Riding a train powered by the gritty, imaginative imagery of street crime and new-age lyricism, Griselda Records member Benny the Butcher’s 2020 and 2021 albums have been consistently potent. 38 Spesh, one of Benny’s lesser-known yet widely accredited contemporaries, collaborates with Benny on Trust The Sopranos, an 11-track LP. To the dismay of listeners looking to lose themselves in vivid coke-rap poetry and warped, classic soul and R&B samples layered upon heavy 808s, Benny’s powerful presence is too insubstantial, and the instrumentals too hackneyed, to save this project from its biggest mistakes.
While both Spesh and Benny possess similar grunge, noir-lyrical aesthetics, they lack the cohesion necessary to give the album a consistent and original texture. For instance, “Blue Money” features an outstanding verse from Benny, yet Spesh’s flow is too slow and his cadence too relaxed—a delivery that is incompatible with Benny’s aggressive, wicked style. Both artists refuse to meet each other half-way, giving the album an eclectic and hastily-constructed sound. Benny’s irregular appearances only compound the rappers’ mutual exclusivity.
All of Benny’s verses are powerfully vivid and focussed, but they only appear on six songs, encompassing a minor amount of the album’s 30-minute run time. Witty, creative lines like “Linked with execs who don’t know where no ghettos at / Where they get hit and bring no purple medals back” on “Immunity” prove that Benny adheres to his high standards when on the mic. Integrating quotes from early 2000s crime TV show The Sopranos on “Spineless,” Butcher mixes mobster and street-thug aesthetics to summate a lavish, calculated, and coldblood lifestyle. These highbrow moments, however, are too far and few between. While the numerous features—including the appreciable performance from Che Noir, Klass Murda, and Ransom on “Price of Fame”—appear to fill in this void, the inclusion of guests is ultimately unsatisfying knowing that Benny could, and should, be on these tracks.
Spesh’s rhymes are also insubstantial, especially when coupled with half-baked instrumentals like the cliché, retro-soul sampling on “Tokyo Drift.” However, a few beats embody the old school hip-hop vibe that the project strives for; the keys on “Long Story Short” are effectively grim, keeping pace with the lyrics, and the spacey, minimal chord progression on “Silent Death” complements Chase Fetti’s dark performance.
Overall, Trust The Sopranos has its highlights—specifically Benny the Butcher’s moments—but its tracks are not sonically or lyrically cohesive enough to fulfill the LP’s potential. Too many songs feature forgettable verses which, when coupled with generic instrumentals, become carbon-copies of a coke-rap formula that is becoming a tired hip-hop trope.