Shady Records signee and one third of the group Griselda, Westside Gunn has returned with his highly anticipated debut record “Who Made The Sunshine.” The grimy coke rap lyrical aficionado is back and better than ever with his new project. This is Gunn’s third release since his earlier tapes “Pray For Paris” as well as “Fly God is an Awesome God 2.” Regardless of being released independently or through a major label, it’s just business as usual for Westside Gunn when it comes to coming out with another consistent and cohesive record. The Buffalo native doesn’t stray off the beaten path of slow grimy beats accompanied with elegant narrations of luxurious fashion, street poetics and great features. Before pressing play, I did enjoy looking at the features and was pleasantly surprised by the star-studded cast of the entire Griselda collective with Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine and Westside Gunn, along with appearances from Black Thought, Slick Rick, Busta Rhymes and Jadakiss.
For an album with no samples, it’s uncanny how the production evokes such nostalgia to that of Wu-Tang or even its collective’s solo ventures such as “Supreme Clientele” from Ghostface Killah or GZA’s “Liquid Swords.” The slow dingy beats juxtaposed with the upscale lyricism reflects not only Gunn’s love for fashion, money and good weed, but it also shows pieces of who he was before fame and notoriety. There are a lot of good moments on this project, one of which being the track “All Praises” featuring Boldy James and Jadakiss. A slow comatosed beat wrapped around woodwinds and laser beams in the back makes for a good collaborative piece. With the chorus coming from Gunn and the verses from his fellow Griselda signee, Boldy James, along with a verse from the legendary one third of the LOX, Jadakiss. Having these three come together was a high point in the album. I felt they had great lyrical chemistry. Although there wasn’t a verse from Westside Gunn the chorus did in fact suffice, leaving the lyrical heavy-lifting to James and Jadakiss in which these two did not disappoint.
In preparation for his debut to release, Gunn posted on Instagram about what it took mentally, physically and spiritually to present this project. After listening, the sentiments he evoked in that post could be felt once the outro track was finished; Gunn mentioned feeling young again while making this record, which isn’t a long shot to say seeing as his fan base spans further than the highly invested hip-hop heads in Buffalo. With his affinity for pop culture fashion items such as Louis Vuitton, Off-White and Supreme, it was only a matter of time before his sound reached the Bluetooth speakers of the average suburban teenager. I definitely appreciated just how in-house this debut project was from the album cover to the production and collaborators. It’s clear that Gunn has not strayed away from his original formula at all. What really grabs and keeps my attention is the production on this project; as aforementioned, there are no samples used in the making of these beats, which I find to be quite refreshing. Nowadays, it’s effortless to find a beat that has a sample and an 808 wrapped around it. It’s nice to see artistic boundaries being pushed by Beat Butcha, Conductor Williams and Daringer, along with the collaborating producers such as The Alchemist and Just Blaze.
The Slick Rick and Busta Rhymes feature did have me taken aback a bit; I never thought I would live to see Slick Rick and Busta Rhymes make new music let alone be on the same song together. The track “Ocean Prime” with the three MC’s reciting grimy lyrics of drive bys and drug distribution along with some food for thought at the end in which I found to be nothing short of Gunn’s repertoire and musical style. I felt the contrast between the old and new school lyricist in hip hop to be very distinguished; especially when listening to Slick Rick and Busta’s wordplay along with Gunn holding his own rapping with the two hip hop legends. Overall, I really enjoyed this project from Westside Gunn. It felt really in-house and organic while still staying true to his artistic vision.
Verdict: This debut album is for anyone that enjoys lyrics describing big drip and drug deals as well as good storytelling and refreshing beats. Westside Gunn stays true to what got him to his current position and has truly created a project that gives an in-depth depiction of not only who he is but what he’s been through. At a time when he may be coming up on his retirement, it’s refreshing to see that he shows no signs of slowing down lyrically or stylistically.