Black Music Month In Focus: Westside Gunn & Conway

This is part of The Shadow League’s Black Music Month In Focus series celebrating the vibrating musical excellence within our wide cultural tapestry.

I get so tired of people mislabeling Hip-Hop music. All musical genres shape a culture, shifting the shape of the sound as the voices expand the interpretations. However, instead of doing the arduous task of applying the appropriate sub-genre labeling to iterations of the culture, many lump any and all into the catchall phrase of Hip-Hop, eroding its glorious roots and clouding its original purpose.

So amid the genre’s boisterous stepchildren named trap music and mumble rap, it is a breath of fresh air to hear new artists who take the puritanical approach to originality. Enter artists Westside Gunn and Conway, who stormed the underground scene in early 2016. The two brothers and their complimentary style are a throwback to the early ’90s emphasis on lyricism and gritty urban tales.

WestSide Gunn – FLYGOD (Full Album)

WESTSIDE GUNN – FLYGOD Released: Mar 11, 2016 2016 Griselda Records 01. Dunks (feat. Conway) 02. Gustavo (feat. Keisha Plum) 03. Shower Shoe Lords (feat. Benny) 04. Vivian at the Art Basel (feat. Your Old Droog) 05. Hall 06. Free Chapo (feat. Conway) 07. Over Gold (feat.

Gunns independently released solo album, FLYGOD, unraveled stories of the blighted cities in upstate New York, specifically Buffalo. The city made famous by spicy wings and O.J. Simpson has a dark underbelly, where desperation is satiated equally by drug peddling and usage. Westside Gunn and Conway show lyrical dexterity in describing their environment over hard boom bap beats. Your mind cannot help but hear Mobb Deep, Tragedy Kadafi and the entire Wu-Tang nomenclature within their miraculously sinister re-tellings of Buffalo street life.

Their record label, Griselda Records, named after the Godmother of the cocaine trade Griselda Blanco, provides an overt understanding of their lyrical potency. Unlike the current trend of young rappers from the South promoting the flamboyantly dangerous lifestyle of the drug dealer as an informational, Gunn and Conway subtly preach the evils of the street life. Of course, braggadocio is laced throughout each song, however, after stints in federal prison and Conway surviving being shot in the face, the two provide cautionary tales for all looking for fast money.

FLYGOD features classic producers such as The Alchemist, Staik Selektah and Roc Marciano complimented by classic features from NYC underground favorites Skyzoo and Action Bronson. I must confess that my first listen to the group came from the fourth installment of their now legendary mixtape series, Hitler Wears Hermes. The title alone gripped me. The collage cover art depicting the human rights violator as a fashion dandy only made me more curious to listen to the upstate upstarts.

Westside Gunn “Hitler Wears Hermes 4” (Full album 2016) 1. The Cow (ft. Conway) 2. Nasty 3. The Almighty 4. Combat Jack Speaks 5. 5x A Day (ft. Stalley) 6. Aunt Rosie’s 7. Mr. Fuji (ft. Conway & Smoke DZA) 8. Ringside Rocking Furs (ft. Tiona D & Keisha Plum) 9. Nitro (ft.

The mixtape, a play on words a la The Devil Wears Prada, instantly grabs you. The lead off track, The Cow, features a clearly pained Conway discussing the trials and tribulations that led to him surviving a gunshot to the face. He was left with severe bells palsy, keeping one side of his face in a permanent droop that only ironically adds to his edgy charm. However, you are elated that he survived the hit man when he describes their friend, Machine Gun who did not.

Conway Freestyle w/ Statik Selektah Showoff Radio Shade 45 Ep 1/28/16

Conway Freestyle w/ Statik Selektah Showoff Radio Shade 45 Ep 1/28/16

Hitler Wears Hermes 4 also featured limited but poignant features from Maybach Music artist Stalley and Smoke DZA. After adding numerous freestyle sessions on Sirius XM radio station Shade 45 shows, the duo and their label were picked up by Eminem and his Shady Records earlier this year. Like Slaughterhouse, Eminem has been known to find and develop true lyricists for those still craving rhyme syncopation and intricate street storylines.

Westside Gunn and Conway Speak on Signing with Eminem, Being Shot in the Head + Freestyle

The legacy and tradition continues today, Shady Records signed an exclusive deal with New York based label, Griselda Records for artists, Westside Gunn and Conway. What started off as Goliath Management deal, turned into a full-fledged record deal! These 2 brothers swung by Sway in the Morning with Benny the Butcher to talk about their journey here.

Westside Gunn, Conway and Griselda Records are here and their vision for the new true school is a welcomed accompaniment to the trap and mumble rap promotion of drug morality abandon. Folds who have truly lived through and survived the calamities experienced by the downtrodden are tasked to advise others to steer clear of them. It is refreshing to know that ethos still exists in the form of two lucky soldiers from Buffalo, NY.

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