*Special Thanks to In The City Magazine ATL for inviting us out*
Some of the best plans are not planned at all. I never planned on co-hosting a podcast. Four years ago, my dreams of becoming the Ghostface Killah of hip-hop writers were deferred by a pandemic in conjunction with a Jay Electronica & Jay-Z article review I had written gone viral the week of the now epic nationwide shutdown. Mike D hit me as my review began to track online and asked me if I wanted to go live to talk about it. By the time I woke up the next morning, According 2 Hip-Hop Live was born – the dream of me writing articles and reviews the ski mask way with my face covered and my opinions in the limelight caught a 187 on an undercover writer.
The pandemic shut down most major label artists in 2020. Out of this fog of fuckery emerged a gritty yet fashionable crew who hijacked their name from arguably the biggest queen-pin this hemisphere had ever seen. Griselda began to experience an Ether-like tipping point. Harkening the spirit, ethos, and lyrical intensity of a prime Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang Clan, this collective from Buffalo New York put a battery in the back of all hip-hop heads from the Five Boroughs in Hip-Hop’s Mecca to the Six Zones in Atlanta.
Wrestling metaphors and skits, ad-libs of gunshot sounds behind stellar bar work, and slowed-down beats that sounded like inspired riffs of DJ Premier’s classic beat “Come Clean” were like sniffing an eighth with vapor rub lined around your nose; addictive, dangerous, but you felt as a hip-hop head you could breathe again.
Half-Brothers Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine served respectively as the mastermind and lyrical wizard that set things off with projects like Conway’s Reject 2 and WSG’s vastly underrated Supreme Blientele. Waiting in the wings was their younger cousin who by all accounts was a mixture of the two brothers. Benny The Butcher had some of WSG’s Ric Flair and Flygod sensibilities mixed with Conway’s lyrical depth and tenacity. Add to that one of rap’s best voices coupled with a steely, abrasive delivery, Benny was and still is one of the few emcees walking the Earth that could claim Kingly rights in this rap shit. Rap in a lot of ways still values street credibility; the fact that Benny had a rap sheet that reflected his hustler lifestyle raps is a rarity in any rap era or climate.
Benny has gone toe to toe and possibly even had better footwork on tracks with some of the most legendary emcees the game has seen. On “Gods Don’t Bleed” off Blientele, Benny steals the show from the king of 16 Jadakiss with chilling narratives like “I turned over dollars how you explain that? straight facts, blood on the money when it got paid back, you know them hustlers who sling packs? I’m tied with them same cats in case I gotta get my name back – All them nights I had to pray for this they gon’ pay for this… Ya’ll shocked, I’m out your league by a long shot, my team gave the city smoke like cigar shops, (damn) They trying to give my man time like Sadaam got say my name and wake these niggas up like alarm clocks.”
On “Crowns For Kings” off Plugs I Met Part 1, The Butcher came to the chop shop and went bar for bar with Black Thought the way no emcee in this era has and very few ever have period. Take a moment and sweat the technique: “I sat back a vet and watched beginners winning my belt, burnt my bridges came back a good swimmer like Phelps, you know the feeling? Young black male what ya’ll dealing? take your whole life to get it – it only last you a minute, in the kitchen counting cash with cats with backwards agendas, put a benz in the brick and toss it back in the blender – That was us, next to a Big like I was Puff…. Money trees break when they not sturdy enough.. See I was good with the bad guy roll, water in my jewels put em on and baptize hoe’s, walk in my shoes we got Shaq size soles, we flatline those wack rap niggas wearing half size clothes.”
These championship-level bars off the top turnbuckle left many believing that Benny would rise the ranks from underground king to outright King. Flash forward to 2024 and Benny is now a prime commodity at the most revered and respected label in hip-hop history (Def Jam) with production from arguably the two best producers of this era (Alchemist & Hit-Boy) for his Def Jam debut, Everybody Can’t Go.
Although Benny is on the verge of the biggest moment and album of his career, he is aware of his roots and has stayed rooted. On a frigid Atlanta Monday night, Benny descended upon the black-owned upscale lounge Highness Cuisine to do his cover reveal for In The City Magazine Atlanta. The festivities were hosted by the lovely and multi-talented Moshua Loriel aka MoLo who kept the crowd entertained thoroughly.
The comedy portion of the event was handled by Mocha the Duchess whose routine ranged from Shirley Caesar-level dress code to old men with gout peeing in her bed. Mocha was followed by the first of two fashion show sets for black designers curated by the Leah Love Experience. Opening act Eli York got the crowd prepared for Benny’s arrival with some inspirational rap tunes. Benny arrived at 10:30 PM with the pre-requisite entourage of about fifteen members of his crew, and it seemed upon his arrival that a slew of beautiful women emerged out of nowhere and found themselves submerged in his VIP section.
Benny immediately stood at the front of the VIP section and a crowd ensued. He graciously took pictures and had conversations with every person who approached him. Beyond the ice and entourage, I saw a man who was genuinely concerned with connecting to the crowd. For the heights he has risen to it would be easy for him to slide to the back of the section with a beauty and a bottle, wait for the mag reveal, and then peel out. He was quite the opposite; Benny was engaging and affable. Benny had a surprising sense of community and spoke about us being disenfranchised to this day and doing what was necessary to rise from our rubble to a more level economic playing field. It was not the rhetoric you would expect from an emcee who is known more for his scale talk than GDP perspective and economic community empowerment.
When he slid over to the media portion to flick it up for media persons such as myself and others he was equally engaging. He was in full clarity of the moment approaching as I overheard him telling someone this project was about to be his highest charting album without question. He said it with the cool demeanor of someone who understood the importance but did not overstate the pressure. After doing interviews with other outfits and even taking a photo op with the models who were in the fashion show, I asked if I could get a picture with Benny behind the According 2 Hip-Hop backdrop. His manager Harlem said he was done with pictures and I told him that I was the media coverage from A2HH that came to support.
Harlem grabbed Benny and said, “One more picture, these guys support the movement.” Benny dapped me up and took the pictures – we had a brief back and forth about A2HH interviewing Hit-Boy and Griselda (Drumwork) affiliates Jae Skeese and 7xve The Genius. I told him we would love to get him next and he nodded before Harlem swooped him back into his section to do the reveal. After the reveal, I mingled with some of the folks at In The City Mag and some friends who had attended the event as well. A little before One AM I went back into the media room to take the A2HH banner down – by the time I was done and came back out Benny, the entourage, and the girls had all exited into the ATL night.
- The title of the album seemed more appropriate than ever to me – Everybody Can’t Go because whether it is on the mic or not everybody can’t flow like Benny. Armaud Cooper