Westside Gunn enjoys an immense success that does not seem to be winding down. Not with all Griselda members supplying new instalments of their distinctive culture brand. Recently Griselda mastermind has even been awarded his own day by the mayor of his home town.
August 28 is declared as Alvin “Westside Gunn” Worthy Day in Buffalo. Westside Gunn did a long interview with Hypebeast about his vision, his history and his future.
Delving deep into history, Westside notes that his initial ambitions were in the fashion industry and Griselda Records came as a spinoff of his fashion line. But at the same time, he always rapped. The fusion of his fashion and business vision, street experience and musicality – this is what makes Griselda special:
Even when I was doing clothing and I wasn’t rapping, I knew that I was doper than the majority of the game. There was a void and I wanted to fill it and bring a balance of the underground culture, the boom-bap culture, people say “backpack rap” or whatever you want to call it — I knew there was something missing.
Everyone wanted to be more from the south, or like Chicago drill music when that became big. People in my lane weren’t popular, they weren’t getting those looks. People always wanted to push forward the popular sound, what’s in the clubs and what’s on the radio. I always been a supply and demand guy. I was in the streets, I lived by it.
You gotta think like a street corner hustler back in the day. Like six, seven people be on one corner or in the projects and they gone fight for the same fiend. And I was like, “Why do that? I can go to a whole other city with no competition and make triple.” I applied my street methods to hip-hop and fashion. You give a crackhead free crack, that’s the best crack they ever had. They gone do anything to come back and get that again.
It was like, “Okay, everybody want to listen to this, but I’m about to make this popular.” It’s really like the dope game.
Westside Gunn seems himself as much more than just a rapper:
It’s like I’m not even a rapper, I’m an artist. I don’t even wanna be considered a rapper. I bring so much more to the game. I have an ear for production. Some people are just rappers. That’s what they do: they’re good at rap. But I love art, fashion, design, executive producing, putting songs together with the skits — all of that sh*t I love more than actually rapping.
He is rapping, though. He just released his new solo project “Pray For Paris” with an array of strong names featured as guests. Tyler the Creator is listed there both as a producer and an MC. Apparently, none of it was planned initially and came to fruition because Tyler was inspired to work with Westside Gunn:
Tyler is somebody who I respect because he’s himself. He don’t give a f*ck. A lot of people be scared to be themselves. In this game there’s a lot of make believe bullsh*t, man. A lot of these people that you see, well they not like that in real life.
With Tyler, he’s himself at all times. He don’t care who in the room. It could be the toughest dudes in the room and he might rap some off the wall sh*t and tell another dude that he’ll kiss him. If you know him, you respect it because that’s him. He’s a good dude with good energy.
As you can see, he killed the project on both levels, on rhyming and production. I’m thankful for that. I actually hit him to congratulate him on the GRAMMYs and that’s when he said he was making a beat for me. When he came to bring me the beat, he heard what I was already playing and he started rhyming.
Westside Gunn comments on the ever-growing role of The Alchemist in production of Griselda projects:
Alchemist is Griselda, man. You know how Mobb Deep was always Havoc and Prodigy? The Alchemist was their third unofficial member. Basically what Alchemist was to Mobb Deep is what he is to Griselda right now. He was already a legend before he got with us and now he’s a part of the Griselda sound. Him working with Boldy, now that’s extended family. Because before I was on him, but I wasn’t on him. When I was listening to [The Price of Tea In China] I was like, “Dude is incredible. He remind me of like a Detroit Benny.” It was so vivid.
To the question how Griselda has managed to maintain its vision even under a contract with a major label through Shady Records and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation management, Westside Gunn, as always, points out to their close bond and the history of shared hardships:
One thing for sure, these guys been around me my whole life. And Daringer been in my life for too many years, man. This is family and family is first. Of course people have their misunderstandings and little arguments but when you a real family, that sh*t don’t mean nothing. Everybody’s grown. At the end of the day, we here for the culture. We know what we signed up for.
This sh*t was all written. We gotta remain strong because what we’re doing is legendary. We from somewhere where nobody ever came from. We also all slept in a cell. We lost key members of our crew. We almost lost Conway. We dealt with the shootings. So now it’s about giving the world some of the illest hip-hop of all time.
He also has an advice to give to all aspiring artists navigating their way through the industry:
Don’t rush. Everything’s gonna happen organically. I’m very blessed. Even with a few bumps in the road, I learned from them so it could never happen again. I take the good with the bad. I’d tell myself to let everything happen organically and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.
Four years ago, Griselda was still considered just underground boom-bap and nobody was really listening. Today we’re spoken of from every big name you could possibly think of. There were a few moves I made prematurely around three years ago. Those things can still come back to haunt you to this day but you live and you learn, man. You keep working.
What is next to Westside Gunn? He states that he released everything he has ever recorded, there is nothing in stock but there is plenty of ideas:
After the Pray for Paris chapter I need to give the world part eight of the Hitler Wears Hermès series and then I’ll give you the project with ‘lib. That’s a lot for 2020, but you’ll definitely get all of them.
Read the interview in full on Hypebeast