Griselda have a new movie coming out soon, so as expected for a group of rappers they've decided to start 2021 with a soundtrack for the release, titled 'Conflicted'. Griselda saturated the market in 2020, and they've banded back together from their solo releases to link up with many affiliates to help bring this film to life via music - with so many names attached and different backgrounds, would this soundtrack be a success?
The production is what you expect: dark, menacing and bold instrumentals, such as on 'Ain't Hit Nobody' which is almost evil as Westside Gunn has his classic flow and delivery which oozes energy and elegance, Flee Lord provides hard bars, a smooth flow and hard delivery and Eto is mixed a bit weird at the start, and didn’t add too much to the track as the song focuses on drug rap topics of whipping drugs and killing your enemies as well as friends that are in jail. It's a dark, moody track, a good song as well as both Flee Lord & Westside Gunn do good but Eto stops this track from being great – he isn’t bad just adds nothing. There's a very few select beats I don’t care for, such as on 'Voices' which has this dark bass, dark drum pattern and fast paced strings as Heem, Chase Fetti and Boldy James talk about killing opps, avoiding the police and whipping drugs. Boldy James comes with a smooth flow and mean delivery, stealing the show from Heem and Chase who are decent but don't have much of a presence. The hook and Boldy are good, it’s a decent song but not the most interesting – even at its worst so far in the tracklist it’s at least decent. And also there a few really great beats, such as on 'Welcome Home DMX' which has a sample of 'lovely' by Billie Eilish, a song I love, the violins from the sample and vocal samples make this a really emotional and strong beat as Dave East has a great flow and emotional delivery to match some heavy lines on this song and Jonezy gives us a more braggadocios tone and matches the trap drums with this theme, the flow is also amazing. The track's about the street life with the good side of it (money, respect etc.) and the bad (prison, death etc.). It's an amazing song with an amazing sample and 2 very skilled rappers wasting not a single pocket of this beat, this 2 track run we’re on could be one of the best of 2021 by the end of it. Overall the production is great, it really captures the gritty atmosphere and stands out cohesively.
The tracklist is filled with great braggadocio from the rappers on here, such as Armani Caeser on 'Mission Accomplished', "Ass fat, itty-bitty is the waist size (The waist size) // The Rollie cost a pretty penny, I don't waste time (True)", as Westside Gunn and Benny provide some mean bars and braggadocio over this dark, boom bap beat. It's another track which is alright but not much more, it seems this formula and style has grown a bit tiring towards the end of the album – but it’s not tiring enough that I stop getting any enjoyment from it at all. Hard and down dirty bars are also common, such as from Ransom on 'Pride', "You criticize rap, but you never crafted a bar // That's like talkin' 'bout sex, but you can't unfasten a bra", "I'm tryna be the adult that I needed when I was younger (Woo)", as he tells us his experiences in rap and of the trap life over this soul sample, upbeat track with great brass instruments. The flow and delivery are perfect and what a lyrical performance this is from Ransom, easily the best song so far - he rapped his ass off on this track. Not all the lyrics hit hard, but on a whole there’s clear themes the rappers on here have tried to follow. The performances on this album are what you expect from Griselda and collaborators with deep and gritty deliveries partnered with slow but elegant flows. 'The Hurt Business' see's Westside Gunn provide some grimy bars, "His face all bloody, robe hangin' off, got hit with a chair (Ah) // Wore our best tints to the dance floor, Greg Valentine lower tops // Blow his brains out, right off the handlebars (Boom, boom, boom, boom)", as Wale and Smoke DZA are good with some funny lines over another fast paced beat with quick keys and a boom bap pattern talking about shooting at opps, selling drugs and being the best rapper. It's a nice ending, it had a bit more to it than the last few songs on this project.
Despite all the artists on here, there’s cohesion in the concept and that’s likely to have something to do with matching the films content, such as the past life as a drug dealer, as on 'Element of Surprise' by Lloyd Banks who shows a great display of lyricism over this murky beat with glossy piano keys. His heavy, husky delivery matches the sound of the song and album on a whole - a good song to follow up a great one. Shooting at the opps and living in luxury like a king pin is also a common theme here, like on 'Squaaaaad', which has this heavy brass instrumental on loop which sounds nice as Elcamino is decent, nothing crazy but rode the beat well, Rick Hyde provides hard hitting bars with a great performance and Smoke DZA's bars and punchlines hit hard, great flow to partner that too – sounding like Pusha T in the process (not negatively). It's a good song, it doesn’t stick out like the last 2 but even so it’s good. Each rapper isn’t afraid to brag about their rapping abilities and status either, such as Armani Caser on 'Nerve of You', as the title said, it's about the nerve of some people to be doing the shit they do or say to her. It's performed so slick, hard hitting and confident over a groovy, yet again dark beat. She commands the mic in a way not many can, but it's too short to make too much of an impact. A decent song, it just could’ve been better if longer. As I said, the content you expect from something Griselda related is all on here, it feels a bit more fresh coming from so many different voices though.
Other tracks to look at includes the opener 'Mobbin', where we see Benny The Butcher, Chase Fetti, Heem and Billy V all provide hard bars and slick braggadocio as they compae the drug lifestyle to the life of luxury they now life over these fast paced keys to give us this dark, atmospheric beat. It's a really good start to the soundtrack - it’s a banger and so suspenseful, I liked the beat the whole track’s mood is captured well. Benny's solo track '3:30 in Houston' see's him drop more braggadocios bars as he talks on his luxurious lifestyle and about the shooting he was involved in where he got shot in the leg over this simplistic but effective, gritty beat. Benny, like many on this album, raps his ass off on this song, he was so quick and sharp with his lyricism over this beat tailor-made for him.
'Rank' by YN Billy has this aggressive trap beat which is decent as he provides some witty one liners although he's not the most lyrically explosive, talking on classic hip hop topics of rolling round with the opps, flexing wealth and drugs. It's another decent one, it doesn’t actually fit into the album much or do too much for me but it’s definitely got some enjoyment to it. Finally, we have 'Conflicted'. It has these catchy whistles over a standard Griselda type beat, as Flee Lord shows some great bars and slickness, with a delivery a bit rough around the edges but the performance is good overall. The tracks about his come up from the streets to rich and successful, and it's a good song, I'm not sure what it is about it that stops it being great but I just don’t get as much enjoyment from it as other songs on here.
To conclude, this is really good for a soundtrack, it captures a dark mood perfectly which should reflect into the film. The rapping is great, everyone turns up and everyone puts in a shift and although I like it, as an album it doesn’t stand out too much and probably won’t be the most memorable project of 2021. However, for the first review of the year, it sounds good, a solid album and the whole sonic concept is captured well. The second half drops in quality but even so the worst song is still decent, but there’s a lot of just ‘decent’ songs in the second half compared to some amazing ones in the first.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: Mobbin, Element of Surprise, Ain't Hit Nobody, Pride, Welcome Home DMX, Squaaaaad, 3:30 in Houston, Conflicted, The Hurt Business
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Mission Accomplished
OVERALL RATING: Solid 7.5/10