Lead by Benny the Butcher, Westside Gunn and Conway the Machine, Buffalo, N.Y.’s Griselda Records continues to climb hip-hop’s power rankings with a gritty street rap sound reminiscent of ‘90s-era Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep. The industry has taken notice, with Griselda inking deals with both Eminem’s Shady Records and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, and a Benny-Drake collaboration on the way.
Now, as so many rap artists have before them, they’re making movies, too. The new crime drama Conflicted follows a Buffalo man (Adiyon Dashalon) trying to go clean after a stint in prison, only to be lured back into the game by his cousin (Benny the Butcher). The story pulls heavily from the life of Benny, born Jeremie Pennick, who often raps about his four bids in the New York State pen.
“That was my situation at a point in time,” Benny telks us during a recent virtual interview (watch above) for the film, which also stars Westside Gunn in a small role and Michael Rapaport. “It’s hard re-entering yourself back into society when all your friends are doing the same thing. I been locked up so much that the first time I came home, dudes had money for me, they was happy to see me, the second time I came home, same thing. Third time, it was a little [different]. By the fourth time I came home, they wasn’t even calling me. They wasn’t even checking on me… They didn’t even care. So when you come home, you’re really on an island, you’re by yourself because you’re dealing with things that nobody else is dealing with.
“You gotta distance yourself from everything negative, and it’s hard.”
Thanks in large part to his booming rap career, Benny has been able to leave that life behind — but trouble still found him this past November when he was shot in the leg during a robbery attempt outside a Houston Walmart. Benny was surrounded by five individuals wearing masks as he exited his Rolls Royce. The rapper was bound to a wheelchair for weeks after the shooting, but says he’s fully recovering.
“I’m good, I’m getting my leg and my foot back together, been doing a lot of therapy, so I been getting better and better,” he says. “It’s an injury that’s gonna take some time to heal but I’m definitely gonna be back to myself real soon.”
Benny didn’t seem phased by the experience. “To be honest with you, it was a situation but I didn’t fear for my life in the middle of the situation. I don’t feel like they wanted to take my life. I been through a whole bunch of s***… And if I was them I would’ve did it better.”
Griselda’s members are hardcore proponents of their hometown of Buffalo, and that extends to the Buffalo Bills, who lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday’s AFC Championship.
In recent months, Benny struck a partnership with the Bills, recording both a new fight song for the team and its famous #BillsMafia fanbase (“Bills Mafia Anthem”) and releasing a limited line of official merchandise. The latter raised some eyebrows as it depicts Benny holding up Pyrex in place of a football, a not so-subtle nod to rapper’s drug-dealing past.
“They approved it, they like it,” Benny says of the Bills. “I feel like they’re buying into my brand. People can take it and make it a negative thing, but like I said in a song, ‘I put a Pyrex on the merch to make sure that I stay grounded/ Because I had a dirty one on the stove when the Jakes found us.’” (The Jakes being the cops.)
“It represents my whole life and how far I came, and where I’m going.”
The Bills hip-hop connection will get even stronger in the months to come. As Benny exclusively revealed to us, he’ll soon be recording a track with popular wide receiver Cole Beasley — a collaboration fans have been clamoring for since discovering the athlete’s musical talents after he came to Buffalo from the Dallas Cowboys in 2019.
“I want everybody to know to be on the lookout, coming soon, Cole Beasley featuring Benny the Butcher, it’s happening,” he says. “He sent me so many dope songs I’m just trying to pick which one I want to record to, but it’s definitely happening.”
Conflicted will be available on Blientele.com starting Friday, Jan. 28.
Watch Benny the Butcher talk his latest album Burden of Proof, Jay-Z and Drake in our full interview:
— Videos produced by Jon San and edited by Jason Fitzpatrick
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