Buffalo’s finest trendsetter returns with the final installment to a legendary mixtape series that helped put the Griselda movement and the city of Buffalo on the map.
Throughout his career, Westside Gunn has managed to find an odd balance of highlighting high-end art in obscure and controversial ways. The phenomenal mixtape series known as the Hitler Wears Hermes collection is a prime example of this as the title has raised many eyebrows in the industry. But the music provided has been good enough to steer the course of modern-day hip-hop. Usually composed of dusty and grimy beats from close collaborators, Daringer & Camouflage Monk, West’s mixtape’s introduced a new lane to occupy in the culture while paying homage to the authentic boom-bap sound that raised generations.
Westside Gunn returns to form on this project, providing the classic Griselda sound while carving out a new lane for aspiring emcees to occupy and fill the void.
The tape occupies a generous run time, executing 13 tracks in 40 minutes. Just like the rest of the Hitler Wears Hermes series, this project find different ways to extend the Griselda sound. With the help of different collaborators and a heavy involvement from producers, Camouflage Monk & Conductor Williams, this project reached new heights with its signature exotically grimy sound. From the beginning to the end, Hitler Wears Hermes 8 maintains a cohesive nature and stays on track for a smooth listen.
One of the core foundations of the Hitler Wears Hermes series is the multiple collaborations found throughout the tapes. Each tape includes different artists who make their mark with either their first Griselda collab or recurring features that further highlight their skills. This time around, we see major involvement from rappers, Stove God Cook$ & Rome Streetz, who make their Griselda affiliation official on the tracks: “Vogue Cover”, “Peri Peri”, “Draymond” and many more. In addition, this project maintains the original Griselda roster of Benny, Conway & Mach-Hommy for a few records to show that despite their growth, the movement will forever keep the family close. And we still haven’t even gotten to mention Jadakiss and Lil Wayne delivering phenomenal verses throughout the project as well.
Over the years, West has made the intentional transition from album artist to executive, further focusing on building and expanding Griselda Records. While West has made countless classics circulating the underground, many feel as if this power move toned down his hard-edged lyricism. However, this project (in addition to his three released last year) display that nothing has really changed with the Buffalo MC, besides an increase in mentions of his overly lavish lifestyle. Gunn will always contain those witty one-liners and excessively gritty bars that made him an underground star. Some examples on this project include: “Suplex the K like Shane Douglas, brain busters, you can’t muster” on “Margiela Split Toes” and “I had to spear the cocaine pot like Roman Reigns / Don’t get your chain popped, you know the name” on “Draymond”. Even though his focus has shifted, West will always be in the mindstate to deliver classic bars.
As mentioned, this project received major guidance from Griselda-affiliated producers, Camouflage Monk, Conductor Williams and Danny Laflare. Each producer has contributed to the infamous “Griselda sound” in their own ways, building an incredible chemistry among all artists. Even though many credit Daringer as the originator of the movement’s sounds, these three have played an equal role in the past, present and future of Griselda. With these three on deck for this album’s production, West falls right into place, rapping over menacingly gritty beats that is transparent on tracks such as “Bash Money” and “Peri Peri”. The concentration on taking it back to the boom-bap sound helps further highlight the aspects that make West such an interesting emcee. Hitler Wears Hermes 8 takes it back to the original sound and creates an atmosphere that both long-term Griselda fans and new listeners could enjoy.
While West continues to be lethal on the mic throughout this album, the abundance of features drowns out his own contributions. Make no mistake, if Westside Gunn is on a track then you will definitely know he’s on the track, but for those who tapped in solely for Westside Gunn are going to receive more guest contributions than the mastermind himself. Despite the copious amount of features, West’s did an amazing job with the arrangements, from placing verses to choosing beats.
Over the past few years, Griselda Records has seem major success. But whether it be billboards in Times Square or Grammy nominations, the label will never completely abandon the sound that got them to the position they are at right now. This project provides a good balance of delivering the authentic Griselda sound while expanding the sonical palette of the album, allowing day-one fans and new listeners to rejoice and enjoy the music. No matter how successful West gets, Hitler Wears Hermes 8 is a great example of the artist being aware of how to branch out while appealing to his core fanbase.
Whether you love or hate the animated delivery and excessive ad-libs, there’s no doubt that Hitler Wears Hermes 8 is one of the few big releases that perfectly manages to match it’s magnitude with great quality music. If you’re new to Westside Gunn or Griselda Records as a whole, this project is a great entry point and gives you the two sides to the movement: the foundation and the future.
8 / 10
Best tracks: “Bash Money”, “Peri Peri”, “Right Now”, “Margiela Split Toes”, “Spoonz”, “Draymond”