “There’s other guys who got more money than rappers and got maybe a better life than a rapper, but they still want the fame and they still want the spotlight because that’s what come with being a rapper. So guys envy you because of that. Everybody envy you because of the money you make.
“They envy you because of the position that you’re in. It’s not just the money either — it’s they look online and see a bunch of people loving you and praising you for the talent that you have. That’s dangerous. It’s like a king. It’s dangerous to be a king because everybody want to be the next king. Everybody wants your spot.”
The murders of prolific rappers such as 2Pac, Jam Master Jay, Big L, Nipsey Hussle, Mac Dre and The Notorious B.I.G. along with a recent string of shootings in the rap community appear to support that theory.
Brooklyn drill star Pop Smoke was killed during a Hollywood Hills home invasion last February, burgeoning Chicago rapper King Von was shot and killed outside of an Atlanta hookah bar last November and BadAzz Music Syndicate rapper Mo3 was gunned down on a Dallas highway just three days later. Then, Boosie Badazz and Benny were both shot in the leg in two separate incidencies. Benny suggests jealousy is often at the root of the violence and seems more prevalent in the rap world.
“Look, you don’t see NBA players get that shit happen to them like that,” he explains. “Yeah, they get shot and things like that happen, of course. But for the rappers, it’s a macho thing with other dudes. They want the life of a rapper; there’s just something nostalgic about that, that everybody want no matter how many drugs they sold or no matter how tough they are or whatever. People base their lives on rappers.
“I hear people who dying to be a rapper but still be in the streets and be like, ‘Yo, well, I’m not a rapper.’ But you trying to be a rapper. First thing people say when they get into it with a rapper, ‘Oh, he just a rapper.’ Yeah, I made it successful out the hood with using words. You right, that’s what I am. But it’s just a thing that we have to deal with from our own community. They love us, but they envy us so much that they want to be us. This shit get dangerous.”
Benny has even run into that with his own friends and family now that he’s Benny The Butcher from celebrated rap crew Griselda.
“I have been treated different,” he says. “People already told me I changed. When you don’t act how they expect you to act and they don’t like that, they going to have shit to say about it. That’s why I said money change the people around quicker than it change you.”
Plugs I Met 2 can be streamed in full here.