Review: Tana Talk 4 by Benny the Butcher

This is a republishing of a post I wrote for my now defunct music newsletter. Substack sucks so the post is here now.

Each of the Griselda crew has their particular style. Conway the Machine’s slower introspective verses always pack a punch. Westside Gunn’s adlibs add much needed levity to any track he is on. Benny the Butcher brings the grime.

I don’t mean the UK hiphop sub-genre but the dirt you would find on well worn city streets. Every Benny verse drips with a grit that only feels authentic but also has the confidence of someone who truly understands the subject matter they are rapping about.

Hip-hop verses are often filled with braggadocio which in the hands of the best rappers in the game don’t feel like kayfabe but instead the real lived experiences of the rapper turned into words.

Benny is without a doubt one of the best rappers in the game and in Tana Talk 4, the Butcher delivers album filled with one gritty song after another.

Let’s dive into the album some by breaking down some individual tracks.

Track List

  1. Johnny P’s Caddy (featuring J. Cole)
  2. Back 2x (featuring Stove God Cooks)
  3. Super Plug
  4. Weekend In The Perry’s (featuring Boldy James)
  5. 10 More Commandments (featuring Diddy)
  6. Tyson vs. Ali (featuring Conway The Machine)
  7. Uncle Bun (featuring 38 Spesh)
  8. Thowy’s Revenge
  9. Billy Joe
  10. Guerrero (featuring Westside Gunn)
  11. Bust A Brick Nick
  12. Mr. Chow Hall

Total length: 40m27s

Johnny P’s Caddy

Right off the bat, Benny comes in blazing hot with this track that was one of the singles. With a beat from the inimitable Alchemist, Benny spits confident line after another.

My ability to turn words to imagery prolly the reason they gon’ remember me

Indeed, Benny’s verses always paint a vivid picture. I’d like to think if Benny was making this kinda music back when The Wire was airing, he would be part of the show’s soundtrack.

J. Cole’s feature here is also one that came as a surprise to me when the track came out as a single. Cole did the feature for free which to me is a show of respect from one great rapper to another.

I’m prolly gon’ go to Hell and Jesus ask for a feature
I’m higher than niggas and don’t need a bag full of reefer
Some see the glass as empty, I see a glass full of ether
Collectin’ his bread en masse like he a Catholic preacher
Just to count a nigga cash, you might need a calculus teacher
Eureka, Einstein on the brink of the theory of relativity
Really, no MC equal, feel me?

J. Cole couldn’t resist the physics pun heh. It is another one of those lines that only works if you are Jeremiah Cole, otherwise it would sound hella corny.

Back 2x

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the feature on this track. While Stove God’s verse sounds grimy as fuck and meshes with Benny’s style and content, his voice is just a tad annoying to me. He’s got one of those voices that gets on my nerves.

All that aside, Stove’s verse itself is hard as fuck:

Was cookin’ hard with my left (Left)
Parallel parkin’ my Lex’
Hear the barkin’ from them bundles, had that dog food on deck
Now my last check look like I play for the Nets

Benny also flexes some more and puts himself with the likes of 2Pac (RIP) and Boldy James and yeah, he ain’t wrong about that.

My style mixed with Boldy James now and 2Pac then (Then)
Don’t compare me to no nigga that’s not in the top ten (Don’t do that)

Super Plug

You know a track is gonna sound incredible when you hear the Alchemist tag at the beginning of the track. Super Plug’s beat has this ethereal vibe to it, it sounds like a piano? I’m not entirely sure, whatever it is Uncle Al just does not miss with the production. Every time I hear a Alchemist beat, I always go “damn, how is he so good?”.

Lyrically, this track is story time with Benny. A story about moving drugs:

Oh shit, I been on since like the old Clipse
Sixteen hour road trip for the whole brick

Benny asserting that he’s been in the game for a long ass time and he put in the work. Sixteen hour road trip sounds hella tiring.

Weekends in the Perry’s

Another wonderful beat from Uncle Al, that repeated sample being looped in the background is just perfect for the feature on this track. I’m a big fan of Boldy James understated style and this beat is just the kind of stuff he just floats on.

Had to quit blazin’ cigarettes (Uh huh)
Was two-timin’ my dame, I’m a bigamist
But the gang half of the blame, I live with regret (Yeah), my brain a bit of a wreck
All this stress and strain left it disconnect (Woah)
Cheffin’ up all the ‘caine in that kitchenette (Skrrt)
Acquainted with big execs who filthied up my name just to split a check (Whatever)

10 More Commandments

Benny is one of the few rappers who can properly pay homage to the late Notorious B.I.G’s legendary track “10 Crack Commandments”. Benny did the OG track justice and then some.

He drops some wise words about social media:

Thirteen tricky, B.I.G. couldn’t even approach it
When he was slingin’ and totin’, this wasn’t even a focus
No social media postin’, greedy emotions
Niggas chase fame and not the money, that’s broke shit, y’all be on ho shit

Truly a version of the track for our current era. Don’t post about your crimes on social media folks.

The only aspect of this track I don’t like is the outro by Diddy. It feels superfluous and I always skip to the next track when I get to it. It is definitely my least favourite feature on the album. At least it is at the end of the track so I can skip it without missing a Benny verse.

Tyson vs. Ali

This track’s name references the discussion of comparing two legendary boxers. Benny asserts that its a fruitless venture:

They compare the greatest to the greatest like Boston vs. the Lakers
Question, do your legacy rest dependin’ on where you rank
Amongst the current and the late? If so, I feel like I’m straight
But rappin’ and sellin’ weight, I just had them genetic traits
Or do people really care? Do they just wanna hear the music?
So confusin’, y’all compare two niggas from the same movement
Only for y’all amusement, it’s funny to me, y’all do it
Truth is, while I’m killin’ this shit, Conway be somewhere rootin’

Fellow Griselda compatriot Conway the Machine and confirms that the Griselda squad are the best in the game and comparing them to each other is a fool’s errand:

Westside, Daringer, me, and Benny, y’all lookin’ at the illest four
Niggas that y’all seen in ten years or more (Woo)
I mean, you lookin’ at the team with the winnin’ score (Ah)

Uncle Bun

Rochester native 38 Spesh trades some ice cold bars with Benny.

38 Spesh:

Another run, nigga, we got rich off the right vision
To get the squares from here to there was a light mission
I planned it and all I had was a flight ticket
When I landed, I took advantage of the price difference
Listen, nigga, I got a hand that could write scriptures
But y’all take the stand and land me in tight fences
Fuck a life sentence, pray God hand me the right riches
And turn this one brick to a family of white bitches, uh

Benny:

I sold dope to a fiend while she pregnant, emotionless
I’m not a case worker, that’s not a reason I sold the shit
Who cared I wore hand-me-downs too big for my clothes to fit?
Who cried for me when my relatives stole from me for a hit?
Look, these lames still caught up ’cause my name’s still brought up
In top five convo from Langfield to Gainesville, Florida

Whew lord. Cold as a winter in Buffalo, NY. Or Rochester.

Thowy’s Revenge

This track starts with:

Ain’t nobody fuckin’ with me and Uncle Al

And then the beat starts and holy shit y’all. Uncle Al outdid himself on the same goddamn album. The horns on this, so fucking good. This track is my most favourite on the album because of the production. Ain’t nobody fucking with Benny and the Alchemist indeed.

Benny’s verse works in lockstep with the beat and man just give me more Benny and Alchemist all day. Inject that shit straight into my veins.

Back home, I’m like Warren Buffet
On MLK with Inf all summers
Made it out the hood with no problem
With no father and a poor mother
I was raised in a dope house, we had sticks in it like we’re storing lumber
Next, I’m doing Martha Stewart numbers

Billy Joe

I keep repeating myself, but Uncle Al came through again on this one, this time with some fantastic drum work.

But how it get to this? (How?) Tell me, you ever sleep with a cobra? (You ever did that?)
And get hit with cheap work, you know the powder sink when it’s soda
Damn, I counted out at half a million with my eyes closed (With my eyes closed)
‘Cause this year I feel like I’m ’99 Hov (Let’s go)
I’m breakin’ records, settin’ milestones, out in Hawaiian time zones
Nobody cried when they killed Alpo (Fuck all that)

Alpo:

Albert Geddis Martinez, better known as Alpo Martinez, Abraham G. Rodriquez (witness protection), or more simply as Alpo or Po (June 8, 1966 – October 31, 2021) was an American drug dealer of Puerto Rican descent from New York City. He rose to prominence in the mid–1980s. In addition to New York, Martinez expanded his drug trade to other cities, notably Washington, DC.

Martinez was released in 2015 while serving a 35-year sentence for 14 counts of murder at ADX Florence, a federal supermax prison located in Fremont County, Colorado. He was released after testifying against former associates and had been living under a United States witness protection program in Lewiston, Maine, under the assumed name, Abraham G. Rodriquez, until shortly before his death in 2021.[2]

In addition to snitches not getting stitches, they don’t get anyone crying for them either.

Guerrero

Benny is not done flexing, on this one he weaves in track names from previous albums into his verse so smoothly that you can easily miss them if you aren’t paying attention:

Who are you? I’m Scarface versus Sosa, on both sidеs
These GOAT lines gon’ makе you feel like you Rick off a coke line, yeah
I counted out fifty-one bands when the coke dryin’
I’m back in rap, niggas know it’s goodnight when it’s showtime
Joe Pesci .38 from the movie, it’s not a prop though
My dog in a county on Echo Long with a iPhone

I bolded some of the references from his verse. Scarface versus Sosa references track 3 from his 2018 album Tana Talk 3. Joe Pesci .38 is another reference to Tana Talk 3, the ninth track specifically. Echo Long is also another track from TT3.

Westside’s feature on this is is unremarkable. That sounds uncharitable but Westside is my least favourite of the Griselda crew and being unremarkable means it was short and tolerable.

Bust A Brick Nick

Benny does a bit more storytelling on this one, referencing his gunshot wound from 2020 which if y’all didn’t know about, give “3:30A In Houston” a listen:

Before a bullet wound, there was shit that permanently hurt me (Damn) In a wheelchair it was hard to smile on my 36th birthday
Being honest, this could be karma I probably deserve in the first place (For the shit I did)

And a just a bit more flexing to close of the track:

When I drop, rappers fucked and this time, they dead again
I got a closet full of measuring cups and dead presidents

If you thought I wasn’t going to mention the Alchemist’s production on this one, you were dead wrong. Another smooth one from Uncle Al, where the hell does he get these samples? His sampling work is honestly some of the best in the game.

Mr. Chow Hall

We’re here, the final track of the album and it’s another rock solid joint produced by The Alchemist.

Spent your down payment at Mr. Chow’s on a Tuesday, now that’s a feast (Let’s eat)
Five bands, the cops got in Houston after that shootin’ (They took it from me)
They tried to get me to come pick out of a lineup, but I was useless
In the hospital bed, shot, them questions they asked, I was clueless

Civil forfeiture is just some wack shit y’all. Fuck the police.

They say West is the brains (Uh-huh), and Benny is the star
Conway the silliest with the bars, well, I couldn’t agree more
‘Cause I’m on prime time TV fresh off tour in Dior (Uh-huh)
And what that **** deal was for, my shit was ten times more
And that’s no disrespect at all, shit Conway taught me made me a boss (Facts)
And these West’s own words, this how he planned it, this what he saw (Uh-huh)
That’s how he knew not to do that ****
They both rich, and I am too, so shit, that advice wasn’t wrong
The Butcher (Ah)

We get some censored bars here. Allegedly, the first is supposed to be “Shady” referencing the label deal Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine got with the Shady Records. He says that deal wasn’t worth it because he got a better one down the road.

The second is allegedly “360 deal with Paul” referencing Paul Rosenberg, Eminem’s manager and renowned label executive. This is all reddit users speculating so take it with a huge dollop of salt.

Wrapping Up With Some Conclusions

I am not going to mince my words here: Benny the Butcher has straight up dropped up one of the best hip-hop albums this year. Combining his top notch lyricism with the production talens of Daringer, Beat Bucha and The Alchemist resulted in a album that has no bad tracks and certainly no tracks I regularly skip.

Tana Talk 4 lived up to all my expectations of Benny and then some. It is a worthy successor to Tana Talk 3. I am looking forward to what he releases in the future.

Not only has the Butcher arrived, he is lounging around rapping circles around your favourite rapper with the ease and confidence that comes with honing one’s skills over a long period of time.