First Listen #15: Westside Gunn’s ‘Pray for Paris’

So. I’ve been spending a lot of time, as you all know, on Reddit these. In between me trying to not lose my mind every time someone says something stupid about race, I’ve seen a bunch of different posts on multiple subreddits about Griselda Records. At least once a day, I see something about Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, and the other folks on the record label. Whether that’s someone complimenting their bars on r/hiphopheads or looking for one of the view Griselda records on r/VinylCollectors. But I never really made the move to try to listen to anything from the artists under Griselda. The closest I got to their music other than seeing posts about them Reddit, was when I went on a small mission to attempt to cop one of the few Pray for Paris (2020) vinyl releases a couple weeks ago – admittedly so I could trade it for Saba’s Care for Me (2018). And it sold out within 5 to 10 minutes. I figured that it had to be something special if it sold out that fast. I was scrolling through Reddit earlier today and saw a post on another subreddit that asked if Griselda Records was the future of hip hop. And while the only comment (at the time of my viewing) said that that was a stretch, that post did give me the push I needed to finally listen to Pray for Paris.

Photo Credit: https://images.complex.com/complex/images/c_fill,dpr_auto,f_auto,q_90,w_1400/fl_lossy,pg_1/yazes4ipjnmtcofnlpnj/westside-gunn-covid

2020: Pray for Paris

(via Genius)

And I have to say that my hearty laughter after finishing the project is in an embodiment of how I feel about it. I was kind of disappointed. The album is good; I like the story and vibe that Westside Gunn and the producers on the project created. But I’m not coming out of the project feeling like it did anything revolutionary or feeling like I missed out by not having the opportunity to buy the project on vinyl. I do think that the production on the project overall was absolutely incredible. I can honestly say that this project has some of the best production I’ve heard on a project this year. It helps create the world that Westside Gunn opens up the project with where it feels like you’re surrounded by bougieness, diamonds and pearls, art pieces that sell for “400 Million Plus Tax,” and white women that smell like Chanel perfume. And I like that.

However, I just could not stand Westside Gunn’s voice. LOL I really DID NOT expect it to sound the way that it does. It reminds me a lot of Action Bronson’s voice. And I don’t necessarily have a strong problem with either of their voices – it’s just hearing them on an entire song (or an entire project) is really just a lot for me. The New Yorkness of their accents mixed with the slight nasal quality of their voices is just so strong and so thick that it’s hard to really pay attention to anything else that’s happening in the song or the verses because my ears are just filled up with New York. And so I wanted to be able to hear what Gunn was saying more, but there was just something so annoying about listening to him rap over and over and over that by the last four or five songs on the project, I had to skip the last couple seconds so I didn’t turn the project off completely. I also feel like he wasn’t necessarily saying anything that feel like he was on a lyrical pedestal of greatness. The verses were for sure great, but I didn’t leave them feelings like I just heard the best person in my life.

I GOT SKELETONS IN MY CLOSET, RIGHT NEXT TO BALENCIAGA

freddie gibbs, “$500 Ounces”

It also felt – very often on this project – like Westside Gunn was being overshadowed by everything else that was going on on the album. Like I said, before the production was absolutely amazed, but I really have to give him props for picking some great features for this project. Cause every single feature was perfection. Y’all know I love me some Tyler the Creator, and I love his verse on “327.” I also enjoyed Joey’s verse. I wouldn’t have hated if it was just Joey and Tyler on the track with Billy Essco on the chorus. I felt that same way about “George Bondo.” Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher ATE that track. Their verses were would I expected from this project. The only feature that I didn’t really like – actually the two features that I didn’t really like which is going to sound kind of bad but it’s the truth – were the two female vocalists on the project. I have listened to a couple of Joyce Wrice’s songs and I love her voice a lot. Her song “Rocket Science” is one of my favorites. I don’t think she needed to be on “French Toast.” It just felt like they threw her vocals on there for the sake of having a woman’s voice and having a singer on the track. But I don’t feel like her present added anything. I felt the same way about Keisha Plum’s verse on “Party Wit Pop Smoke.” But literally every other guest verse on this project was amazing. So if anything Gunn is really good at putting people together on a project and using their voices and their talents to build the picture and continue the narrative that he was hoping to create.

So I’m leaving this project feeling very strange. It’s interesting to have seen such strong positive reactions on multiple sites and not feel that way. I feel like I’m missing something lol. I don’t know. This is just didn’t hold up. Everything around this project screams “THIS IS ABOUT TO BE THE BEST THING YOU’VE EVER HEARD!” But I didn’t feel that. It feels like one of those projects white men sit around and talk about for hours and hours. I do want to visit some other Griselda projects to see how those hold up. Since I enjoyed Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher so much on this project, I feel a little more hopeful about giving their projects a try. I do think that Westside Gunn is very talented and made a really good project, so maybe once I cleanse my musical palette, I’ll give him another go.

So off the strength of the entire project sans Westside Gunn, I’ll give Pray for Paris

Overall Project Rating

Featured Image Credit: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/westside-gunn-pray-for-paris-991817/


(listen to Pray for Paris on spotify by clicking the image below)

here’s something else you might like:

First Listen #8: Jay Electronica’s ‘A Written Testimony’

Unfortunately, I’m very much a #fakehiphophead, and I don’t know that much about Jay Electronica. However, I’m giving myself a little bit of a pass because he seems to be at a MF DOOM level of elusiveness, finding peace in the moments of anonymity that he’s able to make for himself by existing predominately out … Continue reading First Listen #8: Jay Electronica’s ‘A Written Testimony’

2 thoughts on “First Listen #15: Westside Gunn’s ‘Pray for Paris’

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