Hall & Nash 2 will take fans of Griselda back to a time not so long ago, but somehow so far away.

Release date: December 29, 2023 | ALC Records | Website | The Alchemist: Instagram | Conway the Machine: Instagram | Westside Gunn: Instagram

I got into the entire Griselda clique in 2019 around the release of WWCD like a lot of people likely did. Tracks like “DR BIRDS” and “Chef Dreds” immediately caught my ear with their eerie minimalist production combined with plenty of straightforward bars all laced with grime and bagged up in braggadocio. Since that time I have all but exhausted the entirety of the Griselda catalog. I grew to love Conway the Machine for his unparalleled heartlessness and painful introspection, Benny the Butcher for his clever rhymes and unstoppable flow, and most of all Westside Gunn for his swagger, unique adlibs, and his unmatched ear for production.

So here we sit with a freshly unvaulted set of tracks featuring my two favorite members of the cohort along with front to back production from legendary beatsmith The Alchemist. Although we are hearing it in its complete form in the year 2024, it is clear to a fan of these artists that this project exists as a time capsule of an earlier but much more significant era. Hall & Nash 2 chronologically sits snugly in the center of so many of the groups most classic projects, with Flygod, Supreme Blientele, Everybody is F.O.O.D., and G.O.A.T. all being released in the years surrounding this project’s creation, and not to forget the peak era of the Hitler Wears Hermes mixtape series releasing around this time. In short, Hall & Nash 2 has some large shoes to fill when taking the context of its creation into account.

Not all of this project is new to our ears though, with the tracks “Judas” and “Ray Mysterio” appearing on The Alchemist‘s 2018 releases Lunch Meat and Bread respectively. Hearing the tracks for the first time in a long time gave me the chance to assess them with a fresh mind as a piece of their original collection. My time with these tracks on this release found them to be more memorable than when I originally heard them years ago. Thick precise punches of bass and keys riding over the top of minimal dry percussion give these tracks that familiar atmospheric and ominous Griselda sound. What sounds like a pitched vocal sample rings in the high end of “Ray Mysterio” giving the feeling of an angelic choir humming behind these slick and ruthless bars. Lyrically Westside and Conway are doing exactly what they do best, offering witty and straightforward juxtapositions of high end living and guttered street culture. Offerings such as ‘Versace belt just to tuck the ratchet. You can smell the piss on the bricks before I bust the plastic,’ illustrate this perfectly. The production and rapping on this project come together in such a way that both come away looking better than they ever could alone.

The Alchemist was right at the beginning of his most prolific and iconic run at this time. He had just dropped Israeli Salad the year before recording this and was just about to embark upon a unbeatable series of releases and collaborations that would stretch all the way to today. That may explain why this got vaulted for so long, other responsibilities and projects from all parties involved may have caused it to not be finished or cleared for release. The production all over this project can be characterized as deceptively simple but full of texture and atmosphere. Beautifully haunting samples, precise keys, and warm bass sounds cover this project from front to back. The whole thing feels like being wrapped up in a warm blanket of hip hop memories. Everything sounds familiar even if you’ve never heard it before. No track illustrates this more for me than “Michaelangelo”, beginning with a wrestling sample and spinning out into a somber drumless offering. I find myself getting lost in this track over and over, unable to forget what it first made me feel.

Not to be outdone on their own release, Conway and Westside hit this project hard as well. These two are my favorites from the Griselda cohort. Not only are they amazing by themselves but their chemistry is unparalleled. Westside brings more confidence and brashness than any rapper alive and Conway counters that with ruthless introspection and anger. This balance is shown not just in their words but in their cadences and pitches of their voices. Westside raps extremely slowly and with a high pitched nasally tone, drawing his words out into an almost singing tone at times, leaving the listener enveloped in the pitchy but earnest tone of his voice. Conway in contrast keeps a slightly faster tempo and sports a deeper and more gruff tone, serving to ground Westside‘s more eccentric qualities and keep the song filthy. Nowhere is this teamwork at play more than on “Pete VS Andre.” Their seamless trading of bars and styles make them sound closer to two heads of the same rapping monster than to two independent rappers.

Hall & Nash 2 is a short but welcomed offering from three of hip hop’s most eccentric and unique artists. None of these men would be where they are if the others weren’t doing their part to elevate and push underground rap forward. They are all their own colors on a kaleidoscopic tapestry of hip hop history and excellence. I could rant for hours about all of their classic projects and tracks, but you only need these thirty minutes of music to get a peek into what they offer the world of music today. Listen to Hall & Nash 2 if you’re a fan of Griselda or The Alchemist, and if you aren’t a fan you have a lot more than just that to check out.

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