On last year’s Burden of Proof, Benny the Butcher recognized that his debut album was a momentous occasion, and in turn put out a Hit-Boy produced project that was more grandiose and stately than anything the Buffalo emcee had released prior. His story of perseverance had finally paid off, and it was imperative that he authenticate these experiences. Despite a tumultuous rise that not only sent him to prison but nearly cost him his life, Benny’s spirit remained unbroken, humbled by his experiences in a way he felt wasn’t often reciprocated.

“It’s rubbin’ me the wrong way when these rappers speak comfortably bout street life, it seems like they only given y’all luxuries,” he raps, over choppy soulful loopings on Burden Of Proof’s “New Streets.” Benny the Butcher has forever loathed the lack of stakes communicated in rap. “They just said everything happened happily ever after,” he told Genius. “I know sh*t ain’t end like that. They just talk about shooting a person. They don’t give you like, ‘I didn’t even want to do this.'” But while Burden of Proof was steeped in reflection, The Plugs I Met 2 isn’t quite as meditative. The first project to emerge since being shot in Houston last November, Benny uses the lush production of Harry Fraud to embrace his foils and question his blessings. He recognizes his own self-preservation in a more literal way and outright demands his flowers in the process.

But thanks to Fraud’s serene backdrops, these demands are executed with a welcomed sense of warmth that Griselda’s granitic lo-fi loopings often don’t cater to. On “Live By It,” Benny offers transparent street lessons over a subtle sprinkle of strings that only enhance his narrative pull. On “Talkin’ Back,” Benny speaks on being in tandem with his past over a scatter of fluttering windpipes. Fraud’s spacious productions help Benny’s lines snap with precision.

Benny The Butcher

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On “Survivor’s Remorse,” he doesn’t so much reflect as he does pass on the hard-won lessons his trials and tribulations taught him. “You got plans on gettin’ rich? Well, consider this / The ones who expect the most favors ain’t give you shit.” Plugs 2 is steeped in this transparency. He mentions on “Survivors Remorse” that a fleeting change of heart is all that kept him on the right path, while a constituent of his is currently serving “20 in Clinton.” Over the lo-fi musings of “No Instructions,” Benny embraces the “unhealthy connections” of his past life and refutes anyone who says his slate has been wiped clean.

The resulting effort pans out like a diary, with Benny constantly toeing the line between his current life of comfort and the allure of his old lifestyle, which he admits at times can be all-consuming. “You hear the sounds of the pot scraping, me I only hear music,” he states on “Plug Talk.” He’s maintained connections that could come back to bite him, and despite being comfortable in his fame still constantly looks over his shoulder and questions his every blessing. “What’s the outcome for n****a’s like me? Where do I land?” he asks on “When Tony Met Sosa.” But it’s this clarity that gives Benny the Butcher his power.

At 36 years old, he is far more grown and self-aware than a lot of today’s young rappers. On Plugs 2, he isn’t scared to admit that he is wary of how bright his future looks, but that doesn’t mean his lessons aren’t hard-won or that he doesn’t deserve every good thing that comes his way. “I’m too far ahead, it’s easy to feel like I’m cheatin’ when I read these deals,” he raps on closer “Thanksgiving.” “You talk and you live like this, it’s gon’ make them hate you  — this what fueled them to get off they asses, I made ’em greater.”