While Westside and Conway are certainly deserving of the recognition that comes with a Slim Shady co-sign, Griselda is more than just the brotherly duo. One of the label’s other standouts is their cousin, Benny The Butcher.
Since joining Griselda, Benny’s experienced his own rise from the unheralded Hip Hop scene in Buffalo. The gritty MC has linked up with some of the top rappers in the game — Royce Da 5’9, The LOX and Raekwon, to name a few — and dropped some well-received projects over the past year.
With his debut album Tana Talk 3 due out this summer, HipHopDX got a chance to speak with Benny about his come up, the LP and much more. The Butcher discussed everything from Griselda’s signature style and his status following the Shady deal to his breakthrough mixtape Butcher On Steroids and the recently released A Friend Of Ours project.
Here’s what the Butcher had to say:
HipHopDX: I wanted to get a little bit of history from you. How did you first link up with Griselda Records?
Benny: Well, those my cousins, first and foremost. I’ve known them my whole life, but far as the music, we been doing music and everything together. But, my official contract with Griselda Records came in 2016. Basically, I always was doing my thing, but West and Con was always doing they thing, and it just made more sense to come fuck with them. Just be under one roof. So, since 2016. But we family, we been rapping … Everything that people see us doing now, we been doing that shit. We got old tapes together. We got everything together. It was just a business decision for me to sign an official contract with them, but those my cousins. We been doing this together.
DX: Can you tell me a little bit about that family connection and what it was like coming up together in the Buffalo scene?
Benny: Man, it’s like … It’s good that you could be involved in some shit like this with your family. Because everybody dream about this shit with they closest friends, and they closest niggas, and we really get to do it.
In Buffalo, the rap scene when we was coming up, it almost wasn’t a rap scene. It was, but people wasn’t — it wasn’t like a high [level of] talent. It was only a few people with that A-1 talent. And then when we came, we just came with a different hunger in Buffalo. Just a different aura. It’s hard to explain, but everybody who came across and seen it just knew we was different. Just knew we had something extra that they never seen before coming from this area.
Even now, a lot of people is learning from it. A lot of people in Buffalo taking the blueprint and they running with it. That’s cool, I guess, but we been doing this shit for so long and it’s paying off. This Buffalo shit is paying off. But like, it was almost non-existent when we started. The way we was doing it, putting out mixtapes, putting a whole bunch of mixtapes out, the work ethic, how we constantly drop music. We been doing that. So, it’s like we using that same formula in the industry that we did when we was just in Buffalo fucking around.
DX: On Conway’s Death By Misadventure EP, it had a little interlude where he’s talking about how everybody associates y’all with traditionalist ’90s Hip Hop, but the sound was just what bred y’all in Buffalo. Can you tell me a little bit about how Buffalo influences the sound?
Benny: Man, Buffalo is a straightforward place. A lot of artists in Buffalo suffer from a crisis of identity. It’s just that … niggas just stuck to what they know. And to be honest with you, gotta give West the credit on that. Because that’s the sound that West honed. Me and Conway, we experimented with other styles of music and shit like this, but our blade was always sharper in the old ‘90s style of Hip Hop. So, it’s like what you good at, that’s what you stick to. And it’s working. We definitely experimented with other styles of Hip Hop, but Buffalo’s just a raw place, so that’s why it sounds the way it sounds. It’s just a raw, straightforward place, and you get that through the music.
DX: So, how big of a role and how influential has Daringer been on shaping the style and sound that y’all bring to the table?
Benny: Big, man! I call him the architect because he the architect of the sound. So, when you hear them beats, how raw they sound and them spooky sounds, it almost pulls that emotion out of you. You can’t rap about nothing else but that fucking grimy shit. I don’t know where the fuck Daringer be coming up with that shit. He’s like a little short white dude. I don’t know what the fuck be going on in his head, but man, he played a giant part. He the architect.
Shout out to Diesel. We call him Diesel. Shout out to Daringer. He do what he do, and he know what to pick. I know people probably imagine that we be in the studio fighting over beats, but Daringer’s so smart. He know what kind of beats to play for West. He know what kind of beats to play for me. He know what kind of beats to play for Conway. He’s just good at what he do. He a student of the game. He’s a student of the greats — the RZAs, the Preemos and all those niggas — and it shows.
DX: It does. Now, last year you released the Butcher On Steroids with DJ Green Lantern. I felt like that was a real pivotal project for you. It was an impressive tape, and it seemed like your coming out party in the Griselda crew. Can you talk about that project and the process behind it?
Benny: This is a dope story because on tour, we was at Heaven — Royce’s studio. West was just telling me, “Yo, you know what you should do? Before your album” — because my album been done — he was like, “Before we put that out, we should do a Butcher on Steroids.” And I’m, “That’s be crazy.” He said it right there in front of Green. And Green was with it. And I actually did the first song for it that day. That was “Camillia’s” produced by Green Lantern. I did that immediately. Soon as West put the idea in our heads, Green produced the beat. And it’s like I knew that was gonna make a big impact because people fuck with me and they was waiting to see how I was gonna sound. They was waiting to see, was I gonna carry on tradition? And I feel like I did.
I already had two songs done for it. I had the Green Lantern joint. I started working with IceRocks, got a couple joints with him. And I just went back in Buffalo and did the rest of it. I got the feeling. I did the rest of the writing in Buffalo. I got the feeling, and then I would just play this for West, and he was like, “Yo, this shit is fucking crazy.”
Conway had a couple Steroids tapes, and Westside had Hitler On Steroids. And the whole time, I’m just trying to live up to the hype. Because you know how them fucking Steroids series make people … It’s a lot behind them, and I’m just trying to live up the hype. So, I’m making sure every bar is crisp. All the production is A-1. I picked the beats meticulously. “The True Meaning” beat, the Beanie Sigel beat, the CNN. These are industry beats I did. The “Blood Money” beat … I picked those iconic beats because that’s the sound that I wanted. I wanted to give it the iconic sound.
I worked hard on that, and I think I came up on that. I think I scored on that one.
DX: I’d say you did. Moving forward to 2018, you put out the project with 38 Spesh. What’s it like working with him and how did this project come about?
Benny: Me and Spesh been working like this for 10 years. We always had that chemistry. We looked up, and I had a broader audience. And I’m like, you know what, we gotta give them something. Know what I mean? We gotta give them something, the shit that we usually do. And we locked in the studio. We did that in the matter of a couple of studio sessions. It was easy doing it because it’s not that hard. It’s just two people. I don’t gotta do a lot of work on it, and it’s just sparring. Just in the lab sparring. I know he gonna come with crazy shit, so I gotta come with some crazy shit myself.
And the energy— you should have seen the energy in those studio sessions. It’s like the producers we used on there, they all wanted to be a part of that project. My boy Saigon, he sat in on a couple of sessions, and he was amazed. It was just high energy, It was like, “I got this beat. OK, I got this hook. OK, dope hook. I got this verse. Oh shit, that’s crazy let me write my verse.” It was just like this. It was like not setting back nothing because we wanted to get that project down. We knew what that project was gonna do too.
That’s like one of my favorite projects I did. Because to me, it’s a well-rounded project. It’s like a bar sesh, you know what I mean? Me and Spesh sparring on a mic, going back and forth. You know we got ‘Kiss and Styles [P] on there. That was big project, so that was one of my favorite projects that I did. Shit was dope, man, you shoulda been there. You shoulda been there, man, while we was recording that shit!
DX: It sounds like a great time. Now most recently, you put out the A Friend of Ours EP, and you have a lot of artists involved. Every song has a feature. What was involved in making it more of a compilation as opposed to being a straight up solo record?
Benny: Basically, A Friend of Ours, that’s the term that the mob uses to describe a made guy. And when people see me on tour, you might see me 10-deep, and you might think these dudes are goons. Some of them is goons, but some of them is producers or artists. And they dope, and I’m like, “You know what?” I never said this to nobody.
Originally, we was out at Coachella. I was out there with them, and I was with a couple producers. This why all the features on there. I’m like “Yo, we should fucking record a EP while we out here and drop it while we out here.” And the ideas came, but we never did because we were so busy shooting videos. And I just brought the idea home. And I’m like, I’m still gonna do it. I was gonna call it like, Coachella Weekend, and just put it right out. But I’m like, “No.”
We didn’t get to do it, so I made it back home. I brought that same energy home and I just wanted to … I was really snowballing off of the “India” track, the chemistry me and [El] Camino had. And he just in the studio killing these hooks, he killing these hooks and I’m like, “I’m not gonna shy away from it. I’m like fuck it, like Camino the fucking Griselda Drake on the hook!” I ain’t about to stop just because he on too many hooks. We gonna keep doing it. And niggas hear us working on these songs, they like, I gotta verse for this. “OK, let me hear your verse for this. Oh, that’s smoking. Let’s go!”
And I actually reached out to a few more artists to put verses on there, so people woulda heard even more people on there. It was like a collective. We was working on that project with the dudes I was around. That how that came about. That’s how no song is a solo one. Really, it was a teaser. That’s another thing. It’s the same thing West said about the Steroids because he know I got songs. He like, “You should give them something else.”
You only got to tell me once, he know that. Give them something else? Perfect. I got something right in the chamber. The people around me, like I said, niggas not just goons standing around or security or crazy shit. Niggas is producers or artists, and they came in here and we brought it. I didn’t use Daringer on there. I just used what I had right in front of me. I think we delivered on that one too. People got to hear my boy Rick Hyde’s productions on there. The fucking “The Hunter 2” had Skyzoo. I did “The Hunter 1” on 17 Bullets. Same thing, I wanted to recreate that energy. It was dope, and the people fucking with it.
DX: You mentioned Skyzoo. I think one of the coolest things watching the Griselda crew is how the vets are all giving you that respect and collabing with y’all. Can you talk about carrying on the tradition and what it’s like to be working with guys that are legends in the game?
Benny: Yeah, that’s big and that’s humbling. Some of these guys is like the gatekeepers of Hip Hop. For them to say like, “We fucking with Griselda, let do it.” That’s big for us, and we know what that means. So, like you said, we wanna carry on tradition. We wanna keep everything A-1. When you getting these nods from these legends, it’s like you already know what to expect.
If somebody like [Raekwon] the Chef give you the head nod, if the Chef say it’s lit, you already know what to expect. So, we just keeping that with the same flow. If the Chef tell you it’s dope, the shit is dope. We going off of that. It’s like, “OK, these niggas is legends, and they co-signing it.” So, we gotta continue to bring it. It’s that cloth.
I remember playing my album for Rae. Rae said that shit was crazy. Just sitting in the studio, D-Block studio with ‘Kiss, and he’s like, “Yeah, y’all niggas on the right note. Y’all on the right path.” Shit like that, that’s big. Shit like that give me energy and inspiration to do a whole ‘nother two fucking projects. That shit is inspiring when you got that kind of inspiration coming from those dudes, man, it’s big.
Shout out to all those dudes because you gotta think, we from Buffalo, right? Everybody won’t be quick to co-sign us. That’s real shit that we go through. Everybody don’t be quick to stand behind it. For those dudes to put the culture above everything because they know it’s right for the culture, that was dope, man. And more respect to those dudes. That was dope.
DX: That’s great. Now, you’ve brought up your album a bit. When can fans expect to hear it?
Benny: Man, real soon! It really come out like … The plan is to drop it next month as the follow-up to [West’s] Chris Benoit [aka Supreme Blientele]. It’s dope, man. It’s all produced by Daringer and Alchemist. So, people can know what to expect: that rich Griselda sound is grimy as shit.
We gonna put the official tracklist out, maybe next month. But, I got some good features on there. I got some good production. I’m known for being one of the hungriest niggas out right now. And I’m still one of the hungriest niggas out right now, so just imagine two weeks after I sign the dotted line on my Griselda deal, how hungry I am. And that album was done within two weeks of me signing my deal.
I went crazy on that shit. It’s like I’m trying to prove a point. It’s raw, man. I can’t wait for the people to hear that. It’s called Tana Talk 3.
My block is called Montana. We call it Tana for short. In 2000s – here’s some history right here. In 2005, I dropped a mixtape called Tana Talk 2, because I already did one that was 1. So it’s like, when I put 2 out, it was couple people buzzing in the city and doing they thing. But when I put 2 out, I shocked the whole city. People still talk about that tape to this day. And it’s like, people knew what I was, what type of time I was on. I was hungry, I was killing shit. It was West’s idea to name it Tana Talk 3, because like I said, he wanted to recreate that energy.
See, it’s almost a pattern going on here. We recreate energy. And it’s like, “Yo, we should call this Tana Talk 3 because this remind me of those times.” And that’s what we did. I knew what that meant. Man, this shit gonna be crazy. It’s gonna be a movie right there when I drop this shit. I got some good records on there, some good records.
DX: That’s great. I know you’re holding off for the tracklist but can you reveal anyone who’s featured on it? Obviously, you said you had Daringer and Alchemist on the production.
Benny: I got my big bro Royce on there. I’ma just put that out there, you know what I mean.
Benny: Just imagine a Royce and Benny track. It’s everything you imagine. Real shit, and we did those records at the same time that I did the “Camillia’s” record, the first song for Steroids. Just being in the studio with Royce and watching him cook. He keep fucking with … And the thing about it, he gave me that song because we was in the studio all night just writing songs. He like, “Yo, you got a verse for this?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He write another one, “You got a verse for this?” I’m like, “Yeah.”
We did like four songs that night. And I asked him. I’m like, “I need that song, man.” He’s like, “Man, take that shit. Whatever you wanna do with it. You got my blessing.” So, shout out to Royce, man. And it’s a good song. It’s a big song to me, so I been holding on to it till the right time. There’s no more perfect time than for the album.
DX: Absolutely. Now, I just wanted to get some information, or perhaps clarification, from you. Obviously, Westside and Conway are part of Shady, and you are signed to Griselda. Can you tell me about how those dynamics work for you? Are you part of Shady too or is it just them?
Benny: No, I’m part of Griselda Records, so contractually I’m not a part of Shady. But it’s all family over there. Paul [Rosenberg] and Mike [Herard], they treat me like family. They make sure I’m included in everything. I’m just independently with Griselda. And to be honest, it’s like a beautiful thing because I get to see the pros and cons of being on a major while not being on a major.
And I get to learn. I’m like in college. I’m learning everything. It’s like I got a free tuition. It’s like I’m included, but I’m not in the deal. You see I’m at all the festivals. Everywhere you go and see West and Con, you gonna see me. So, it’s like I’m getting a lesson right now just by watching those guys and running around with them and being a part of they situation. But shout out to Shady, man, it’s all love. It’s all love. I call, I go up to the offices any time. They treat me like family. Maybe soon, you never know, baby. You never know.
Benny: Some people can’t even tell, and some people can. But like I said, it’s not even about that. It’s about the work that I put out. It’s about the work that I put out because these dudes … A lot of rappers, they chasing labels and shit like that. But it ain’t about what a label could do for you, it’s about what you could do for yourself. Because that’s ultimately what the label paying attention to. I got a tour coming up, I’m headlining a tour. You should see Royce. I got Royce, he fuck with me. He told me the other day, whatever you need. So, it’s like I’m family and everything.
But the unique thing about my situation is that I’m not under a major and I’m doing all of these things. People don’t realize that about me, and I feel like that’s another thing I don’t get a lot of credit on. Because I’m really an unsigned artist making all these moves, you see what I’m saying. There’s only a few people in my shoes who doing shit like that who’s making an impact that I’m doing without a major label.
DX: Absolutely. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. Anything you wanna make sure our readers know?
Benny: Man, Tana Talk 3 is coming out soon! The Butcher is coming. Tour is coming soon. I’ll be in a city near you soon. And I’m just shaking. You can expect high energy from me. I’m gonna be here. Trust me, the Butcher gonna be here for the next 10 years because can’t nothing outlast these bars, man. Shout out to Black Soprano Family, BSF. You know what BSF stand for. It stands for Black Soprano Family, but it also stands for Bars Stand Forever! I’ma call it BSFNF because Bars Stand Forever ‘N Ever.