Buffalo, New York artist Westside Gunn has had a remarkable few years. As a part of the gritty and ever-growing underground scene, he has established himself as one of the most prolific emcees working today. His studio albums so far have been nothing short of amazing. His animated and eclectic 2016 project FLYGOD was the album that cemented him as an underground legend, and 2018’s Supreme Blientele showcased his versatility as an emcee and overall artist, as he was able to navigate through soulful and gritty production effortlessly. He is back with a brand new album titled Pray For Paris, an incredible body of work that will undoubtedly help Westside Gunn reach new heights as an artist. Throughout the 13 tracks and 41 minutes on his new work of art, Westside Gunn, along with the help of some of the most talented rappers and producers working today, raps with personality and intent, talking about riches and royalty over some textured and gritty production.
First thing’s first, the production on this album is stunning. It’s unapologetically gritty and soulful, as expected from the wide array of producers who worked on the project. Tracks like “George Bondo” featuring Conway The Machine and Benny features the signature eerie Daringer bounce, with all Griselda members rapping menacingly about their success over the last few years, with lyrics like “I got two felonies, now they tell me I’m famous (I’m famous now) / My life is definitely changin’ / Roc Nation brunch, I’m with a R&B singer gettin’ better acquainted.” Seeing their ascension to hip-hop royalty is nothing short of inspiring, as they’ve been able to keep their DNA in check without losing a gram of authenticity. “Allah Sent Me” featuring Benny The Butcher and Conway again is another hard-hitting track produced by Daringer, whose menacing sound makes for the perfect soundscape for elite braggadocio rap. Hearing Freddie Gibbs and Roc Marciano connect on an Alchemist beat on “$500 Ounces” is as perfect of a track I could expect. Raps about coke and dope selling still remains one of the prominent lyrical themes on the album. On “Euro Step” produced by Conductor Williams, he says “Toast to my real n****s that’s sellin’ dope still (Ah)/ I be sippin’ red wine, toast to my n****s (Brr),” highlighting the vast difference in lifestyle between himself and some of the people he has known throughout his life. The production on “Versace” is beautiful, and a big shoutout to Jay Versace for getting his first official production credit. Boldy James’ verse on “Clairborne Park,” produced by Alchemist is as heartfelt of a verse you’d get from him, with intricate wordplay that beautifully captures his soul and aura. The DJ Premier-produced “Shawn vs Flair” is fantastic too, as the wrestling references come through brilliantly. The most surprising track to me is “Party wit Pop Smoke.” I did not expect that kind of production from Tyler, The Creator, who in my opinion, stole the show sonically on this project with a soulful beat that perfectly captures the rich aesthetic Westside Gunn was going for. And speaking of Tyler, he features on “327” alongside Joey Bada$$ and Billie Esco. The New York sound reverberates throughout Camouflage Monk’s beat, as all three rappers sound hungry, bringing clever and witty verses throughout the record.
Westside Gunn is one of the most most focused and consistent artists in recent years. With every project, he reaches new heights musically, bringing some of the very best musicians together to create timeless music. Pray for Paris is no different. It’s a cohesive, soulful and intricate rap album with elite rapping and stunning production that captures his ever inspiring aura. It’s definitely contender for album of the year, and I’m so happy seeing the guys for Griselda winning. Listen to and support Westside Gunn’s new album Pray For Paris because it really is incredible!