A posterchild of grassroots music — a term rarely used for purveyors of bars and beats — Benny The Butcher is a unicorn in that his ascension from the ground up has lasted nearly two decades. Still, the product he’s been pushing with such tenacity all these years has not only remained fresh but has continued to add value to whichever outlet it’s sold out of.
At this point in time, the Buffalo native has over 40 bodies of work to his name that trace back to his debut mixtape in 2004. The self-described “project kid” was in and out of prison for the first half of his career as he struggled to make ends meet within the lines of the law, and because of this, the people who initially gave vitality to his vision slowly began viewing him as someone who missed the boat.
Fast forward to 2024 and Benny finally has the public’s attention. Somewhere between then and now, he honed his craft with precision and helped rally the troops that came to be known as Griselda. Together, they clawed their way into the spotlight despite competing in an era that no longer prioritizes MCs.
That right there is a story worth telling more than once: a wordsmith who snatched the pen from those who wrote him off and used that same ink to redraft his destiny.
Everybody Can’t Go is another chapter of that rigorous and self-governing narrative. As evident from the title, not everyone’s built to see a race through to the end — participants and spectators — but those who stick around, at least for Benny’s run, are promised a reward. This no-nonsense motif, which has been central to his work for years, is also the focal point of his major label debut album, released through the legendary Def Jam Recordings.
Produced entirely by Hit-Boy and The Alchemist — excluding one track which sees Hit-Boy share production credits with Corbett — the LP traces the New York spitter’s resilience from crippling artistic independence to signing with Def Jam and building on the label’s legacy of all-time greats like DMX, LL COOL J, Beastie Boys and Warren G, among countless others.
The 12-cut package is a concoction of sharply digitized beats and eloquent instrumentation in mechanical form, processed further to synthesize hard-headed mafioso bars. The Viktor Vaughn-esque shapeshifter “TMVTL” and scrupulously chopped “Pillow Talk & Slander,” for example, can be left on cruise control as the vocals take center stage. Contrarily, tracks like album opener “Jermanie’s Graduation” and third single “Bron” elicit fantasies of a Tiny Desk band rendition (you heard it here first), especially given the conviction with which Benny delivers his lines.
Lyrically, Everybody Can’t Go is the latest addition to the empirical evidence piling up in favor of Benny The Butcher’s craftiness with words — the manner in which he presents his story unlocks new perspectives even when he runs back certain themes and concepts. Whereas a lot of the Buffalo spitter’s peers stay struggling to retain their identities while holding people’s attention, he’s made the dominant brand of yesterday’s Hip Hop scene his niche in the current landscape and ensured that fans of all ages turn to his team when they have a craving for it.
“Sound anything like Griselda, sign right here,” he raps on the beat-heavy title track, referencing how his collective grew into one of the most sought-after cliques in the business. With perseverance serving as the album’s nucleus, Benny has clearly never lost sight of where he came from even as he moves forward.
Throughout the record, he reflects on every altitude he acclimatized to over his journey, from almost losing hope while having “one foot out the game” to getting back in and turning “street shit into corporate.” In his most recent power move, just “15 minutes on the phone” to Snoop Dogg secured him an alliance with one of the culture’s most impactful imprints, bringing him to where he is today.
As for the album’s crossovers, Stove God Cooks, Babyface Ray, Peezy and the Griselda crew each play their parts with remarkable temperance, careful not to overstay their welcome. That said, two cameos in particular stand out — Snoop Dogg‘s hook and extended ad-libs on “Back Again” have a succinct efficacy that immediately increase the track’s playback value, whereas a strong case could be made for Jadakiss having the best-defined and enunciated verse on the entire record, lending his raspy flow to “Pillow Talk & Slander.”
Lil Wayne, despite being one of the strongest draws on paper, was unfortunately featured on one of the album’s weakest cuts, lead single “Big Dog,” due to its forgettable beat and lacklustre chorus. Weezy then further dilutes the track with duff bars like: “Bitches on me like fleas, but I don’t need no Bugs Bunny” and “Your female dog suck my Cocker Spaniel, that’s a dog hoe,” making it one of only two skips on the album in addition to “Buffalo Kitchen Club” featuring Armani Caesar.
With so few hindrances, Everybody Can’t Go is quick to recover, regain momentum and still finish first, at least in the lane Benny and his crew operate in. Whether or not the larger commercial space and the current generation of kids presiding over it embrace the album is yet to be seen, but the good news is Hip Hop is in good hands with The Butcher.
RELEASE DATE: January 26, 2024
RECORD LABEL: Def Jam
Listen to Everybody Can’t Go below: