Westside Gunn, a third of the rap group Griselda dropped his new project 'Pray for Paris' two Friday's ago and I finally got around to listening to it. I've not been huge on Griselda so far, finding their music pretty boring but with the hype this album was getting I had to check it out to see if it was living up to the hype. Firstly the production on this album is great. It's not flashing or banging - but smooth, nostalgic and sounds nice. It's got an old school feel consisting of lots of pianos, bass guitars, boom bap drums, soul samples and it even feels lo-fi at times. His flow is very classic, pretty smooth sounding and he doesn't have to stretch a syllable while his delivery is solid even if his voice sounds slightly annoying. Westside's lyricism is good, but to have a style where all the attention near enough goes onto the lyrics, reminiscent of the 90's - they don't quite hit an elite level and it's a bit of a letdown. However, the features on this album are amazing. Near enough every feature turns up, and unfortunately they can outshine Westside - although most of the time he does keep up and I can't say he rarely or in fact never gets washed. Content wise this album is a coke rap project - with songs pretty much talking about shooting at people, cooking drugs and flexing his money. There's not a whole deal of substance to the content though, it's more describing than explaining unlike someone in this field such as Pusha T. Despite this, the themes are stuck to throughout the project well.
After the skit at the start '400 Million Plus Tax', the first song 'No Vacancy' introduces what is to come with it's laid back, piano beat and it's key themes of shooting up people and cooking drugs. The lyricism is decent at best, but a bit lackluster on this track and overall it's decent - but nothing crazy or THAT good.
This track again has again a piano themed beat, with boom bap drums and a catchy melody to it giving it a classic rap song feel. WSG was good on this, Conway the Machine has solid lyrics and a solid flow but BENNY THE BUTCHER stole the show with his great bars, mean delivery and extra smooth flow. The track just moved along so smoothly, and got better with each passing verse.
'327' is a great track with an even more inviting beat and the introduction of the bass guitar. Billie Esscco's whisper-styled delivery gives the hook an ominous feel to it which suits the track, Joey Bada$$' verse has a smooth flow and great bars while Tyler, The Creator's verse steels the show because his flow is extremely good while his bars and delivery were hard - good too hear him rapping again. The track talks about the lifestyle rap got them, and is a great example for rap music.
More boom-bap drums and piano's on this instrumental but an overall more upbeat and louder feel to the track as this leaves the typical content of this album to focus on a woman in his life. Wale fits right into this topic as you'd expect while WSG's verse was pretty simplistic, but the pitched ad libs really added a great effect. Joyce Wrice while not playing a major role really added to the track - I wasn't feeling the hook except for her vocals and the bridge was sung perfectly.
This short track surprisingly entertained me a lot mainly due to the quicker tempo in the flute-based instrumental combining with the quick rhyme scheme and flow of WSG which sounded very good on the ear. The track talked on flexing and shooting and lyrically it was pretty good and easily replayable.
Allah Sent Me
Another track featuring the Griselda pair talking about their usual antiques but with a darker beat on this one which goes hard. WSG himself was the worst of the three but was decent enough, as Conway's flow and lyrics were solid as well as his demonstration of the chemistry he shared with WSG - and Benny's contribution involved bars and a decent sound despite how short it was. The hook on this was so ugly at first, especially how he pronounced the last words like "nineteen", but it grew on me and while I don't exactly love it - it's definitely passable.
This song's mid and pretty forgettable. The beat incorporates the usual elements of boom bap drums, a lo-fi sound and a guitar bass but introduces trumpets which get repetitive real quickly. Freddie Gibbs was a bit disappointing and there wasn't really anything interesting about his verse and the same goes for WSG himself. This track is pushed up to mid at least by Roc Marciano who saves the track with his mean delivery, quick flow and hard bars. "Always get the biggest chicken wing, you don't get to eat on one onion ring".
The most forgettable song on the album - a nice beat but that's it. Nothing WSG was saying was interesting or clever it was just boring and despite being at only two minutes this verse was a drag and seemed a bit more lengthy.
Unfortunately this is another mid track and this three track run is disappointing. There are good elements of this song such as the heavenly, simplistic but great soul beat and to be honest to just listen to it for it's sound is really easy. My issue is it doesn't sound different from a few other songs on here, and once you listen to the lyrics you realise you're just hearing the same you've heard on every track with no depth. Boldy James' verse had a decent sound to it but the subject matter is getting stale at this stage.
Shawn vs. Flair
Things really pick up here which is a relief. The injection of excitement needed into the tracklist after the last few songs was here - with it's classic bass guitar and boom bap drums the production was upped a notch with a banger feel to it which WSG rode over excellently with some classic flexing.
Party wit Pop Smoke
A relief, it's good and the project picks back up. Again the soul sample is great and WSG's verse was solid and had some great one liners that sound hard, "Ain't no eye for eye, you take an eye, we take your whole head". The feature Keisha Plum was alright but the delivery was a bit boring - lyrically though she created some strong visuals and imagery with her words.
The finale to this album is a good ending. It's got more soul elements but the guitar strings are more slowed down which match WSG's cadence and delivery nicely. Of course he had to finish it off with some flexing but what caught my attention was Cartier Williams' feature. An actual tap dance solo is a unique idea for a feature and it actually sounded pretty good on the track and was an enjoyable ending to this decent album.
To conclude, this Westside Gunn album was nothing too crazy but a really easy listen. Despite a couple of dull moments, the tracklist ranges from songs that are decent to good. I'll admit, it's not got a load of replay value but when you want to just chill out and enjoy an album I think it can do a good enough job of it and be great background music as well.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: 327, Euro Step, Shawn vs. Flair
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: Versace
OVERALL RATING: Light 7/10