Westside Gunn wants you to consider his music high-end art, as worthy of reverence as the pieces that fill his own seven-figure-valued collection, or the Caravaggio repurposed for one of his album covers. Appropriately, Gunn’s take on slimy-grimy New York boom-bap can feel opulent and luxurious. His best albums are rich and immersive; his street raps are adorned with pristine instrumentation, and he makes references to luxury fashion brands, expensive vehicles, and the artists that appeal to his proclivities.
Peace “Fly” God is a change-up. The project was cut in an intense two-day studio session following the Buffalo rapper’s return from Paris Fashion Week, where he attended the late Virgil Abloh’s Off-White exhibition. The resulting music eschews Gunn’s usual attention to detail for a ferocious burst of off-the-cuff creativity. There are few hooks or overarching themes. Affiliates Estee Nack and Stove God Cooks end up doing much of the heavy lifting on the mic—both are decent foils, but they’re not exactly at the level of Gunn’s Griselda brethren Conway the Machine and Benny the Butcher. The tracklist feels hastily assembled as it simply arranges songs by producer. Even the album title uses curious punctuation—“Fly” God as opposed to Flygod–as if scribbled by a clueless engineer on the masters. Yet for all these eccentricities, the ramshackle approach creates a compelling alternative to his more methodically assembled music. Peace “Fly” God will go down as a minor Gunn release, but it provides a welcome detour from the prolific artist’s usual methodology.
Due to his aesthetic consistency, Gunn is sometimes unfairly accused of making the same song over and over again. Peace “Fly” God alters the formula by shedding the beats down to rough soul samples and very little else. So you get a song like “Ritz Barlton,” produced by Don Carrera, who helms the entire first half of the 10-song tape. The warped piano and horns sound like they were mined from an old jazz record that was left out to bake in the afternoon sun. The eight-minute runtime of “Jesus Crack” pushes a repetitive beat that leans almost entirely on a vocal sample to its limits. So stretched is Estee Nack’s elongated verse that he needs a couple of breathers. There is a neat trick at the end of Gunn’s section, however, when he describes playing Grand Puba of 1990s rap group Brand Nubian in his Tesla jeep and a section of their song “Slow Down” comes in, bringing some relief to the otherwise unchanging arrangement.