On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN sat down with Benny the Butcher to discuss his new album, beef with Freddie Gibbs, signing to Def Jam Recordings and more.
Born Jeremie Damon Pennick, the Buffalo, New York rapper is no stranger to hip hop, citing rappers such as JAY-Z, Mobb Deep and Rakim as major influences for his earlier music. Commonly known for his association with Westside Gunn’s independent record label Griselda, Benny the Butcher released his debut mixtape Tana Talk in 2004. From there, Benny continued to build a name for himself within the industry, releasing a handful of independent projects throughout the years, including 2009’s Tana Talk 2 and 2010’s Benny Montana. Although briefly incarcerated the following year, he would later begin to lay the groundwork for a new chapter within his career, focusing solely on creating music and leaving the street life behind him.
In 2012, Benny the Butcher co-founded his record label and hip hop collective Black Soprano Family, which would later ink a record deal with eOne Records. Under his own imprint, Benny continued to unload a series of mixtapes before eventually signing to Griselda and releasing his widely-acclaimed label debut project Tana Talk 3 in 2018. The album was met with praise from fans and critics alike, with standout cuts including “‘97 Hov” and “Rubber Bands & Weight.” He swiftly followed the project up with his 2019 EP The Plug I Met as well as his sophomore album Burden of Proof in 2020, which was entirely produced by GRAMMY Award-winning producer Hit-Boy with features from Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Big Sean and Freddie Gibbs, to name a few.
Last year, it was announced that Benny would be Snoop Dogg’s first signee to Def Jam Recordings since taking on his role as an executive creative and strategic consultant. Fast forward to this year, the rapper released his widely acclaimed third studio album Tana Talk 4, the latest installment in the formidable sequence. The 12-song offering boasts features from J. Cole, Diddy, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine and many others, while production was handled by the likes of DJ Premier, The Alchemist, Daringer and Beat Butcha. Tracks like “Johnny P’s Caddy,” released on Cole’s birthday, have amassed millions of global streams, while other songs like “Back 2x” featuring Stove God Cooks and “10 More Commandments” featuring Diddy rose as fan favorites from the full-length release.
To help give fans a recap, REVOLT compiled a list of nine facts we learned from the Benny the Butcher “Drink Champs” interview. Take a look at them below.
1. On rumors regarding Griselda’s split and Conway the Machine’s departure
Back in February, Conway the Machine announced his departure from Griselda and Shady Records following the release of his final album under the imprint, God Don’t Make Mistakes. During an interview with “The Breakfast Club” one month removed from the news, Conway admitted that prior to signing the deal, he didn’t read the contract. As N.O.R.E. mentions this to Benny, the rapper responds, “Them niggas brothers, so it’s not like I never seen it. It’s probably y’all first time seeing it.”
“Them niggas knew each other their whole life. Griselda is Griselda, people are learning who we are. You see West is the flamboyant one, he’s the brains. Conway, he’s the one carrying it with the rap. His position on that top five list is what he gives a fuck about … Me, I’m a combination of both of that,” Benny states. Further into the discussion, the rapper delves into Conway’s statement on not receiving any money when he signed, stating that he didn’t receive any capital when he first signed either. “I’m just showing people that’s how shit goes a lot of times. I think he was more so saying it like that.”
2. On Snoop Dogg signing him to Def Jam
Towards the tail-end of last year, Snoop Dogg announced that he signed Benny the Butcher to Def Jam — home to Kanye West, Pusha T, Big Sean and more. On “Drink Champs,” Snoop shared that Benny previously felt like the label low-balled him, thus he negotiated a deal that worked in favor of both parties. “Big unc @defjamsnoop @snoopdogg I appreciate u OG u kno tht. THE BUTCHER COMIN,” Benny shared on Instagram.
“He just gave me some advice that I need to just basically speak up and say what I wanted, and it worked in my favor. Sometimes when you talking through people, lines get crossed. Not saying that was my situation, but Unc made me feel comfortable,” he explains. “[Snoop] gave me that energy that I was comfortable with. Shout out to the whole Def Jam — and I love Def Jam, I’m not gonna hold you.”
3. On beef with former collaborator Freddie Gibbs
Alfredo rapper Freddie Gibbs has a history with Griselda, having frequently collaborated with Westside Gunn and former member Conway the Machine in the past. Earlier this year, however, Gibbs and Benny traded some back-and-forth after the latter said their relationship “came and went” in an interview with Spotify’s “Most Necessary: Live.” Upon the interview, Gibbs fired back with a series of tweets and Instagram Stories, stating “I know some other shit that came and went too, nigga.” Speaking on the situation, Benny the Butcher cleared the air, saying “it ain’t nothing.”
“I don’t get too into rap relationships with niggas ‘cause a lot of times it don’t be real. That nigga put a tweet up or some weird shit and I wouldn’t know why he did that shit,” he explains. Regarding what caused the feud to kick off, Benny adds, “I don’t know. I don’t even care to ponder on it because this shit will get crazy if you start letting your feelings in this shit.”
4. On DMX co-signing Griselda and collaborating with him on their song “Hood Blues”
Among the star-studded names on DMX’s eighth studio album and first posthumous album since his passing, Exodus, stands Griselda, who appeared on the project’s pre-release single “Hood Blues.” As N.O.R.E. recounts, X wasn’t one to co-sign many artists so for Benny the Butcher, it was a memorable moment in his career.
“I don’t think I’ve ever co-signed another artist period, not the way that he fuck with y’all. That day, he sincerely liked all of y’all, he was a fan. I think that’s the first time y’all got to hear the record with all of y’all on the verse,” N.O.R.E. says. Later in the conversation, Benny adds, “He played me that new shit. He played us some crazy shit.” Last year, the rapper shared a video of him and DMX listening to their collaborative effort via TikTok.
5. On the future of his career under Griselda and Def Jam Records
Pivoting on the topic of Conway the Machine inking a deal between Griselda and Eminem’s Shady Records, N.O.R.E. asks Benny the Butcher what’s next for his career at the label as well as Def Jam Recordings. Benny replies, “Of course, we’re going to do another album together. Shit, we doing movies. I’m doing this movie that I got in the works. We’re just going to do everything.” He later adds, “Everything is Griselda, it’s always gonna be Griselda. But it’s like my shit is to catch levels, to take new levels, and I feel like Def Jam was the only way to … you know what I mean?” Currently, Benny the Butcher’s major label debut is in the works, with him recently appearing on Snoop Dogg’s Def Jam compilation, Snoop Dogg Presents Algorithm.
6. On rappers crossing over from underground to mainstream and commercial success
Griselda is often mentioned in the conversation of underground rappers, despite their star-studded collaborations and numerous Billboard 200 chartings. However, as Benny the Butcher tells it, the label’s fans are unbending when it comes to the rappers sacrificing their sound or formidable styles for a taste of mainstream success. “When you come from the underground like Griselda and you even get near that line where you’re thinking about crossing over, the fans are gonna bury you for that shit. They don’t like that shit. When you come from the industry and get on some underground shit, it’s regular,” Benny tells N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN. As for whether he’d make a commercial record, the rapper responds, “I’m not going in there making no shit with the Island Boys or no crazy shit like that. I’m not doing that.”
7. On meeting Emory Jones while incarcerated
Emory “Vegas” Jones, a familiar name for fans of JAY-Z, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for cocaine trafficking. Being incarcerated since 2000, his prison sentence was reduced by roughly three years after JAY-Z wrote the judge a letter, securing Jones’ release in 2013. Interestingly, Benny the Butcher served his sentence in the same New York prison for a couple of years. “Emory was in the same spot I was in and everybody knew he was Hov’s man … I wasn’t one of them niggas who was gonna bother Emory. I was the nicest nigga in that jail rapping, and me and my niggas was doing the most craziest shit,” Benny recalls. “I never bothered him in that jail because I’m not a dick riding nigga. When he linked up with [Westside Gunn], he was like, ‘Oh I know him.’ Then we kicked it.”
8. On looking up to late Griselda producer and Buffalo legend DJ Shay
In 2020, legendary Buffalo hip hop producer DJ Shay, who worked closely with the likes of Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine and several other artists on the Griselda roster, unfortunately passed away at the age of 48. He got acquainted with Benny and Conway in the early 2000s, often producing, managing and recording the artists, in addition to working closely with Black Soprano Family. Many rappers across the genre took to Instagram to share their condolences and pay their respects to Shay.
“We’ve been with Shay for a minute — since I was 19. Even before that, growing up, he used to fuck with other niggas and we was on some underground Buffalo shit … Shay was like the top nigga to get with, so when we got with Shay that shit just sharpened everybody. That nigga had the studio every day,” Benny says. He continues, “Shay was the first nigga who wasn’t a drug dealer or street nigga that I respected … I looked up to him. He was the first nigga I looked up to who wasn’t a street nigga type of person.”
9. On his past moniker 2 Chain Bennymane and hip hop icon 2 Chainz
Benny the Butcher and 2 Chainz collaborated on 2021’s “Plug Talk” from the former’s collaborative project The Plugs I Met 2 with producer Harry Fraud. The accompanying video, which has amassed roughly 1.5 million YouTube views to date, sees the rappers in a “Hustlers Anonymous” meeting with each delving into their respective pasts. Although, what many new fans may not know is Benny used to go by the moniker “2 Chain Bennymane,” and prior to that “B.E.N.N.Y.,” but decided to drop the name after being incarcerated. When asked about the resemblance between his former moniker and 2 Chainz’s name, Benny says “I don’t think bro bit my shit, I think great minds think alike.”
“He was one of the first niggas that embraced me in that shit … My name was 2 Chain Bennymane, but I was on my way to jail and obviously after he had left with Ludacris, I heard a song called [‘Spend It’]. When I heard that and the name was 2 Chainz, I knew who it was, it was Tity Boi,” Benny remembers. “That was really my name. I knew when I came back, I was like, ‘That ain’t gonna be my name no more.’ Real shit, when I came back, it was on fire.”