Customarily, folks write album reviews after a listen or two. Me? I might take a week or two. It seems tardy, but it helps me determine the longevity of the music.
Comparable to a classic mobster movie, this project consists of all the most illest elements – a dope storyline, shady characters and a lively storyteller laying the narrative on thick – all set to a grimy, ominous instrumental backdrop. An array of meaningful dialogue snippets set up the scenes; interludes and samples provide the transitions; dirty boom bap snares, bumping kicks and crispy high hats power the songs forward; and lyrically, Wes delivers that ‘hardbody’ rap.
On HWH4, Westside Gunn keeps the roster interesting with solid guest features by Stalley, Smoke DZA, multiple appearances by his brother, Conway, the angelic-sounding yet soulful Tiona D, and more. The production and engineering crafted by GxFR’s producer Daringer offers the signature, sample-heavy loops, dusty drums and intriguing instrument leads he’s known for. Lyrically, Wes sticks to his vivid scene depictions and that braggadocios sh*t he’s perfected. Each track unfolds stories not unfamiliar to his fanbase; lyrical scenes depict everything from struggles to come-ups, paper-chasing to stunting etc…
HWH4 plays like a movie and offers everything a great flick has; drugs, money, backstabbing, foul play and revenge, drama, romance and even heartbreak.
The album opens with “The Cow,” featuring Gunn’s blood brother and vocal opposite, Conway. Together, the two offer an identifiable approach that somewhat contrasts but is still relatable, if that makes sense. The hefty vocals, rasp and growls in Conway’s voice bring a menacing tone to every line he spits; the perfect complement to his brother’s, sharp vocals that slice through mixes like a hot knife through butter. The track is arguably one of the best on the album, drawing you in from the moment you hit play. Conway’s verse is the first to be heard over the dirty drums following the opening dialogue sample. He tells an impactful personal account of his come-up, his struggles, encounters with foul-play and a contemplation of his mission in the rap game:
“When I pulled up and seen that yellow tape outside, had me ready to grab the stick and go apes outside […] maybe God ain’t want me killing them niggas and doing time, maybe God wanted me here to kill ‘em with the rhyme.”
This is unquestionably one of Conway’s most well-crafted verses to date which opens the track for a fashionably late entrance by the main event, Westside Gunn, and sets the tone for the rest of the album in a big way.
The opener is followed up by “Nasty” which immediately keeps you drawn in thanks to Daringer’s dark production, led by pronounced piano keys. Wes immediately addresses his opposition and threatening repercussions to his enemies in his classic style. He brings that energy and confidence, dropping a quick parallel to Hulk Hogan to end the track.
The Almighty hypnotizes with a soulful sample at the top of the beat that repeats into an addictive loop, courtesy of Daringer’s skillful beat weaving. The mood is set and Westside Gunn lets off every bullet in the lyrical arsenal at a steady pace; no need to rush when you know you’re in your motherf*ckin bag. 5X A Day follows, with a solid delivery from both emcees and the same A1 production delivered consistently by Daringer.
Aunt Rosie’s: Yo…. Rumor has it this was a true story, lol. Here’s where the romance and heartbreak comes in. The nostalgic, 80’s reminiscent guitar leads in, followed by WestSide Gunn’s ode to a certain girl that clearly had him spending lavishly on her. Problem is, the cinematic track wouldn’t be complete without a heart wrenching betrayal. The track quickly takes a turn to bittersweet disses delivered with utter disgust. Heartbreak hurts and Gunn spares no insult or revolted nuance with every line, each time delivered like a punch to the heart. Yikes, definition of trife life.
Mr. Fuji is set up with an epic announcement and intro – Gunn’s first few bars don’t disappoint. Set over a simple yet impactful loop, Conway makes an appearance again, as always delivering hard-hitting lines, bar for bar. The last verse is delivered by Harlem native, Smoke DZA who offers blow for blow via his signature menacing tones; a quality collaborative effort.
On Ringside Rocking Furs, Tiona D’s sweet sounding yet powerful vocals offer a nice change of pace in the album, demanding attention and repping the FLYGOD to the fullest. It’s the perfect momentary ear break before diving right back into the dirty kick snares that are interwoven throughout the album. Like frosting on a dessert, Keisha Plum ends it off with track appropriate spoken-word, bringing the song to it’s eventual fade-out.
Nitro kicks off with another pronounced guitar lead and the right instrumentals for the brazen wordplay to be delivered by Conway and B.E.N.N.Y. The production keeps the mood alive but doesn’t overpower; the emcees rise to the occasion and keep the track’s energy up. Starting right after the dreamy sample in the Walked on Water Interlude, Free Ike Free Kiki is the perfect resolve for this album.
The project is undeniable and another reason why the industry won’t be able to sleep on Westside Gunn for long. Every new release continues to solidify why Griselda Records’ (GxFR) rock solid camp is destined for everything legendary. As the hip-hop culture shifts with time, those who respect the ART know it takes more than dope rhymes.