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Westside Gunn - Supreme Blientele Music Album Reviews

The ascendent Buffalo rapper combines ’90s boom-bap and a love of wrestling for his latest, which features Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes, and more

Along with his brother Conway, aka Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn has the distinction of being a rapper who made it out of Buffalo, New York. After a life in the streets, Gunn, who will turn 36 later this month, only started taking rap seriously in 2012, the same year Conway survived a bullet to the head.

Gunn is a mid-’90s revivalist whose high, creaky voice makes him sound younger than he is. He established himself with releases like the 2016 album FLYGOD (used copies go for hundreds) and his Hitler Wears Hermes series, both released through his own Griselda Records. Along the way, Gunn has collaborated with guys like Kool G Rap, MF DOOM, and Royce Da 5’9”, and he and Conway inked a deal with Eminem’s Shady Records last year. (They were two of the guys standing in the background during Em’s Trump-bashing BET Hip Hop Awards freestyle last fall.) Underground rap fans have gravitated toward the authenticity of Gunn’s gloriously grimy boom-bap, and while his sound might be dated, he might’ve been a true star in an earlier era.

Gunn’s sophomore album, Supreme Blientele, actually has two other titles besides the one honoring Ghostface Killah: Chris Benoit and God Is the Greatest. Chris Benoit was the professional wrestler whose disturbing life story infamously ended with him murdering his wife and 7-year-old son before killing himself in 2007. Gunn released the album 11 years to the day after the first murder, and some might feel that attaching Benoit’s name to the project is some twisted, fucked-up shit (though Gunn has long incorporated his love of professional wrestling into his music and artwork, and most of the album’s song titles have to do with wrestling).

Overall, though, the album doesn’t play out as twisted or macabre, nor is it a concept album about Benoit. It’s a mostly satisfying hunk of ’90s revivalism, working from a dusty boom-bap framework without sounding rigid. It incorporates bright, colorful jazz, neo-soul, and psychedelic sounds courtesy of producers including the Alchemist, Pete Rock, 9th Wonder, Harry Fraud, and Griselda in-house producer Daringer. Atop their beats, Gunn’s favorite topics range from his experiences with the most desperate of fiends to his taste in designer clothes. It’s street-oriented lyricism that can be simultaneously blunt and vivid, as in the repetition of “Elizabeth”: “I know some niggas got two bodies and still a teenager/I know fiends that wanna lick the resi off the razor.”

While Gunn’s sound might be insular, Supreme Blientele is full of guest features. This works both for and against it. Sometimes Gunn fades too much into the background of his own album, but the collaborations also result in some of the best songs here, whether it’s Jadakiss and Griselda rapper Benny (aka Benny the Butcher) joining on “GODS Don’t Bleed,” Benny and a Salt Bae-referencing Busta Rhymes on “Brossface Brippler,” or Anderson .Paak singing all over the six-minute soul swirl “Wrestlemania 20.” Ultimately, while this crowdedness prevents Supreme Blientele from feeling like a definitive statement from Gunn as a rapper, the album can still function as a fine entry point to the fast-growing catalog of an ascendant rap cult hero.

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