A creative with tenacious vision echoing Kanye West and Basquiat’s effortless energy, and work ethic, WESTSIDEGUNN is a scholar whose trustworthiness has grown quite a bit this year. We’re all invited to witness his growth publicly on record alongside his tireless Griselda Records army. With production in its entirety by in-house producer Daringer, Hitler Wears Hermes 4 serves as WSG’s fourth installment to the ongoing series. A little over a year ago we heard part three, inviting the late Sean Price on “BLVCK TAR”. He and Griselda often pay homage to the rap giant; one of a laundry list of reasons authentic hip-hop listeners could note continued, solidified trust. When a recently developed artist praises Sean Price and J-Dilla, you listen. Getting familiar with WSG and Griselda early on, these type of things mattered – in a time where it’s almost expected for newer artists to ignore, even disrespect, their timeline’s frontrunners. And ultimately the culture. Now, Halloween day, we’re offered part four.
We had some fun and ran down a list of highlights that we’ve gathered from Hitler Wears Hermes 4. The title lists four reasons that your collection needs this, but there are far more.
Conway’s unrepentant transparency.
It’s common to hear Conway, the blood brother of WSG, compared to Beanie Sigel and Styles P. in 2016. It comes as no surprise. He’s cut from the same cloth, and we wholeheartedly agree that he belongs in the “hardest rapper” ranking at this point. There was a time when Hell Rell was mentioned on the unofficial list, but if anyone replaces him it’s Conway now next to Beans and SP. Perhaps that list is arguable. Isn’t everything?
“The Cow” is a welcomed surprise and the frame work for the 11-track Halloween day release. Conway has always been truthful and convincingly honest about hardships, street tales and hands on experiences. But this opening verse peels another layer of the onion off of the brawny wordsmith who, lets be honest, is one of the coldest personalities on record this year. It’s embraced and ultimately what makes him Conway the Machine. Hints of spirituality when referencing a close friend Machine Gun’s murderer, “..maybe that was a sign, maybe God ain’t want me killin’ them niggas and doin’ time, maybe God wanted me here to kill ’em with the rhyme, maybe that was part of his plan and part of the design. I don’t know, I’m not religious..” followed by a quick dose of gratitude while reliving the tragic shooting where he took a bullet in the head and almost lost his life. He wanted to quit pursuing hip-hop during and after recovery, now having to live with a slightly slurred delivery and a face “twisted up lookin’ ugly as shit.” Needless to say, we are glad he didn’t throw the towel in, as we’re sure hip-hop fans are in addition.
Thankful for his close relationship with WSG and Daringer, working with Kool G Rap, and still being alive to create today, it’s evident that he penned this verse with natural emotion. Grateful tears perhaps were shed. It may be one of the most convincing verses from him all year, and certainly builds even more anticipation for his forthcoming full-length G.O.A.T. (Grimiest Of All Time).
Art. And More Art.
An open invitation to controversy, the title Hitler Wears Hermes is unapologetically blunt. It’s a beautifully confusing and compelling label for a series. The title itself is drawn off of the Devil Wears Prada, but WSG needed something to stamp the newly wrapped package with his own flavor, a few years ago from his docu-series stating, “..some of the grimiest but flyest shit I could come up with. As soon as you hear it you think it’s crazy but fly at the same time,” explaining that’s what defines him – fly, grimy and luxurious. I don’t think an elaborate explanation is necessary for the title, much like most esteemed and admired artwork.
We’re here on the fourth installment. The cover art could be the most visually experimental piece we’ve seen from Griselda Records – an unbalanced, disproportioned digital collage of Hitler, well, wearing static Hermes attire. And a transparent mid-section (we think we see a spine there), which adds to the satisfying distortion. They’re quickly becoming known for their conceptual approaches on the visual art spectrum, adding another layer to the army’s flair. WSG is not shy about admitting his love for art, whether it be painting, drawing, fashion, emceeing or poetry. FLYGOD, his newly released debut record, exhibits a young stylized WSG wearing a careless, sincere smile and three gold chains. With his head wrapped in a tight crown of thorns and blood dripping from both his forehead and eyeballs, it raises questions. Art imitates art. Life imitates art. The questionability, the doubt, the curiosity and measurable conclusions.
There’s a moment when listening to this piece where four songs, back to back, are built primarily off of gorgeous looped guitar riffs – “Aunt Rosie’s”, “Mr. Fuji”, “Ringside Rocking Furs” and “Nitro” to be exact. It’s not the first time we’re hearing Griselda’s in-house producer Daringer get loose and ornamental with guitar strings, but it’s the first time we’re hearing over fifteen minutes of display where guitar is the focal point. It’s uniformed. “Ringside Rocking Furs” is the lightest of the four, the guitar playing more of a backdrop as a result of the heavier drums – seeing fit considering its invitation to a new Keisha Plum spoken word piece and an introduction by singer Tiona D.
Daringer’s most enticing qualities lies is in his vocal samples. It may take a listener 10 minutes into any Griselda Records piece that he’s worked on to notice the highlighted skill set, though HWH4 finds only two songs where a looped vocal sample is the centerpiece – “The Almighty” and “Walked on Water Interlude”. A lot of their best work together is rather minimal. That’s chemistry in its purest, natural form. When it’s meant to be, you hear it. Again, sometimes art is like that. You can’t exactly put your finger on it. It’s a feeling. An indescribable one, bearing resemblant chemistry of Madlib and MF DOOM or Black Moon and Da Beatminerz. Daringer has even been called a young Alchemist, respectively.
All of his soundscapes leave us instantly in need of more. It’s not soul music, but it feeds the soul. There’s soul in the process and there’s undeniable passion. Real do indeed recognize real, and at the end of the day upstart producers should take note of the Buffalo, New York native’s work ethic. We like to think there’s folders of unreleased production that could, like WSG has been doing with rare, collectable vinyl records and clothing, be sold at a high number on the internet. HWH4 is another sure sign that Daringer is one of the most distinctive beatsmiths in hip-hop music right now.
Bringing out one of Stalley’s best guest verses in a while.
Griselda Records have yet to overwhelm a body of work with overbearing features. They generally keep the guest appearances within an arm’s reach – a healthy amount that seems to be the ideal recipe for an unabridged, contemporary hip-hop record. We’ve yet to think there were too many invited artists across their discography. HWH4 holds the door open for Conway, Tiona D, Benny, Smoke DZA and most notably Stalley, Maybach Music Group’s promising and often overlooked wordsmith. As for authentic Ohio representatives, it’s safe to put him up there with the Hi-Teks, the J. Rawls and the Kid Cudis. His latest (2014) full-length Ohio welcomed listeners globally into his classic apple red Chevy Impala with the boomin’ system. A wide, homely body of work that acquired additional trust for true-school rap fans.
Stalley’s Ohio, The Laughing Introvert and Saving Yusef releases all have their acclaimed highlights, whether it be debut sales, ideational subject matter or pure emceeing. As far as guest verses “5x a Day” may have brought one of the best moments out of him. We recently heard him on Skyzoo and Apollo Brown’s latest The Easy Truth. “Payout” is too an incredible contributing verse, but WSG and Daringer brought an edge out of him that we haven’t heard in a while. Maybe it’s the nature of the song’s reality, the nature of knowing when you’re invited into Griselda’s territory you let the pitbulls out. And the nature of a barbaric, reflective Daringer soundscape. Though notably topical, it’s more so a feeling you get that we’re referencing here.
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