10 review | Westside Gunn finishes his Hitler Wears Hermes series on a high

★★★★☆ Westside Gunn releases the final instalment of the annual Hitler Wears Hermes series, 10, a higher quality project than previous works.

Westside Gun 10

Westside Gunn doesn’t steal the show with his rapping ability, but he doesn’t have to. He is outshone by nearly all of his features on this record, yet that is something to be expected. West’s raps are filled mainly with braggadocious, often annoying references to figures and brands he deems high class (‘Nigo Louis’ doesn’t need more than one listen).

Therefore an album in which West refrains from overstaying his welcome is, well, welcomed. That doesn’t mean that West doesn’t demonstrate his skill; ‘Super Kick Party’ sees West flowing in top form over an uplifting Conductor Williams beat.

West deserves his flowers on this album most for being the creator, being the one recruiting the rappers and producers that make this album as good as it is. Whilst HWH8 saw West remain relatively close to home with its features, 10 sees the rapper turned label boss delve into the foray of hip-hop, recruiting the likes of Black Star, Run the Jewels, A$AP Rocky and many more to feature.

A$AP continues his impressive run of 2022 features on ‘Shootouts in Soho,’ building off of a solid Westside introductory verse. ‘Peppas’ is one of the album’s highlights as the Mos Def/Talib Kweli reunion continues, each dropping stellar verses. Members of Wu-Tang also appear, as RZA handles production on ‘Intro’ before Ghostface Killah and, in particular, Raekwon impress on ‘Science Class.’

Westside Gunn 10 album cover

Westside Gunn’s 10 album cover

Yet Griselda’s presence is still omnipresent throughout 10, largely thanks to Stove God Cooks, who appears on six of the project’s 12 tracks. Whilst the rest of the Griselda features appear on the project’s final track (aside from a lone Rome Streetz feature on ‘BDP’), the continued presence of Stove makes this album feel just as authentic and familial as its predecessors, despite West’s array of features.

Stove God particularly shines on ‘Switches on Everything.’ Following a typically exceptional Killer Mike verse, Stove closes the track by basking in his success, reflecting on drug dealing and wanting to be rich; he knows he’s made it, as he states, Twenty later, we on a million.”

The album’s closer ‘Red Death’ cements Griselda’s status, the staple of underground hip-hop in the 2020s. At ten minutes of runtime, the song joins Gunn’s collection of lengthy, standout tracks as it features nearly all of the stalwarts of Griselda, barring perhaps Mach-Hommy and Boldy James. And as with many of his other long-form tracks, my personal favourite being ‘Easter Gunday 2,’ there are standout verses.

Whilst Conway is as good as ever, Rome Streetz takes the crown on ‘Red Death,’ as the New York native shows no sign of slowing down following the release of Kiss The Ring, dropping a verse filled with clever references and equally chilling imagery of junkies doing drugs. West makes just a brief cameo yet again, but it’s unimportant: these are West’s artists, who he’s grown and nurtured into charting, independent stars. He doesn’t need to rap to show his importance on this track.

Westside Gunn revealed on Hot97, as he announced his final HWH album, that he had intended to make Hitler Wears Hermes 8: Side B the final instalment to the series but felt “weird” about doing nine and not ten. In this culmination, West has managed to team up with an all-star selection of rappers whilst remaining loyal to his and Griselda’s sound and without coming across as forced or out of place.

And whilst West is often at his best when he is not rapping, he proves he can still make himself at home on tracks with much more talented songwriters, leaving us with what could be the best HWH album as the series’ last.

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