(Photo manipulation by Alexandra Kauffman)

Benny the Butcher blends modern production with old-school rap in his latest project “Everybody Can’t Go.” Def Jam Recordings released the album on Jan. 26. The artist attracted significant attention with his previous production, “Tana Talk 4” (2022), which peaked at No. 22 on Billboard 200 after its first week.

Benny the Butcher is a rapper and songwriter from Buffalo, N.Y. His music heavily references his experiences growing up in Buffalo, including the murder of his brother and time spent as a drug dealer. Benny the Butcher is a member of the rap collective “Griselda Records,” named after the Colombian drug lord Griselda Blanco and founded in 2012 by Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine and Mach-Hommy.

“Everybody Can’t Go” is Benny the Butcher’s first album under Def Jam Recordings, which employs prominent artists such as Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg and DJ Khaled. Mainstream success is perhaps the overarching theme of the album. Benny the Butcher reflects on solidifying his position in the music industry, exemplified in part by his partnership with a renowned label.

In a series of promotional YouTube videos released in the weeks leading up to the album, Benny the Butcher explains the meaning of “Everybody Can’t Go.” For those that can go, he explains, “they gotta bring something to the table that helped this process move forward.” While the rapper is no newcomer to the music industry, he feels he is just getting started. His latest project captures this energy with his powerful vocals in a well-received attempt at a more mainstream sound.

Benny the Butcher employs what he called a “new oldschool” approach to rap, patterned with forceful, rhythmic and enunciated bars over laid-back, jazzy beats. In his latest album, he builds on this approach with slightly more nuanced production; well-known producers Hit-Boy and The Alchemist take charge of the instrumentals, crafting a smooth yet ominous sound. In “TMVTL,” Benny the Butcher’s bars float across a beat-switch two minutes in, adding a layer of noisy complexity that fits with both the subject matter — contemplations on gang life in Buffalo — and the stable uniformity of his unyielding vocals.

In the intro track, “Jermanie’s Graduation,” Benny the Butcher raps over an elegant classical piano riff accompanied by a more modern drum-machine cadence. The production is not uniform, however, and the last track on the album “Big Tymers” misses the mark, opting for a faster trap beat with both a weak drum pattern and uninteresting melody that does little to spruce up the rapper’s vocals.

Benny the Butcher’s performance, while consistent, is not particularly colorful. This is not inherently negative, but  it does mean the instrumental plays a large part in the success of each song. Fans know what to expect from the artist: grimy, gritty raps that bring the listener back to the ’80s and ’90s. Benny the Butcher spits mouthfuls of lyrics in well-formed cadences, severe in both sound and content.

For an artist that relies heavily on creative lyricism, however, some bars simply miss the mark. For example, “I’m s******* around these p****** just like a all gender restroom” in “Jermanie’s Graduation” may be creative, but it is not a particularly alluring image. Similarly, “Know I’ma win, like the election if Trump run again” in “Everybody Can’t Go” feels like an unnecessary political claim that may alienate some listeners and clashes with the rest of his subject matter. While Benny the Butcher’s unique delivery remains a strong point of the album, his lack of variation and lyrical blunders are off-putting.

Though in no way revolutionary, “Everybody Can’t Go” is a solid addition to the rapper’s discography and marks a potentially successful attempt to cement himself as an enduring presence in the rap industry. Benny the Butcher has cultivated a distinct sound, and I am curious to see if he can take his lyricism to the next level in future releases. Regardless, mafia-rap fanatics as well as the casual hip-hop listener can find something to enjoy in Benny the Butcher’s latest endeavor.

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