Benny the Butcher has survivor’s regrets. When you manage to get out of your East Buffalo neighborhood despite facing the same odds that brought down others, it inevitably comes with a pang of guilt. The eighth track of his new EP The plugs I knew 2, aptly titled “Survivor’s Remorse,” says it a lot. He raps: “This is supposed to be a hit / so why the hell do I feel stressed and guilty?” Benny, whose birth name is Jeremie Pennick, has witnessed a host of tragedies. His brother, Machine Gun Blak, was a major con man before he was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2006. Westside Gunn, Benny’s cousin, was also on the streets. For Benny the Butcher, getting ahead is more complicated than it sounds.
If it’s 2019 The plugs that I knew is a cheeky young scammer who enters the game and shows you the weight of his words, and those of 2020 Burden of proof show Benny on top of the rap game, then The plugs I knew 2 he’s a seasoned veteran who no longer enjoys bragging about any of that. On the one hand, there is more self-reflection. Not just about Benny having survivor’s remorse, but also about how monotonous the game is for him now. The narrative has changed; he is no longer a young male. Benny and his Griselda associates have blazed a trail in the rap game, straddling the old and the new, between a seasoned veteran and a newcomer to the industry. Still, Benny knows how close he has come to calamity. In November, he was shot outside a Walmart in Houston. After enduring tough physical therapy sessions to learn to walk again, Benny has recovered. The muggers tried to put an end to all the hard work he did to get here, Rolling Stone spoke to him on the phone about The plugs I knew 2 And why don’t you let what happened in Houston get to you.
What was your way of thinking about this album compared to Burden of proof?
Honestly in Burden of proof, I was talking to the world. Let everyone know that I am here. With the type of music we make, people almost see us as stars or top-tier people in a gang because they felt like we were in a box. So I let people know that I can appeal to a wider audience. The lyrical assault will still be there in Burden of proof. With this one, I’m speaking to the streets, even though everyone else is going to hear it and everyone else is more connected and still enjoying it in the same way that the street does, I’m really speaking to the streets with this. It’s a sequel, so it’s a continuation of the shit I dropped in 2019 when I wasn’t that great of an artist, I was just talking to the streets. I wasn’t even thinking of doing anything outside of that. So, I talk to them again, letting them know that I’m not going anywhere.
Is it important to have a narrative in your music?
Yes it is. I think so. I was seeing a guy today and some of them really just say anything, not all of them, but people really get into their songs and say anything. Has no sense. They just yell random shit. I think it’s important to have a narrative and have a point with your music and go somewhere with it.
What is the benefit of collaborating with a producer for the entire album? You’ve always done that.
Less is more and these guys are my personal producers. So they are taking more responsibility for my project than just making a beat and sending me the beat. They are taking on more responsibilities. They are doing everything. They helped me choose the order of the songs. They helped me choose the Feng Shui for the entire album. So it is more practical with them. They invested a lot more in the project when they work so close to you.
You said, “When they said they needed fewer trappers and more poets, I kept talking to scammers who are more heroic,” what does that line mean to you?
The whole reason I named this album, The plugs I knew 2 it is because in the Plugs that I knew, I was getting criticized for always talking about the same shit that I talk about. And I was just letting people know that this was my lane. And I feel comfortable in my lane and you should be comfortable because I am also in my lane. So when I said, “They need fewer trappers and more poets.” People say, “You should change what you rap, you rap about the same. You should try doing this kind of song or this kind of song. “I felt like they weren’t realizing that Coca-Cola rap is a real rap genre right now. I kept talking to the streets. I felt like that was more. honorable than the streets helping me get here. And then as soon as I got here, I just ran away from them. I felt it was more honorable, more heroic to be who I was on the streets and keep doing the same thing that I’ve been doing.
Does life feel easier now because of what happened in your past?
Not to take my situation lightly, but yes, I do feel that way. I feel like the hardest parts of my life are over. The hardest parts of my life are over. No matter what you’ve seen me go through in the last few years, it’s nothing compared to what was going on before, like 1984 to 2016, even with these labels I got shot, that’s almost a big deal. That’s nothing.
What did DJ Shay mean to you as a person?
He was everything. It taught me my work ethic. It helped me make that transition. Before we get to this point. It helped me train when there was no reason to wake up and go to the studio every day. He was waking me up and taking me to the studio every day. Sometimes I looked at my daughter. I used to have to bring it. And after my work ethic, I still can’t stop working because he built that on me. “What are you doing asleep at nine o’clock? You’re supposed to be awake, come to the studio. ”Sometimes we woke up and went to the studio, smoked a joint, and sometimes Shay’s old ass goes to sleep. But it was about being in the work environment and not being at home and not being on the street and not being around nonsense. I was always like, “Being in the work environment, being in the work environment.” And that helped me a lot. It just taught me a lot of things. Everything. You see me through business and shit like that. I went through a lot of that through Shay. I took it to the next level. So rest in peace, DJ Shay, I was like a brother, an uncle, a father. He was everything. Even outside of music. He was telling me ways I should learn to treat or talk to women. He was giving me relationship advice. I’m 36 years old and I met Shay when I was 19. I met him when I was a boy, it helped me become a man.
You have Jim Jones and you have French in this song. That is quite historical. Another great collaboration from Griselda – all of you are full of great collaborations with legends.
We are here for these guys. And now these guys handed us the torch. They literally passed us the torch. When you see us in photos with these guys, it’s the passing of the torch. It is not just a movie, not just a photoshoot. When you hear these guys praise us and give us some inspirational words. You listen to how they speak to us; that’s the passing of the torch. So we prefer to make songs with the legends, from the golden age of hip hop. Even if it’s not like now, these kids can’t say my hip hop era is theirs. Because they didn’t grow up in hip hop in the early 1990s until the early 2000s. But guess what? The guys who inspired them to rap were raised for it. So that’s the golden age of hip hop and that’s one of the things I’m most proud of is being able to jump on songs with a legend and bring that back to them.
Although Griselda is a very classic rap group, all of you can still relate to the younger generation. Griselda has helped close the generation gap.
Yes. I think you are definitely right. And I agree with that. And I tried to point that out, where does that come from. This is what I came up with; style and bravado and arrogance and stuff. The personalities and characteristics of the three combined. West with the glitz and the cars and the way he talks and shit, Conway with the same. Being a bit younger, you might see us turn to cheat producers or cheat artists even want to make songs with us. We’re like old East Coast hip hop.
It is a kind of revival.
Exactly, we like east coast hip hop, but we don’t dress like backpackers. We don’t act like those backpack guys. People might try to classify us as backpackers. There’s nothing wrong with that, I love backpack rappers. Every great lyricist in the game at this time was considered a backpack rapper or rapped on those kinds of beats, from Hov to Em to Drake. That category, there is nothing wrong with that. But we didn’t necessarily dress like those guys and our presentation wasn’t like that.
So what’s next for the Black Soprano family? What’s next for BSF? Because you also have Rick Hyde on this album.
Yes. I have Rick Hyde on this and this will be Rick Hyde’s break-up year. He was raised by us, he has been under our protection for a long time. It will show your fluency and it will show in everything. My boy, Young Royal, we just closed the deal at Empire, he’s about to make an album there. He is a talented young man, who can sing, who can rap, who can dance. He’s about to get his shot. So just more stuff like that. Simply pushing the envelope further, making the artists more seen and heard. And put them more in the flow of things. Just running the table.
So his rise happened very slowly. Do you think your job is to cut that in half for your artists? Or are you also saying to Rick Hyde, “Is it going to be a slow routine, a constant routine?”
Definitely. Are both. It’s going to be a slow routine, it’s going to be a constant routine. I tell you that. And it’s not going to be like… Rick Hyde, he won’t have to go through the shit I went through. Some things you will have to go through. But when West and Conway introduced me to the game, they weren’t as great artists as I am now. And there are many things I had to do. With Rick Hyde, I am a bigger artist than West and Conway at the time. So, he got a head start on that, and I let him know. But there are certain things that you also have to work on. And you will still have to work hard and you cannot hang your hat on that. So there will be advantages and there will definitely be disadvantages.
It’s fine. I am going to ask this question very lightly. And very gently. Some months ago something happened to you. How do you feel physically and mentally?
I feel very good. Just worried about getting my strength back, worried about putting my business back together. I am back traveling. I’m good. I am a soldier. I hate when people say things like this, because we can never figure out who is and who is not. But I am a real gangster for real. So I’m not sitting here crying over any of that shit that happened. I’m not going to let those guys kick me off the streets for some shit that happened. Shit happens. Sometimes I’m the person it happened to. It’s about me moving differently and moving better and being more Benny the Butcher and less Jeremie.