What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you think of the Buffalo rap scene? Griselda Records? Westside Gunn? Benny The Butcher? Conway The Machine? Those are all worthy and respected names to think of, but make sure you don’t forget Armani Caesar, the first lady of Griselda, who just dropped her latest album, The Liz 2.
Armani signed with Griselda in early 2020, and since then, she’s been on a mission to show and prove.
The first time I heard Armani was on her debut album with the label, The Liz. Admittedly, I knew I was going to enjoy it because it’s almost impossible for anything coming from Griselda’s camp to be bad, and to no surprise, it wasn’t. She sounded comfortable over the production and confident throughout the project. While she had moments of going against the grain of Buffalo rap, she did not fully embrace it.
On the Liz 2, Armani sounds like a totally different person, taking chances with her voice, production and content to challenge herself as an artist and human.
“As artists, it’s important for us to not only branch out and do shit that’s out of the box, but also get more in depth with how we approach writing,” said Armani.
The Buffalo MC used this latest album as a laboratory to experiment with production and sounds that you typically would not hear from Griselda or Buffalo artists. That sounds the most prevalent on my favorite track from the album, “El Puro,” where Armani’s singing ability stands out more than her rapping skills. The song has a certain elegance to it that differs from the classic Griselda sound that seems gruff, dirty and simplistic.
Just the way she sings, “Y’all niggas want a real-ass bitch/But when you get her all you wanna do is hop on shit/I be out on my grind don’t be wasting my time nigga stay off my line.” I could listen to it all day.
She’s teased this kind of elegance on tracks before, like her feature on Westisde Gunn’s “Liz Loves Luger.”
Armani also uses this latest album to experiment with content and other elements of rap where she’s not totally refined. She leans on her fellow Griselda signees to assist her with storytelling and getting across emotion in her music.
“Benny and Conway are two of my favorite artists and when it comes to writing I’m always asking them for advice,” said Armani. “I like how Conway is able to evoke emotion and pain in his music. I like how Benny is able to tell stories but make it sound like some fly shit. I just wanted to elevate in those areas.”
Don’t get it twisted though! Armani still came to rap on her braggadocious shit and show that she’s one of the best spitters coming out of Buffalo, which is saying a lot. This year alone, the first lady of Griselda has had multiple standout verses on a multitude of exceptional projects this year including “Bigger Bsf,” “Armed & Dangerous” and most notably, “Red Death,” where she is by far one of the best verses on the best posse track of the year.
“Diana” in particular was an impressive track for Armani to flow over. The production is simplistic and off-kilter, which made for a difficult track for any veteran MC to rap over. But somehow, Armani was able to find a pocket and write an impressive verse.
While I was surprised by how much Armani showed out on this project, I shouldn’t have been. The first lady of Griselda has been doing this. Her first project, Bath & Body Work, was put out more than a decade ago and ever since then, she’s made small improvements on every new piece of work leading up to The Liz 2, which is easily her best body of work to date.
Now that she’s receiving all of the praise and acclaim, Armani is just taking it all in.
“I still be tripping on that shit every single day. Just being out and people noticing me and wanting to take pictures is crazy,” said Armani. “Grown men are rapping my bars at shows, that’s just unbelievable. I’m just trying to take in the journey.”
As someone who attended a live show from Griselda in May, I can attest, I was one of those grown men rapping Armani’s lyrics, and I’ll continue to be.