The hometown hero of Buffalo hip-hop is Benny the Butcher. This past Saturday, October 26, Benny performed live at the Showplace Theater as a part of his “The Plugs I Met” tour. The tour is in support of his recently released EP, by the same name. He’s also on the bill for a few shows with Freddie Gibbs this fall.
Benny the Butcher, the Black Soprano Family (BSF) and Griselda Records are all about one in the same for putting Buffalo, New York rap on the map. The label, Griselda, started as a clothing brand formed by fellow Buffalo rapper, Westside Gunn. It slowly turned into a label with the help of Benny the Butcher and Westside Gunn’s brother Conway the Machine.
For this sold out show, Benny the Butcher had a swinging door of about seven openers, all under the umbrella of BSF and Griselda. The last opener was the most compelling performance. His cadence was sharp and his voice strong. He even brought his ten year old son on stage to rap alongside him. The whole crowd was cheering them on as more and more people gathered on stage. The DJ for the night was scratching just right. Before queuing a video showcasing Benny the Butcher’s achievements in the music business, he had everybody jumping to Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke’s “Welcome to the Party.”
Saturday’s show was a party for hip-hop heads eager to return to that 90s NY hip-hop sound so often associated with groups like Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep, or artists like the Notorious B.I.G. and Nas. Benny’s beats are usually eerie, moody, smooth and soulful. With the help of the label producer, Daringer, Benny’s sound has already caught the attention of many prominent rappers including Pusha-T, Jadakiss and Black Thought. Griselda Records has also done many collaborations with the producer, the Alchemist. Benny the Butcher has Wu-Tang cosigns and Griselda Records is signed under Eminem’s Shady Records.
BSF and Griselda are a family. Although over 800 people were in the crowd, the stage looked as though there were more people there, for support and security. There was heavy police activity at the show but nothing went down to raise alarm. Benny has been arrested before and it is pretty clear from listening to his music that he’s been involved in the coke game. But drugs and hip-hop have always been linked and music has often served as an escape from the darker sides of life. Benny’s past life within the drug game has fueled his stories of struggle and triumph. Benny has something important to say about his life. Whatever his past involvement with drugs may be, it’s his reality, and the situation is never as simple as it may seem.
The highlight of the show was seeing Benny perform “Crowns for Kings,” a song featuring Black Thought. This DJ Shay beat is one of the smoothest sampled soul hip-hop beats of 2019. Benny’s lyrics here showcase his skills and versatility. He has an artillery of words and storytelling phrases. His music is deserving of the praise it’s gotten.
The online magazine Complex went as far as to say, “It’s Benny the Butcher’s World, and He’s Starting to Realize It on ‘The Plugs I Met.’”
Benny has consistently released mixtapes and a few albums during the last decade. The Plugs I Met and Tana Talk 3 are stand out projects. Breeze through Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine’s discography and you’ll find plenty of stellar verses from the butcher.
Because of BSF and Griselda’s deep connections, it’s no surprise that Benny brought out Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine. Both Benny and Westside Gunn were wearing some impressive chains. The DJ shouted out that they were doing the “ice bucket challenge.”
The three legends-in-the-making didn’t compete with each other but rather complemented one another. Being in the crowd felt like watching history being made. At the very least, it’s a historic show for the Buffalo hip-hop scene and an impressive testament to the power and popularity this whole movement is gaining.
Okayplayer, a coveted hip-hop website founded by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, ran an article that said that, with Griselda, “there hasn’t been a movement like this… since the 90s.” That energy was palpable at Saturday’s show and was worth the day trip to Buffalo.