“It’s safe to say, I’m going on a tear,” Benny the Butcher says over the phone, running through a list of projects he’ll be releasing soon. “I’m about to tear shit up.”
After Benny’s Griselda crew had a breakout year in 2019, the Buffalo rapper has spent the early months of 2020 laying out a plan to build on that momentum. “I been quarantined, closing deals,” he tweeted to his followers on April 16.
He wasn’t lying. Today, Benny announced that his Black Soprano Family label has struck a deal with eOne. They will be releasing a DJ Drama-presented Gangsta Grillz mixtape called Da Respected Sopranos in June, followed by a label compilation project. To celebrate the deal, they just dropped the lead single from Da Respected Sopranos, “Da Mob,” which features Benny alongside BSF artists Heem and Rick Hyde.
That’s not all Benny has planned, though. He tells Complex he’s also working on multiple projects of his own. “I’ve got a crazy project in the truck,” he reveals. “It’s produced solely by Hit-Boy, with some good features on there. It’s feel-good music. And I’ve got a whole other project, produced solely by Harry Fraud, with some dope features on there.”
It sounds like we’ll be hearing a collaboration (or two) with Drake, as well. “It’s definitely going to see the light of day,” he promises. “I sent him a song to get on, and he sent me a song to get on. So ya’ll are definitely going to hear Benny and Drake.”
For now, Benny the Butcher has one mission: “I’m going to bring the streets back to the forefront.” The Griselda crew has gained a reputation for making gritty street music at a time when there’s a growing appetite for their throwback approach to rap. And Benny says he plans to take that sound to an even higher level this year, working with A-list collaborators to bring it to a wider audience. “That’s what you get when you get a song with Benny and Drake,” he explains. “That’s what happens when you got me, 2 Chainz, and Lil Wayne [on a song together]. That’s the streets back in the forefront.” In case you forgot, he adds, “I’m the freshest from the street corner.”
Complex caught up with Benny over the phone to speak about his new label deal, plans for BSF, solo material and more. We’re also pleased to premiere the music video for “Da Mob,” which includes a preview of another song called “Quarantine” from the Gangsta Grillz project.
Congrats on your new label deal with eOne. What does this mean for you and BSF?
My label has always been one of my dreams. With how long I’ve been rapping, I’ve learned a lot on the business side. You don’t have this much success underground, or stay in the game this long, without having supreme knowledge of the game. I’ve got that. I show my talent on the mic, but I also want to show my talents with my crew, and what we can bring to the table. To do something like this was always one of my dreams.
I know Black Soprano Family has been in the works for a while. What was your initial vision when you started BSF?
Oh, man. I was at Elmira Correctional Facility, in reception. I just got there. I was on a violation for a year, and I wanted to do something different [when I got out]. I kind of felt like I was chasing my tail, so I just changed the name to Black Soprano Family. That’s the vibe I was feeling. I wasn’t trying to glorify the mafia, and I wasn’t trying to steal nothing from nobody, but that’s just the mood I was feeling. So I changed the name, then I came home in 2012, and we started working towards that. We started pushing. When I came home, I started yelling it out and I told my homeys, “Yo, this what we’re doing. We on some BSF shit.” Everybody followed suit. It took a while, but we grew it up to what it is today.
Now that you’re getting more exposure and resources, has your vision changed? Do you have bigger goals for BSF now?
Yeah, of course. I’ve got bigger goals for BSF. I want to bring talent to the table that people wouldn’t have originally got to hear. We’re from Buffalo, and that’s a place that has a bunch of talent, but it wouldn’t have come across your border unless it was brought to you by Westside Gunn. You wouldn’t have heard of Conway if it wasn’t for Westside Gunn. You wouldn’t have heard of Benny if it wasn’t for Westside Gunn. I want to do the same thing for other artists. They don’t even have to be from Buffalo, but just artists who weren’t getting the proper looks that they were deserving of, because that’s where I was at one point in time.
What should we know about your other artists on BSF right now, Rick Hyde and Heem?
Rick Hyde has been around since day one. He started off as an apprentice, making beats and coming through the studio—a young nigga, getting the game from me and Conway and DJ Shay. He was just learning, working his way up. In the early years, he produced a bunch of shit for me and a bunch of shit for Conway. He’s always been around. He’s growing with us. He’s just cut from that cloth. He’s a producer, he’s a rhymer, and that’s my little bro. He’s got a lot to show the world.
And Heem’s just a real grimy street nigga who got a lot to talk about. He got a lot of stories. He comes from a hood that bred a lot of hustlers. It bred a lot of real niggas. He’s seen a lot. His dad is an OG. Heem said his grandmother just came home from doing 10 years. So, he comes from that type of family. He’s got a lot to talk about. The things that he talks about, it affects people in a certain way. You will feel Heem when you hear him.
How involved are you with those guys’ next projects?
I’m executive producing all of these albums that we’re dropping with eOne. I’m in the studio with Heem. I’m in the studio with Rick Hyde. But I’m not standing over niggas, telling them what to do. I’m just giving my input. They trust my input and we work together. And I trust them. They don’t need me in there watching over them, but I just give my input if they felt like they need it. You want to have somebody in there who you trust. You want an ear you can trust, and somebody who knows what they’re talking about. I just want to help guide them in the right direction.
“Da Mob” is the first single you guys are dropping. What should fans know about this one?
Oh, man. We was just talking some shit. We did that the day we signed the deal, so the morale was up. We just wanted to get in there and rap. We wanted to have a bar fest, talk slick, and christen the deal with a dope song produced by DJ Shay.
This is the first single from the Gangsta Grillz EP you guys are doing. What’s your vision for that?
The first thing we want to do is attack the streets. The only way to do that, I feel, is to get DJ Drama. He’s been attacking the streets for a minute. The Gangsta Grillz series is synonymous with the streets. The people who have done those are like royalty. I remember Lil Wayne’s, Jeezy’s, Beanie Sigel’s... We just want to fall in line with legendary street music like that. It was only right that we would go get Drama.
Can you give an update on the solo music you’re working on?
I’ve got a crazy project in the truck. It’s produced solely by Hit-Boy, with some good features on there. It’s feel-good music. And I’ve got a whole other project, produced solely by Harry Fraud, with some dope features on there. It’s safe to say, I’m going on a tear. I’m about to tear shit up.
“I was writing a song in there with Hit-Boy, and I mentioned something about my brother, and I started crying. Everything came over me, and I realized how far I came, and I felt sad. But it was tears of joy.”
What was it like being in the studio with Hit-Boy? Did that experience bring out another side of you as a rapper?
I’m not going to lie, it was emotional. It was happy, joy, and survivor's remorse. I was sad, a little bit. I don’t know why the fuck I was sad in the studio that day. I’m a humble person, and I come from humble beginnings. I came a long way. So, to be discussing million-dollar deals and get a deal for my label, that affects me in a certain way. I’m just so thankful for it. Being in the studio and working with Hit-Boy, I was sitting in a spot where I know the greats sat at. I know the legends come in there, with all the plaques on the wall. I see Nas in there, Big Sean in there. I worked my way up to that. I was just thankful that Hit-Boy gave me the opportunity.
I wanted to prove that I belonged. I was rapping with a chip on my shoulder, lyrically. I wanted to show that I was smart as everybody, and I was as hungry as anybody. That’s how I got here. I remember, I was writing a song in there with Hit-Boy, and I mentioned something about my brother, and I started crying. Everything that I’ve been going through, and my success, it hadn’t hit me. You can’t pick when you want it to hit you. But in that moment, everything came over me, and I realized how far I came, and I felt sad. But it was tears of joy.
Hit-Boy was in the room. He had seen it. He didn’t say nothing to me at the time, but a couple weeks later, I heard him telling the story. We were in a meeting and he was telling a story about how Nip[sey Hussle] was in the studio crying, too. That made me feel good—that it wasn’t only me. But I understood what Nip was going through at that time. Everything probably came over him. It was real, man. Those sessions was real.
Last year, Griselda did lots of join interviews, and people got to know you guys as a unit. This year, are you planning on introducing yourself to the world more as an individual?
You know, we’re not a group. We’ve never been a group. People like to say we’re a group. We do the shows and we do the interviews together, and that’s fun. I like doing that with them. It’s whatever’s on the schedule for the boys, so we’re going to continue. We’re going to continue to do shows. Sometimes I have interviews, and I call them to come. Sometimes they have interviews, and they call me to come. We’re going to continue doing that, because we know that people like to see us together.
Just frankly, it’s fun. I like hanging out with them niggas. Them niggas crazy. Conway’s like a comedian. West always got some funny shit to say. He always want to go out to eat at nice places and shit. I’d be happy to leave, like, “Nah, I ain’t getting stuck with the bill.”[Laughs.] So I’m going to continue to do that with those dudes. We’ve been hanging around and doing this music thing for years, so we ain’t going to stop no time soon.
As you’re getting more attention, do you think there are any misconceptions about you?
Yeah. I feel like people don’t understand how committed I am, and how deep I’m into this. I come from the Griselda powerhouse and I was the last person to come in. So I feel like people still peg me as an underdog. Sometimes people peg me as just a ride-along. But man, I’m very knowledgeable in this game, and I make a lot of moves. I put myself in a position to win. I do a lot of work outside of the booth. I do a ton of shit outside of the booth to further my career. People don’t know that about me.
“Ya’ll are definitely going to hear Benny and Drake.”
You recently tweeted, “I be keepin a lot of shit to myself cause if I didn’t y’all would hate me lol.” Are you more conscious about how you present yourself to the world now that you have a bigger following?
Yeah. You know, just because it’s my opinion don’t mean that I should openly say it. I’m being mindful of who I am, what I’ve got going on, who’s paying attention, and who’s watching me. A couple people retweeted it like, “Just say it. Just say it.” But really, it’s nothing major. A lot of it is just my opinions on people, and my opinions on some people’s music. Just shit like that. Shit that I wouldn’t want to say, because even though I might not like a person’s music, I might like the person’s personality. Or I might love the fact that whoever that person is, they’re eating and getting out the hood and doing something for their family. But a lot of stuff, I keep to myself, man. People ain’t ready. Don’t worry about it, though. [Laughs]. I’ll be telling everybody the backstories 20 years from now. I’ll tell you everything.
In December, Drake used your lyrics in the caption of an Instagram photo. Obviously Drake is known for writing songs that end up as everyone’s Instagram captions, so it was wild to see him use your lyrics instead. What’d you think when you saw that?
I did a triple take. I’m like, “Oh, shit! That’s my words.” I’m like, is this Drake’s page? Shout out to Drake, man. He’s a good dude. It’s just the respect from your peers that I take pride in, and I definitely got respect for him. He ain’t have to do that. He knew he was giving me a look by doing that. So, shout out to Drake, man.
I know you recently sent Drake a record, and said you knew you’d want to drop it as soon as he sent it back. Will that ever see the light of day?
It’s definitely going to see the light of day. I don’t know if I could just drop it, though. I’ve got a lot going on. People are definitely going to hear it. They’re definitely going to hear it. I sent him a song to get on, and he sent me a song to get on. So ya'll are definitely going to hear Benny and Drake.
“I’m leaving in the record books. When I check out, I’m going to be in the record books. One of the best that did it.”
Now that you’re in the studio with producers like Hit-Boy and high-profile rappers, have you noticed any changes in yourself as a rapper? Are you learning new things and changing your approach?
Yeah, because that’s how you eventually get your technique. That’s how I did. You take a little bit from everybody, and you make it your own. So, of course, man. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without learning from the greats and studying these dudes who have been successful with it. I’m always looking to learn something new from the people who I’ve got the opportunity to be around.
What are you bringing to rap in 2020 that’s been missing?
I’m going to bring the streets back to the forefront. I know a lot of people out here right now are feeling like they’ve got the streets to the forefront, but it’s really not. Because I feel like, when you get too successful, you kind of go in one direction. You hit that fork in the road, and you choose a direction. But I feel like I’m going to bring the streets back to the forefront.
That’s what you get when you get a song with Benny and Drake. That’s what happens when you got me, 2 Chainz, and Lil Wayne [on a song together], which 2 Chainz debuted on his Live like a week ago. That’s the streets back in the forefront. I’m not saying that my peers are not street, because they’re just as hood as I am, and they give it up just how I give it up. But I’m the freshest from the street corner. My head is fresh out that pot. Me and my boys, this Black Soprano shit is real. Niggas are doing life for this, niggas doing 20 years, niggas fighting federal trial for that right now. I barely escaped, so I’m the freshest one from the streets. I’m going to take that.
What’s the most important thing you want the world to know about you right now?
Rest in peace Machine Gun Black. That was my big brother, and I miss him. He should be here with me. I’m leaving in the record books. When I check out, I’m going to be in the record books. One of the best that did it.