I'm almost entirely unfamiliar with Westside Gunn, my only exposure to him being the kind of podcast interviews in which the hosts profess their undying love and affection in a sort of desperate recorded-audio biz-dev session. He hails from Buffalo, and he's probably involved in some sort of crime, the proceeds from which he may have used to line up this album's surprisingly impressive roster of guest artists and producers.
Most of the album, per the tracklisting I found in the wiki, is produced by someone named Daringer, as is this first track. Fortunately, his beats, if this first song is any indication (note that I'm reviewing this sight unseen) sound like mid '90s-era knockoff Wu-Tang.
Neither Westside Gunn nor his weed carrier are very good rappers. Some of their rhymes are amusingly ignorant, but there isn't much in the way of complexity or anything that I imagine would give this much replay value.
This one features a spoken-word outro by a broad with a name similar to the girl who played Rudy on the Cosby Show, but I'm pretty sure it's not the same girl. Those checks just stopped coming in last year. It'll be a while still before she turns up on any rap albums.
SHOWER SHOE LORDS
If it wasn't already clear from the title of this song, or any number of other songs on the album, Westside Gunn is drawing quite a bit of, erm, inspiration from Action Bronson and Roc Marciano, especially the latter. Essentially, this guy is Marciano with a high-pitch entirely unsuitable for pursuing a career as a rapper.
VIVIAN AT THE ART BASEL
I wonder if Vivian is an actual girl this guy banged at Art Basel, which I'm pretty sure is an art exhibit held in Miami. You gotta be wary about picking up girls at events like art exhibits or weird European fashion shows where all the girls dress as if they're homeless. You could end up fucking a guy.
Roc Marciano himself contributes hyper-repetitive chipmunk soul that seems to have given me a bit of momentary PTSD, as if I heard something off the College Dropout.
*shudders at the thought*
I should receive a medal for having written Kanye West Superstar. Not because it's very good, but because of how difficult it was to put together.
Gunn and weed carrier Conway get topical, rhyming about El Chapo's demise as if they knew El Chapo . . . the real El Chapo. I heard he'll be extradited to the US soon. Maybe he'll be locked up somewhere near Buffalo. There's a lot of prisons up there, right?
Meyhem Lauren rhymes on this one. He's on all the best rap albums. Don't believe me. Pull up his name on Spotify and check the list of albums he's featured on. It's like nerd rap Christmas. This is a little bit on the brief side, as are many of these songs. An idea for how to extend it: work in a reference to BDP and/or that Wayans brothers movie.
BODIES ON FAIRFAX
Wow, Danny Brown's on this one. Not that he necessarily has anything better to do these days (it's been a minute since he had an album out, right?), but I'd say this is a pretty impressive roster of guest rappers and producers for a debut album by a rapper no one ever heard of. I wonder if he plied them all with drugs Rap Genius style.
I can't escape this feeling, with my Chine Gun. Wake up in the morning where's my little Chine Gun? I hear her heat beating loud as thunder, I see the stars crashing down.
When the production pushes the BPMs, Gunn sounds like a closet-lesbian '90s female rapper. If Fat Joe weren't working on a duets album with Remy Ma, I'd suggest he consider doing a duets album with Remy Ma.
I appreciate any and all references to the Wire. I consulted YouTube the other day, to check a reference to the show in a book set in Baltimore, and suddenly I felt compelled to stop what I was doing and spend the next several days in a row binge-watching the entire series. I couldn't, because I work full-time now (plus a part-time job—I've worked seven days a week since last August). It's been the worst thing that's happened to me this summer, including the death of Muhammad Ali.
I suppose I should note that Roc Marciano rhymes on this one, and probably also clarify that he didn't rhyme on that other song he was on, only produced it.
Somewhat notable underground producer Apollo Brown gives this one a knockoff Roc Marciano feel. I had a look at that album he did with Ras Kass on a whim last summer and ended up listening to it 10 or 15 times. Perhaps most importantly, it got me to listening to Soul on Ice on the reg again for the first time since my youth. There's a case to be made that Soul on Ice is the best-written rap album of all time, of ALL TIME. Better than Illmatic. But the production is just okay. Not terrible, but just okay.
50 IN. ZENITH
Was there even such a thing as a 50-inch Zenith? I guess they must have made one, but if you were going to spend enough money on a TV to get one with a 50-inch screen (back when that actually meant something), wouldn't you just spring for a Sony or something?
SLY GREEN SKIT
One of these guys who got locked up, spent an hour or two in the library and now thinks he's a lawyer breaks down the particulars of his case. It doesn't sound like he'll be out anytime soon. Might I suggest putting the entire system on trial? Talk to your real lawyer about a writ of habeus corpus.
55 & A HALF
Gunn mentions the delectable crab meats he can afford to consume and credits himself for being the first dreaded n-word in a Jaguar jeep, which apparently is a thing. Who says crime don't pay?
He may have stuck this one on there because he owed this guy Chase money.
Maybe you heard this one when it was leaked to the Internets a while back. It features Action Bronson and was produced by rhe Alchemist. This is only an okay Alchemist beat, but that's kinda like saying you've received an only okay blowski. As long as nothing bad happened to your peen, it's impolite to complain.
Remember when Common used to let his father ramble at length at the end of his albums?
VERDICT: I went into this album with very low expectations, and I ended up pleasantly surprised . . . to a certain degree. Westside Gunn doesn't spit a single rhyme on this album that you just have to hear, but he made me chuckle once or twice. And the production is surprisingly strong, to the point where I could honestly see playing this a few more times this summer. To use an analogy, Westside Gunn is like the Group Home to Roc Marciano's Nas, Jay and Biggie.