The Buffalo, New York rapper Benny the Butcher released a celebratory video for “Legend” on Thursday. The clip precedes Burden of Proof, a new album that arrives Friday with production from Hit-Boy and features from Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and Queen Naija.
Burden of Proof represents a meeting of two prolific minds: Benny often shoots out two or three projects a year — this is his second of 2020, following Benny the Butcher & DJ Drama Present: The Respected Sopranos — while Hit-Boy oversaw all of Nas’ King’s Disease and eight songs on Big Sean’s Detroit 2.
Like so many rapper-producer collaborations, this one was born on Instagram. “Hit-Boy is the type of person who works with anybody,” Benny explains. “He hit me on Instagram, ‘when you’re out in LA, you should come work.’ I was like, ‘there doesn’t have to be no next time — I’ll come out just to cook with you.'”
The first track the two men worked on turned out to be “Legend,” which builds around a sample of a plinking keyboard and a screeching noise. Benny used this backdrop to survey his success following last year’s The Plugs I Met — “They didn’t know me then, but they know me now/The best player getting drafted in the seventh round” — and deemed the resulting track strong enough to form the basis of an entire album: “The shit was so good, we were just like, ‘let’s keep going.'”
Throughout Burden of Proof, Hit-Boy loops short snippets of soul for maximum, thwacking impact. He provides “full production, there’s attention to detail” in the music, Benny explains. “It’s not just a beat.” On the bludgeoning “Over the Limit,” which incorporates a contribution from Dom Kennedy, Hit-Boy veers away from soul samples, ending up closer to the Miami Vice soundtrack. “When I hear that beat, I close my eyes, I just see Scarface carrying a box of money to the bank,” Benny says.
“Legend” was originally going to be the lead single from Burden of Proof, before it was replaced by “Timeless,” with its squirting, crashing beat and high-powered features from Lil Wayne and Big Sean. But “Legend” may do a better job reflecting the rest of Burden of Proof, which also includes “I’ve arrived” songs like the title track, (“last year was ’bout branding/this one about expanding”), and “Famous,” where Benny wrestles with his place on the celebrity scale.
“I’m not successful enough where I’m not acting like myself,” Benny says. “I’m not so successful that I can’t do certain things no more. I still want to hang with my old friends.”
“Of course,” Benny continues, “I want to be as successful as the Lord got planned for me.”