Buffalo, N.Y. has enjoyed unprecedented attention on the heels of the prolific and immensely talented Griselda Records collective with brothers Westside Gunn, Conway The Machine, and Benny The Butcher, proving that bar-heavy Hip-Hop still matters. While his real-life family connection with his cousins no doubt gave way to the blossoming of his career, Benny The Butcher is now in a position to elevate his compatriots, Black Soprano Family, as they help cement their own legacies.
Benny The Butcher isn’t a new jack. Comfortably in his 30s, the past decade and more have been one of extreme highs and the requisite lows experienced by a rapper of his talent. But before fans began to fully appreciate the street-fueled grittiness of The Butcher, Benny, then going by B.E.N.N.Y., was forging his path as an artist with his cousins Westside and Conway, along with Benny’s brother, Machine Gun Black.
We asked Benny about his late big brother, whom the team lovingly call ChineGunn and their connection.
“ChineGun was my real blood big brother, he was overprotective, he got me in a lot of things early. if he was going outside to play football or whatever he’d be doing, he’d always have to take me,” Benny shared. “He was very genuine, and he protected those that he cared for at all costs. His spirit looks over my music a lot, I think about him every day, that’s my real brother. He talks through me in my music, some of those moments I’ve rapped about I might not have said it, but he was right there with me.”
Benny’s early tapes and projects are all but pieces of rare art at this point as many fans of Benny came to know him through his feature appearances on WSG’s Flygod along with Supreme Blientele among others. With a presence on the microphone that was both bone-chilling and descriptive, Benny’s cold-as-ice delivery was believable and effective. In comparison to the dexterity and command of styles that Conway has, or the bombastic fly talk from WSG, Benny sounded like a pure assassin on the microphone.
Give his level of skill, we wanted to know more about some of his influences in his development.
“Hov, Nas, Raekwon, Black Thought, Eminem, and Conway too. I came up under Conway, so I always took heed to his wordplay,” as Benny listed a short who’s who list of elite wordsmiths.
Upstate New York might not be widely known as a hub of crime and poverty, but many of the same somber realities that plagued Gotham has made its way north. Benny, like Conway and Westside alike, found it difficult to escape the lure of the block despite his gift with the pen. Benny has gone on record to talk about his drug-dealing past, which began when he was just a teenager, and his proficiency at the activity would eventually lead to federal imprisonment.
In Benny’s Tana Talk series –the third of which was released in 2018– made several end of the year lists and affirmed that his appearances on Griselda’s early works weren’t just a favor for the homie. In fact, it may have been at that moment that Benny became his own man. With The Plugs I Met EP, Benny achieved the rare feat of not being outshined by feature superstar, the aforementioned Black Thought of The Roots on the “Crown For Kings” track. Yes, Black Thought’s verse was stellar, but Benny’s verse was actually the standout.
Similar to WSG, Benny’s time on the street and in prison makes its way to his rhymes, but never in a way to promote his lifestyle as an aspirational goal. Instead, Benny, never preaching, is essentially laying out a warning to those who dare travel that path. Nothing about drug dealing, street shootouts, or doing a stretch is ever glorified. Instead, the listener can experience the pain, weight, and even weariness of having to be a street lieutenant where trust and love for your fellow man can often lead to your downfall.
“They can always expect that autobiographical sound because that’s where I draw my inspiration from, real-life events. That’s why I rap so cinematically because I know that’s how people want to hear it, they want to feel as if they were right there with me.”
We’re all we have, beyond the music, and all we ever needed.
It’s fitting then that Benny is going all out for his Black Soprano Family collective. Comprised of Ricky Hyde, Heems B$F, Jonesy, and Loveboat Luciano, the B$F squad now have dipped their toe in the high-stakes world of the music industry. While Griselda, the act comprised of Benny, WSG, and Conway, has the benefit and backing of a major-label deal with Eminem‘s Shady Records, BSF and its acts are genuinely from the mud, and that’s how they prefer to get it– to borrow and interpolate a popular phrase.
“Those all were bonds formed from the block; we’re related by neighborhoods and where we’re from. We’re all from the same hood,” Benny said of his BSF set.
Today, Benny can call himself a label owner, and his Black Soprano Family imprint inked a partnership deal with eOne this past spring that has led to the July release of the Benny the Butcher & DJ Drama Presents Black Soprano Family EP. It’s a good market for this brand of Hip-Hop, dusty drums atop soul-draped samples, and the streetwise phonetics that sit right in the mode of your favorite mobster movie.
It would be proper to note that Benny is always a standout across the short project, but it’s clear he’s surrounded by a robust set of spitters who are never overshadowed or treated like the little brothers that could. In essence, the same way that his cousins paved the way for him, Benny has made certain his brothers will never have to compromise their art to be heard widely.
Next up for Benny is Burden Of Proof with producer-rapper Hit-Boy, stating he’s set to complete the record out west this coming week.
As we wrapped up the brief chat, we wanted to once again get Benny’s thought on the concept of family, and in his straight, no-chaser fashion, he delivered a succinct message to all.
“Basically, it lets me know when it comes to family and people close to you; you should always try and do what you can to help. We’re all we have, beyond the music, and all we ever needed. As for the music aspect, it helps with the morality of my music, what I speak about, the substance it has,” Benny said.