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Smoke Dza x Benny The Butcher x Pete Rock "Drug Rap"

Smoke Dza x Benny The Butcher x Pete Rock "Drug Rap"

Signing with Eminem's Shady Records in 2017 was Griselda Records' first step to national acknowledgment, tangible proof Buffalo rappers could rise above the city's perception as an entertainment desert and earn widespread acclaim.

The hip-hop collective, comprising founder-CEO Westside Gunn, his brother Conway and, more recently, their first cousin Benny the Butcher, has seen its profile skyrocket since the Shady deal, and now a partnership with Jay-Z's entertainment company, Roc Nation, grants Griselda access to invaluable industry influences and further boosts the label's profile.

The partnership "gives us infrastructure and mentorship to grow scale in this business," said Derrick Jackson, known as D-Jack, who handles strategic partnerships, marketing and communication for Griselda. "Jay-Z is interested in reaching back for the future leaders of this culture" to thrive.

While Jackson noted Jay-Z himself ordained the relationship and will work with Westside Gunn on his Griselda Records imprint, it's the influence of two longtime industry stalwarts — Chace Infinite and Kyambo "Hip-Hop" Joshua — that will help Griselda navigate the industry, fostering connections and offering insight along the way. (BuffaloNews)
Both Roc Nation managers' feats are extensive. Infinite worked with A$AP Rocky during his rise to stardom, overseeing the growth of the A$AP Mob collective as a "big brother" figure. Hip-Hop, who co-founded Hip Hop Since 1978 (HHS78), facilitated the breakout of Kanye West and his signing to Roc-A-Fella Records, and later worked with Drake, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj.

The relationship with Roc Nation, announced Aug. 6, doesn't negatively impact the Shady Records deal, which Jackson called a "rich entry point" around the barriers protecting the elite of rap, a validation of Griselda's progress. Jackson declined to go into further detail regarding how the two relationships differ, but he sees both as serving complementary purposes. "It means that we are next, the next disruptive change-makers," Jackson added, referring to the deal.

Circumstances weren't always this rosy for the collective/label hybrid, however.

Founded in 2014, Griselda Records was the brainchild of Westside Gunn, born on the East Side of Buffalo yet uprooted frequently, spending a good portion of his youth on the West Side, which "claimed him," Jackson said. These surroundings were harsh yet formative, for better or worse.

"He grew up in the streets — it made him a lot of who he is," Jackson said of Gunn, whose media appearances have been sparse so far. "His happiest moments and darkest moments happened in Buffalo. It's turned him into this person [capable of] dealing with all types of people — East Side, West Side, North Buffalo. ... It was still a melting pot, a sparring ground that hardens you."

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