[Album Review] “Burden of Proof” by Benny the Butcher

The album’s lack of grit and energy that Benny the Butcher usually brings may irk a few long-time Griselda fans but all things considered, Burden of Proof’s soulful and celebratory direction does end up with more pros than cons.

Benny the Butcher is a rapper from Buffalo, New York who is also a member of the musical outlet, Griselda. Benny has been releasing mixtapes since the early 2000s but his career started gaining traction in 2016 when he dropped his first album titled “My First Brick”. Benny released the critically acclaimed “Tana Talk 3” in 2018 and “The Plugs I Met” in 2019. Burden of Proof is his second studio album and was released on October 16 of 2020. The album also features exclusive production from producer Hit-Boy.

Track List :

  1. Burden of Proof
  2. Where Would I Go
  3. Sly Green
  4. One Way Flight
  5. Famous
  6. Timeless
  7. New Streets
  8. Over the Limit
  9. Trade It All
  10. Thank God I Made It
  11. War Paint
  12. Legend

Producer Hit-Boy has been on an epic winning streak in 2020, not only was his contributions to albums like Big Sean’s “Detroit 2” and Conway the Machine’s “From King to a GOD” very significant, he was also able to bring the best out of even a rap legend like Nas when they collaborated. And Benny the Butcher, on the other hand has also been consistently dropping quality features although he hasn’t released an album since 2019’s Plugs I Met. So when this link-up was initially announced, the sheer hype from the fans was uncontainable and expectations were high. And I’m glad to say that the album didn’t disappoint.

The album starts off quite strongly with the title track “Burden of Proof”. The song is essentially an unapologetic self-portrait with a lot of references to Benny’s upbringing and the lifestyle he led before his music career. Right from the get-go, one thing any hardcore Griselda fan will pick up on is the tonal shift that came along with the album. Compared to how mean and cold-blooded he usually sounds, on Burden of Proof, Benny the Butcher is much more refined. Now it’s not to say Benny’s hunger and energy has completely dissipated or anything, rest assured, some of the one-liners and metaphors he drops throughout the album are as blunt and hard-hitting as they come but he sounds less like a up-and-coming rapper that is rapping like his life is on the line just to prove a point and more like a mature, hardened veteran who has already cemented himself as a significant voice in the rap game.

“Where Would I Go” with Rick Ross is also another highlight. The instrumental by Hit-Boy is right up Rick Ross’ alley, the atmosphere is grand and the vocal samples are absolutely gorgeous. Both rappers’ verses are pretty solid, too. The third track “Sly Green” also pretty good, the amount of quotable lines on this thing are mind-blowing.

“I’m a Christian Dior shirt rocker, two Glock wearer

Only rapper that would’ve thrived in the 2Pac era

I’m talkin’ ’98 drug money, shoebox era

I proved my point once, in every take, the proof got clearer.”

Sly Green

“One Way Flight” featuring Freddie Gibbs features yet another quality beat. Pretty vocal loop and Benny and Freddie’s performances are also quality. We do hit a low point with the song “Famous”, the track is quite underwritten in comparison to most songs on the album and Benny’s hook game leaves something to be desired as well. The sixth track “Timeless” features some decent verses from both Lil Wayne and Big Sean but considering the talent each of the three has, I can’t help but feel like the track could have had more significance than it actually ended up having. The track wasn’t strung together in a way where it feels like a proper collaboration, probably because Big Sean and Lil Wayne aren’t usually the two artists you would want to feature on the same song.

Thankfully, things kick into high gear once again on the track “New Streets”. The production on this one is excellent, the soul samples sound like something Madlib would cook up for a rapper like Freddie Gibbs. The lyrics finds Benny talking about the perils of the dope game and the nitty-gritty of the life he has led thus far. “Over the Limit” with Dom Kennedy is a pretty solid track, mostly due to how meticulously detailed Benny’s verse is but Dom Kennedy’s hook does barely little to elevate the sound of the track or improve it in anyway and really ended up just feeling like an unnecessary feature. “Trade It All” is a great track per se but for a track in the third leg of the album, it doesn’t do much to break new ground narratively or structurally. But thankfully the last 3 tracks of the album are all pretty fitting. “Thank God I Made It” has a genuinely heartful hook which comes courtesy of singer Queen Naija. The lyrical content Benny brings to the table is also equally as wholesome, with a lot of references to his family and friends. Benny gets super introspective towards the end of the first verse, the line he drops about how he saw his late brother through his nephew’s eyes was heart-wrenching.

“Warpaint” is a Griselda team-up track and is one of the very few instances on the album where Benny brings back the cold-blooded, villainous, dealer raps that are otherwise scant in the album. Conway the Machine and Westside Gunn also bring their own bravado and flair to the song. The closer “Legend” is a triumphant “made-it” anthem. Great production, amazing switch-up near the one-minute mark, and Benny rides the instrumental effortlessly. All in all, Burden of Proof is a refreshing change of pace from the kind of material Benny usually releases. Only time will tell if this lane of rap is something Benny will continue to inhabit or if it’s a one-time thing, a style he adapted so his rapping would be more aesthetically in line with Hit-Boy’s production. Perhaps he will return to the murderous, morbidly specific coke-raps on the fourth and fifth installments of his Tana Talk mixtapes. With all that being said, Benny and his Griselda brothers do not seem to be letting up with their constant release of quality albums and whatever they do in the future will certainly be something to keep your eyes peeled for.

Rating : A-

Burden of Proof contains tracks written by BENNY THE BUTCHER, Big Sean, Conway the Machine, Corbett, Dom Kennedy, Freddie Gibbs, G. Ry, Hit-Boy, Jansport J, Lil Wayne, Queen Naija, Rick Ross & Westside Gunn and production by Corbett, G. Ry, Hit-Boy & Jansport J. The album is now available for digital streaming.