I’ve heard of Westside Gunn in conversation throughout the years but I’ve never heard of him or decided to give him a listen until now. I don’t know much about Westside Gunn besides that he’s from New York, that’s it. I have almost no expectations going into this album because I don’t know what his style is like, what his rapping style is like, production style, etc. So I’m going in with and open mind and open ears, I hope he impressed me, let’s get started.
The album starts off with a vocal sample of an auction where someone just bought a $400 million dollar painting then this leads into the next track “No Vacancy” which will start our album but before I get into the music I want to point out the cover art, this was made by Virgil Abloh which I thought was really cool because this is an impressive connection to have, the actual art work is a famous painting of David and Goliath with David clearly beheading Goliath, Virgil’s contribution was the chains on David. This has a lot of deep meaning behind it, a meaning that I personally can’t describe but it is definitely deep imagery. Back to the music though, “No Vacancy” is a quick opening track that does a good job setting the tone for the rest of the tracks on this album, very calm and low key production with strong and witty lyricism, not every track is like this but the majority are definitely standouts just like this one. “George Bondo (feat. Conway the Machine & BENNY the BUTCHER)” is definitely one of the more lyrical and aggressive tracks off the whole album, the features are really great additions to the track and the album but these are two artists that I’ve heard only in conversation just like Westside Gunn. I’ve only heard great things from BENNY & Conway, I’ll tap into their personal work eventually but this was a great little taste of what they make musically. “327 (feat. Billie Essco, Joey Bada$$ & Tyler, the Creator)” is another favorite of mine for several reasons. One of the main reasons would be the lyrical ability from everyone on the track, they eastbound shine in their own special way. The seconds reason is the guest appearance, I love Joey Bada$$’s verse and Tyler’s verse too, I’m not sure who Billie Essco is but they do a fantastic job on this track. The third reason is the production, the production on this track can be compared to the other tracks as well, very calming beats that shine with heavy influences of lo-fi production styles. This type of rap is very underrated if you ask me, very lyrical and not reliable on the production. “French Toast (feat. Wale & Joyce Wrice)” is another fantastic track for some of the similar reasons to the last track but the things that sticks out in my eyes is the production, it’s more of a boom bap type of production, I’ve learned this thing about the album, there are two types of production styles on this album, a smooth and relaxing lo-fi style and a more aggressive and boom bap style like this track, I see nothing wrong with this at all, in fact I love it. “Allah Sent Me (feat. BENNY the BUTCHER & Conway the Machine) is probably the best track off the whole album for the versatility used in the track, throughout the whole track the flow is switched between Westside Gunn and BENNY or Conway which is a very impressive way of performing a song, definitely one of the top tracks. I also enjoy this ongoing recording of this man talking that is clearly obsessed with wealth, material objects, and himself, this person resembles Rick Flair in my opinion but I’m not exactly sure who this is. $500 Ounces (feat. Freddie Gibbs & Roc Marciano) is a track that sticks to the theme of being just flat out wonderful, all of these records are genuine RAP records which is fantastic to hear. I’ve been trying to expand my music knowledge by listening to albums that came before my time and no matter how many albums I listen to from different genres I also find the best content to be in Rap, this album is one of those albums that give rap a good name. “Versace” is one of the few short tracks on the album, totaling in 2 minutes and 5 seconds this track provides a lot in the short timeframe it has. I love the vocal sample in the background of the beat and the subtle baseline, not much goes into the production which is great to hear because that means the main priority are the lyrics which stand out immensely. “Claiborne Kick (feat. Boldy James)” is probably my favorite track off the whole album because there is something especially calming about the looped synth and same 3 guitar strings repeated all throughout the track over the pitches down rapping from Westside Gunn, everything about this track can be boring to anyone else but is amazing to me. “Shawn vs. Flair” is one of the few tracks that don’t feature anyone, I wish there were more of these because this track radiates 90s rap in my opinion specifically for the narrating and record scratches in the beginning of the track, this track doesn’t show me anything new but does stick to the same theme of amazing Rap records, nothing bad about this track whatsoever. “Party wit Pop Smoke (feat. Keisha Plum)” is a track that has a strong Jay Z presence behind, as if it could be on his own album or something like that but I love the word play on this track and the rhyme pattern, the rhyme pattern is absolutely insane in my opinion, definitely showing off his talent. The final track “LE Djoliba (feat. Cartier William) is a pretty quick outro track, it has its main verse from Westside Gunn that only lasts a good 45 seconds to a minute then ends with what sounds to be someone tap dancing which I guess is the Cartier William feature. This track isn’t anything crazy but does a good job sending off the album.
Pray for Paris is definitely one of the best Rap records I’ve heard in a while, this is genuine Rap, nothing more and nothing less. It’s an amazing album and deserves nothing less than a 10/10 rating. It hits every point and requirement for a perfect rap album in my opinion, it’s a very diverse album that stretches across all aspects, culture, religion, lifestyle, rap mechanics, etc. This album also introduced me to a lot of artists that I’ve never heard of before like BENNY the BUTCHER, Conway the Machine, Roc Marciano, Boldy James, etc. All these artists including Freddie Gibbs who I have heard before are artists that I’ll definitely start paying more and closer attention to because their rapping skills totally shined and impressed me a lot. This album exceeded any sort of expectation I had on it (there weren’t many) and set a high bar for me and his future music, or past music which I might tap into. Again, this was a fantastic album and I’m glad to say that it made my list for my favorite albums of 2020, no bad tracks.
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