Westside Gunn’s music is like a drug trip, albeit one that’s more likely to leave you in the backseat of a police car than face down in a heroin-induced coma. His music messes with the brain and worms its way into your subconscious. It’s dark and gritty but with a lightheartedness that keeps you coming back for more. It’s fitting then that his newest album, Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Side B, is an extension of his insular, hallucinogenic sound, featuring 20 tracks and over an hour of material from the Buffalo native.
Compared to his Griselda Records mates (and half-brother) Conway, The Machine and (cousin) Benny The Butcher, Westside Gunn is a bit more dynamic in his approach. Where Conway and Benny tend to stay in their lanes – dropping bars in the classic NY vein – Westside is a little more all over the place, and that makes his music a bit more inconsistent but no less compelling.
Gunn once described himself as more of a curator than a rapper, and the heavy-hitting guest lineup shows us why. The album opens with two extended intro skits, followed by opening track “Hell On Earth, Pt. 2”, featuring Conway and Benny the Butcher riding a haunting, neck snapper of a beat. The elusive and incomparable Jay Electronica stops in next for a guest verse on “Free Kutter,” pairing two modern rap iconoclasts over hypnotic, xylophone-addled production. Rounding things out, Griselda rapper Mach-Hommy, Atlanta don 2 Chainz, up and coming Brooklyn spitter Rome Streetz, Bay Area underground vet Larry June, and Tyler, The Creator all pop in for guest verses. It’s definitely a star-studded who’s who of underground rap.
Along the way, Gunn keeps Hitler Wears Hermes 8 on course with his avant garde touch. His voice is authoritative and forceful throughout, while his lyrics are cleverly crafted and the sparse, psychedelic production allows his subject matter to come through clearly.