East Coast Hip-Hop/Hardcore Hip-Hop||Griselda Records
One of the more exciting artists coming out of the east coast rap scene, and 1/3rd of the coke-rap heavyweights Griselda. Westside Gunn has always intrigued me because of the unique energy he brings on every Griselda cut. It’s almost impossible to miss his expressive ad-libs on songs, and alongside the slow rise of Griselda to the top of the underground, I was excited to hear what he would deliver on Pray For Paris. Not to mention Griselda is coming off of a couple of solid projects, from Benny the Butcher’s The Plugs I Met to Griselda’s debut album WWCD.
Unfortunately, despite presenting itself as a grandiose coke rap odyssey, the album seems to be more style than substance.
That being said, I really like the imagery that the album coveys throughout. Audio snippets like the 400 million intro and the Million Dollar Man outro at the end of Allah Sent Me gives this reader a taste of this unfathomably rich lifestyle that is consistent with most Griselda releases. Additionally, Pray for Paris has some of my favorite production across any Griselda project, with beats from Alchemist, DJ Premier, and even Tyler, the Creator on the song Party wit Pop Smoke. They go a long way towards establishing the lavish tone that Gunn is trying to convey on this album.
The album also starts off on a great note. After the 400 million intro we get a short verse and second-intro of sorts from Westside which leads into George Bondo, the first of two cuts featuring the rest of Griselda, and an easy highlight for the album with lyrics about weight, watches, and wealth.
We also get a posse cut with Joey Bada$$ and Tyler, the Creator (who I wouldn’t have expected to have such a large role on this album) on 527, which goes over well as Bada$$ and Tyler both deliver verses that showcase their unique styles without the track sounding like a mess.
Unfortunately, the album begins its nosedive on French Toast, where Westside Gunn sings in his nasally, high-pitched voice throughout almost the entire track. There’s also a Wale feature, for some reason, that goes over as well as you would expect. The second Griselda cut Allah Sent Me isn’t much better and is a lot more forgettable than George Bondo.
The quality in the middle of the album doesn’t ever really recover, from the short and forgettable Euro Step and Versace, to the boring and underperformed Clairborne kick, where Gunn pitch-shits his vocals in a Tyleresque way, alongside an utterly unremarkable Boldy James verse. $500 Ounces offers the only redeeming moments with a great Alchemist beat and a good feature from the never-underwhelming Freddie Gibbs. Roc Marciano’s verse on this track doesn’t really do it for me, and I think it takes away from the song’s overall quality.
I do think the album does redeem itself on the tail end, as the last 3 tracks are all quite good. Shawn vs. Flair is probably the most playful song on the whole album, with more traditional 90s boom-bap production, and some of the albums more well-conceived verses. Party wit Pop Smoke is easily one of the better beats that Tyler, the Creator has ever put together, which accompanies possibly the two most cold-blooded verses on the album from Gunn and Keisha Plum.
The closing track on the album ends the album on a fitting note, with one final verse about from Gunn along with something I’ve never seen before: a tap-dancing solo from Cartier Williams, which Gunn segues into quite cleverly through his verse.
As a whole, I think despite this album’s inconsistency, at its best it delivers some of the most cold-blooded coke rap of 2020. Unfortunately, for every highlight on this album, there’s a corresponding low-light that weighs the album down, despite its great presentation and production throughout.
6 Bricks out of 10