Buffalo rapper and label head Westside Gunn dropped his as-of-now final studio album last month, And Then You Pray For Me. Concluding a multi-year arc of projects where it’d be easier to list rappers who didn’t make an appearance, here’s everything you need to know about the LP.
An Incredible Run of Projects Leading Up To ATYPFM
Known for his absurd productivity, six projects total have spanned that two-year gap since that studio album. That firehose output dried up last October, when Gunn released the final installment in his 10-part “Hermes” mixtape series, signaling that something bigger was on the horizon. Outside of his own solo career, that certainly was true; he and his Griselda artists earned some of the biggest co-signs possible in hip-hop over the past few years. Gunn landed a feature on Travis Scott’s Utopia, Benny the Butcher earned a J. Cole feature for his 2021 track “Johnny P’s Caddy,” and both Westside and Conway appeared on Ye’s Donda. Still, for diehard devotees of the underground imprint, questions remained as to when we’d hear from Westside in an extended fashion once again.
After a long period of speculation, the rapper answered the call: he teased that his next endeavor would be a follow-up to his critically acclaimed Pray For Paris. And as with much of his previous output, Westside Gunn’s And Then You Pray For Me largely tells its story via its features. While calling him the DJ Khaled of the underground would be underselling both his skill on the mic and his mainstream appeal, Gunn’s calling card remains his ability to assemble all-star casts.
The Rich Cast of Characters on Westside Gunn’s And Then You Pray For Me
On this one, there’s no shortage of long-awaited linkups. JID, often cited alongside Griselda’s Benny and Conway as wielding the best pen in modern hip-hop, finally appears on a Westside song with “Mamas Primetime.” It’s a typically dexterous performance from the Atlanta MC, who takes perfectly to the grimy, dark production world that the record label has made their bones on time and time again. A similar moment comes with “Ultra GriZelda,” the first entry from Denzel Curry into the Gunn-verse. Curry reaches back to the early days of his career, employing an “Ultimate”-esque staccato flow, before Westside himself jumps in to close the track out.
On another side of And Then You Pray For Me, Westside Gunn enlists some of the industry’s biggest moguls—nabbing the talents of Rick Ross and Jeezy for “Dunnhill” and “MR EVERYTHING.” Both are as cooly confident and imposing as ever, and though the typically boom-bap universe of Griselda Records doesn’t jump off the page as their cup of tea, they’re seamless fits into it all the same. Speaking of, the experimentation Westside Gunn explores on And Then You Pray For Me also comes behind the boards. Rather than stay siloed in that 90’s production world, he takes the opportunity to go a bit more modern—enlisting Tay Keith (“Sicko Mode,” “Look Alive”) for “Steve and Jony” and “Kostas.”
A Fitting Send-Off for Westside’s “Albums Era”
Amongst all of these out-of-house talents, Gunn’s responsibilities as label head don’t take a backseat. Stove God Cooks plays at least a supporting role on a quarter of the material: the highlight of which is his imagery-laden soliloquy on “Kitchen Lights.” A patented Conway, Benny & Westside Gunn can be found with the aforementioned “Kostas,” and the newest signees, Boldy James and Rome Streetz, get near-solo opportunities with “Jalen Rose” and “The Revenge of Flips Leg,” respectively.
If it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, there are a lot of angles that the Buffalo MC is attempting to work on this latest project—flexing his Rolodex, uplifting his label’s talent, throwing back to the mixtape era and showing that he can do trap as well as he does boom bap. It certainly leads to a couple of clashing moments in the tracklist, but at the same time, if you’re already an avid rap listener, you’re guaranteed to find something up your alley on this project.
While retirements in rap have to be taken with many, many grains of salt, it is worth mentioning that closing out the “Hermes” series apparently isn’t the only tying up Westside Gunn is doing. The Buffalo rapper said to Rolling Stone that And Then You Pray For Me will be his final studio album, citing a lack of interest in the regalia and proceedings surrounding “official” projects. Rest assured, it doesn’t mean the end of Griselda Records or his own solo career—he’ll simply be focusing on the mixtape output of his early career. But hip-hop will still be missing a key cog without the grandiose, creative thinking that comes with Westside Gunn albums no matter what he chooses to do next.
You can find And Then You Pray For Me now on all streaming platforms.