There isn’t a moment where a member of Griselda strives, each manifesting a hearty platter for hungry fans to indulge. Album to album, mixtape to mixtape, there have rarely been moments that see them dwindle toward the sometimes tried consistency of Curren$y, instead offering up something fresh on the lyrical side and the production side, as they embody a different approach to the music. Benny the Butcher is constantly mounting layers in his lyricism, even when he’s speaking about the trials and tribulations of the drug game, during and after one’s shift to a different career path – case in point, rap. On his third studio album, Tana Talk 4, Benny offers up that finely chopped lyricism and perfectly cooked sauce from Beat Butcha, The Alchemist, and Daringer.
Benny the Butcher is keen. He knows what he wants and delivers translucent flows, immersing himself in the production. It makes his verses flourish through the different tempos, whether it goes on an uptick or downtick based on the content. He delivers with impact, along with sous chef J. Cole on “Johnny P’s Caddy,” trading verses detailing their rags to riches as an artist through the eyes of respect. It fits the mold of the Tana Talk series as it has been personal to Benny the Butcher, and it weaves a path that covers subjects like violence, drug use, and humbling yourself amongst your riches due to past reflections. On “Super Plug,” Benny starts laying it down and describing the differences between vague verbiage and detailed imagery when describing the horrors of dealing. It’s given a perspective that gets used to lure in those to the drug game: riches for the family and homies quicker than your 9-to-5. Benny isn’t just talking drugs to talk about drugs; he is rapping in-depth to his perspective – which can be akin to others.
These sentiments get reestablished throughout Tana Talk 4, notably on “Bust A Brick Nick.” Benny the Butcher reminds rappers why they can’t talk shit on his level – it refers to the shit that Benny went through –for example: getting shot during an attempted robbery, he just happened to be there – it’s similar to 50 Cent as he kept mentioning his nine bullets wounds on Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Benny doesn’t sugarcoat why he puts himself on this upper echelon. On “Bust A Brick Nick” he raps: But it’s over, and that was my fourth felony, certainly/Got a warning, I’d be in Lewisburg right now if they search me/Locked in with plugs, so I know that shit y’all coppin’ no good/To get the drop (What’s that?), I’m the type to send fiends to shop in your hood,” boasting his status, while on the other end having perspective as evident with the line: “Blue steel knife for the jugg so don’t be that life that I took (N***a).” It’s a constant reminder that he keeps mentioning.
He is always looking to bring something creative into the fold, like on “10 More Commandments,” featuring Diddy. Many of us fans have gotten used to hearing his explicit and detailed talk about the drug game, reminding us as much with a follow-up to The Notorious B.I.G. song and showing us how things have changed over a decade. Opening with the lines: “Soon as they let me eat, knew the streets was my expertise (Uh-huh)/I kept discreet contacts with my connect, so they let me eat (Uh-huh)/A rapper, but I was a drug trafficker ‘fore I left the streets/These ten more crack commandments, Frank White, rest in peace.” Diddy comes in to talk about generational culture and how values transfer, despite the system faltering progressions in the community.
But Benny the Butcher speaks more than just his time in the drug game – listen to The Plugs I Met 1 & 2 – it gets to other personal levels, ones where Benny senses self-doubt. The depth and quality of his lyricism hold no bounds, delivering a beautiful parallel with the production that shifts in tempo from the dreamy “Tyson vs. Ali” to the jazzy heavy “Thowny’s revenge,” there wasn’t a moment that I drew back due to quality. There is this effervescent charm and energy that derives from Benny’s demeanor and approach, you can’t help but feel entrenched by his words.
Unfortunately, the lows on Tana Talk 4 come from poorly timed lines, like on “Billy Joe” and slight redundancy on “Uncle Bun” and “Back 2x” with 38 Spesh and Stove God Cooks respectively. The latter two pass by quickly, one becoming forgettable as I listened on and the other just an oversaturation in concept without nuance. The former – though not “bad” – it feels poorly timed with the lines: “They give a dope boy life, say we destroyin’ communities/I let ’em make me out the villain, I stay poised as Putin be,” considering where we are. Hindsight being 20/20, there are other allusions one can make – though I don’t know how the process works, I don’t know if the track could have been removed prior.
Benny the Butcher continues to show up and deliver, even when the subject stays more consistent than manufactured beer. Tana Talk 4 lives up to the wait and delivers hard-hitting bars that shine brighter than its production, while still allowing it to thrive, especially during repetitive beats in content. As far as Hip-Hop projects, there has been a consistent uptick in Q1 of 2022 that brings glee to my ears – Benny is just one of many.