Benny The Butcher has hit a transitional period in his career. At the tail end of 2021, the Buffalo, New York product landed a major label deal with Def Jam Records, leading to a plethora of guest features and the fourth installment in his beloved Tana Talk series the following year. Today, Benny is assuming a new role as a music executive with his Black Soprano Family label and its new album Long Live DJ Shay, released earlier this month.
Getting to this point was something the rapper knew would eventually happen, especially after his productive year. And Benny’s fully confident things are supposed to happen this exact way.
More from Billboard
“I wanted all this, so I focused a little harder,” Benny The Butcher tells Billboard about his evolution. “I realized the arena I’m in, and the stakes are even higher. I’m here because of the grittiness. It’s the east side of Buffalo, and it’s the competitiveness. I gotta prove myself.”
Casual fans may know Benny as a burgeoning star, but the diehards are familiar with his story of breaking onto the scene as the younger cousin of Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine under the Griselda Records imprint. He carved out his lane and proved his worth with screwface-inducing rhymes and vivid storytelling that helped Griselda kick down the proverbial doors to mainstream hip-hop.
Contrary to popular belief, though, Griselda was never a traditional group. Each artist on the roster had to go out and get their own, something they’ve been accustomed to their whole lives, and that system is what’s still fueling Benny today. Even when he’s running solo, Benny understands he has to continue growing and learning through his interactions with others in the game.
In the span of five months, Benny has rubbed shoulders with a pair of greats in the legendary Snoop Dogg — who orchestrated his Def Jam deal — and J. Cole, whom he collaborated with on arguably one of the songs of the year, “Johnny P’s Caddy” off Tana Talk 4. Any other artist would kill to be in the company of those greats, but for Benny, it was a moment of growth with the advice these two gave him.
“Snoop told me to be firm on what I want and know what I want. That’s s–t I always knew,” says Benny. “With Cole, it was like me getting a glimpse to where I wanna be. His advice was to take this s–t, have a vision and see myself from where I’m at right now to doing more and seeing myself doing that — and visualizing that s–t, ’cause it can happen.”
Tana Talk 4 is a prime example of Benny visualizing where he wants to go with his career. He linked up with longtime collaborators Alchemist, Daringer and Beat Butcha for a moment he says is the perfect introduction to who he’s about to become, while still keeping it true to who he is as an artist, and now as a legitimate businessman.
“The album was the perfect segue into my next level, and I wanted to show people that I’m still tapped in with these guys and still get busy,” Benny says. “I’m not losing a step, and I can still intimidate other rappers just by putting a verse out. I d–n near became the stamp of, like, what the Jadakiss verse used to be. That’s what the Benny the Butcher verse is today, and we see it every day.”
He adds: “But I’m also the sacrificial lamb to this underground hip-hop s–t, and elevating at the same time. A lot of people think, ‘D–n, he signed a major deal. He about to go commercial, he’s going to that side.’ But it’s the exact opposite, because I’m going to pull this side over to us. I gotta be the one to go to this level to speak up for us, to put n—as like 38 Spesh and Boldy James on shit, just like n—as put me on.”
With that notion, Benny The Butcher kicked things off with Long Live DJ Shay. The album is a tribute to the late Buffalo legend DJ Shay who helped build the Griselda rappers into what they are today and serves as the proper introduction to his BSF family. El Camino, Rick Hyde, Heem B$F, LoveBoat Luciano and Fuego Base handle much of the records on the project alongside Benny, Westside, Conway and more.
As Benny puts it, this is the start of him cementing his own platform to put his people on — in the same vein as Jay-Z, Master P, Birdman and more have done with their respective imprints. It’s not about signing an artist trying to make the most money out of them, but instead putting those in a position to feed themselves and the overall brand.
And that focus on branding, along with elevating others, comes from his time learning the ropes under Westside Gunn and Conway The Machine. The Griselda brothers will never waste an opportunity to market themselves or their collectives, and for Benny, that time was beneficial, and fuels where he wants to bring BSF.
“Being the younger cousin and them bringing me on, it’s like me upholding the standard — ’cause I seen them both take off,” he says. “I’m not gonna sit here, get my chance and f–k it all up and not step into the role of my full potential. I didn’t want to be the runner on the team. Like, ‘N—a, I got my own tour, I can carry my own weight too.'”
Benny plans on having over 100 albums released under the BSF banner, much like the Master P-led No Limit Records did during their incredible run in the late ‘90s. He’s hellbent on doing that, and won’t let anything stop him or his collective from snatching everything in sight.
“There’s no ‘I’ in team; everybody holds everybody down,” says Benny. “I’m the kind of exec that’s artist-friendly, because I give them the whole play. I let them be involved with their careers as much as possible and show them how to get to the money.
He concludes: “I wanna see which one is going to be the one to take it to the next level because it’s not going to be everybody. Everything they need is in front of them. A n—a don’t gotta jump way up there — but n—a, do what you gotta do.”