Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Westside Gunn – And Then You Pray For Me

The Buffalo MC balances tradition with a new direction in the sequel to Pray for Paris.

In 2020, Westside Gunn’s third studio album Pray for Paris was released, quickly becoming a favourite among fans. Famed designer Virgil Abloh was the catalyst behind this album: he not only created the artwork but also invited the Griselda Records founder on a life-changing trip to Paris Fashion Week, which inspired the album’s creation. Nearly two years after Virgil’s passing in 2021, Gunn spent most of 2023 travelling around Europe, also stopping in Egypt and Dubai. This prompted the recording of his latest album And Then You Pray For Me. Released on Oct. 13, it is the sequel to Pray for Paris.

Many tracks on And Then You Pray For Me recall the plush and expansive soundscape on Pray for Paris. Songs “FLYGOD 2x” and “Babylon Bis” combine melancholic xylophone and piano loops with dusty boom-bap drums, resulting in the same gritty yet elegant soundscape that graced Pray for Paris. “House of GLORY” features a sunny and shiny classical music melody that adds a degree of fun to both Gunn’s and featured artist Stove God Cooks’ unorthodox singing. Gunn’s entrance is especially entertaining as he abruptly begins singing “baby” in a high-pitched voice. The orchestral loop on “KITCHEN LIGHTS” is stunning and provides the same duo with a luxurious backdrop. The instrumental’s beauty radiates the Parisian opulence that Gunn aimed to emulate on Pray for Paris: the resulting song sounds like a masterpiece. Elsewhere, several tracks follow the usual Griselda formula and the outcome is as solid as usual. “Mama’s Primetime” is an ominous boom-bap cut that would fit perfectly on WWCD, the 2019 album released by Griselda (as a trio composed of Gunn, Benny the Butcher, and Conway the Machine). “Suicide in Selfridges” is the latest of many fun, upbeat tracks where Gunn raps over quirky beats from his frequent collaborator, producer Conductor Williams.

The rest of the album sounds drastically different, as And Then You Pray For Me sees Westside Gunn extensively venturing into trap music—a style he has seldom dabbled with on his existing solo material. Although it is not inherently bad, Gunn’s delivery over trap beats is notably slow-paced and tends to veer off-beat. It quickly becomes redundant as he approaches many of these tracks in the same way. The production itself is also a make-or-break factor: Tay Keith’s production on “Kostas” feels like a grand event, yet the Miguel The Plug beats on “LL BOOL GUN” and “Ultra GriZelda” are painfully basic. Gunn’s inclusion of veteran trap artists (Jeezy, Rick Ross) and DJs (Drama, Holiday, Swamp Izzo) is an intentional homage to trap music’s early prime in the late 2000s. The album’s trap component is built upon a strong foundation, although its execution is occasionally shoddy.

Like other Gunn projects, there are many features, many of which bring their A-game. JID is a show-stopper on “Mama’s PrimeTime” and all the Griselda Records mainstays fulfill their usual duties effectively. Trap veterans Jeezy and Rick Ross feel right at home on their respective tracks, and Denzel Curry brings a load of energy to “Ultra GriZelda.” The Westside Gunn sex song “Chloe” returns on an ostentatious, wildly graphic duet with Ty Dolla $ign. The title track is an amazing closer courtesy of KayCyy. He sings and raps softly over a soothing, ambient soundscape backed by hints of church bells. The whole thing evokes a closing sermon and wraps up the album on a perfect note.

Overall, And Then You Pray For Me is half the sequel that it sets out to be. The album starts off strong with the traditional Griselda sound, recapturing the greatness of Gunn’s existing catalogue and the high-class sound of Pray For Paris. The trap cuts essentially bog down the album’s midsection and most of the latter half. Gunn’s new direction showcases potential but often borders on being a cheap execution of a certain sound. Thankfully, the closing track catches up to round out the album nicely. The takeaway is that Gunn’s stylistic change is by no means bad: it just requires refinement.

Score: 6.5/10

Trial Track: KITCHEN LIGHTS (feat. Stove God Cooks)

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Westside Gunn is a 10

 Is Hitler Wears Hermes a 10/10?

The Buffalo MC and Griselda record label founder dropped his 10th and final instalment of his Hitler Wears Hermes series on Oct. 28th. The 12-track mixtape concluded a decade-long legacy of HWH, which started in 2012. 

It’s very difficult for Westside Gunn to miss. Since first listening to Griselda’s perfectly eerie WWCD project in 2019, I was hooked. From then on, I’ve put every new album of his on repeat for at least a week. This one is no different. However, there are some elements from 10 that contribute to missing its spot on the shelf with his other stellar projects. 

The album felt rushed. Gunn’s last album, Peace “Fly” God, was released 5 months earlier, on July 8. There were many of the same features and similar beats, which may produce a déjàvu feeling for fans. The return of AA Rashid talking over the beat in “Intro” felt like a repeat of Peace “Fly” God, which I was listening to up until 10’s release.

This album felt less like a Westside Gunn album than it did a Stove God Cooks album. There are twelve tracks, eleven if you exclude “Intro,” which is more of a skit than a song. Stove God contributed significantly to six of the remaining songs. A featured artist should not be in half of an album’s tracks. No discredit to Stove God — he has immense talent in his verses, voice and hooks, and I couldn’t stop listening to his part on “BDP.”  

As a finale to such a grand series, I expected to hear a variety of other features on it, and found some happy surprises. This album felt more upbeat than other Gunn productions, with cheeky features from artists that we love. There were contributions from members of the Wu-Tang Clan, including RZA’s production of the Intro track, and the appearance of Raekwon and Ghostface Killah on Science Class (also featuring Busta Rhymes). It was produced by Swizz Beats of all people!

DJ Drama continues his trend of guesting on many recent albums such as Tyler the Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost and Dreamville’s D-Day: A Gangsta Grillz Mixtape by making two appearances on Gunn’s album. The rap duo Black Star appears on “Peppas,” and A$AP Rocky makes an appearance on “Shootouts in Soho.” 

This album was very solid, and I’ll certainly listen to it on repeat. It’s superior to any other album released in the past months. I’m giving it a hard time simply because it’s not the standard I’d usually expect from Westside Gunn. It was heartwarming to hear elements of the many friends and affiliates of Griselda, and a decent conclusion to such a legendary series. It just felt rushed, and a shame that the artist had to cater to the decennial date.

Trial Track: “BDP” (feat. Rome Streetz & Stove God Cooks)


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