Pusha T aka the other half of Clipse aka the one who didn’t go to jail or find Jesus aka the one who was supposed to drop an album two years or so ago, but never did. Yes, that Pusha T. He gave Hip Hop some of its best years with his brother, providing drug raps and portraits of the street life of Virginia. As a soloist, there was much skepticism as to if he could hold his own without his brother, but Kanye West saw what he could be and took him under his good wing (you see what I did). After dropping Fear of God, and adding in a couple of solid features that sparked him up, there was a lot of buzz that started to circulate, and the anticipation was real for an album to come out, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Big Sean dropped an album, Kanye dropped a couple, and it was looking like Pusha was about to be Jay Electrocuted, but alas, here we are – a Pusha T album. The criticism of Pusha is that he only talks about cocaine in his lyrics. I mean, if Drake is allowed to talk about haters, money and ex-girlfriends for 3 albums in a row, why can’t Pusha talk about some drugs? Sure, we’ve heard the same thing since most of the kids my age were in grade school, but people like it, and that’s what’s made him successful. Turning away from his own style is not one that I think he’s going to change anytime soon (and throw in the odd fashionable name drop every now and then). After, what I like to call, Wrath of Caine Bullshit, I had no idea what to look forward to on his album because I was so disappointed. Given the fact that I had no expectations until some singles came out, and another fact that Fear of God is one of the better mixtapes to come out in recent years, I knew that he still had it in him to make something good under the tutelage of Kanye West. Pusha T is Pusha T, his name is his name, and the music speaks for itself.
“This is my time, this is my hour
This is my pain, this is my name, this is my power
If it’s my reign, then it’s my shower
This pole position, I made a lane cause they blocked ours”
The opening lines for King Push speak for itself because the people have been waiting so long to hear the album now that he’s in the spotlight. Pusha T (real name Terrance) went on and proclaimed that this was the album of the year even before it was officially released (basically when it leaked). Every artist should feel like they have the best album of the year, and the fans respond accordingly if it is or isn’t. To be honest, the title ‘album of the year’ gets used from January to December, so it always changes. In Hip Hop, because there have been a string of good albums to come out, people’s perception of just what the best album is changes more often than fluctuating weather. Pusha’s making his claim saying that it’s his time, and the intro track is ominous of who he is and the portrait of character that he paints – dark, tough, and concrete to the streets, and he makes that quite clear in the hook
“I’m King Push, this king push
I rap nigga ’bout trap niggas
I don’t sing hooks”
Throwing a bit of jabs in certain rapper/singer’s direction, at least he’s being honest. Besides, there are a lot of rappers who have gone the route of singing their own hooks, so instead of one who many think Pusha’s referring to (Drake), there are actually quite a few who do some singing on their tracks. The verses themselves were in typical Pusha fashion as he contrasted music and the streets in comparison to where many have seen the bright lights type of success, his came on the total opposite, but what it felt like to him was on that same level
“My first grammy was my first brick
Red carpet, every bad bitch
More BMF than billboard
I got a label deal under my mattress”
If you’re still living under a rock, or you’re simply and genuinely new to Pusha T and everything that he has to offer, his raps of the drug game and his involvement being a drug dealer isn’t anything new, which is why it’s surprising that so many people now still complain about it. Since he was with his brother and they were Clipse, they’ve always emphasized street anthems, and since Pusha has had his own voice to speak up, it’s been heard and he’s still going to talk about what he talks about.
“No Soundscan for a bricklayer, square nigga, you a brick hater
We see a bitch, you fall in love, I fall back cause my bitch date her
Where I’m from, we go crazy with them choppas
Sellin’ dope, goin’ diamond on my blocka” – Blocka (Wrath of Caine)
The streets of Virginia is where Pusha T started, and that’s all we’re going to get of him; pure honesty and a look into his world from a dope perspective.
When Numbers on the Boards dropped a couple of months before the album, the simplicity of the beat was just so rugged that it was contagious. The rumbling bass line and minimalism of instruments used were what made the song itself easy to put on repeat for a while. The constant of ‘numbers’ that were mentioned throughout the song played on words like he was an athlete scoring points (numbers on a scoreboard), and in comparison, he was putting out numbers that related to the drug culture.
“Mix drug and show money, Biggs Burke on tour
Twenty-five bricks, move work like chore
Hit Delaware twice, needed twenty-five more”
“How could you relate when you ain’t never been great?
And rely on rap money to keep food up on your plates, nigga?
I might sell a brick on my birthday
Thirty-six years of doing dirt like it’s Earth Day, GAWD”
Pusha T may not be regarded as one of the best rappers out, but when you look at his lyricism and how he strings words, metaphors and allusion together, he’s truly skilled at what he does, and you definitely wouldn’t be able to catch onto what he’s saying the first time around. He boasts a lot about calling himself ‘King Push’ and that he wears the crown. When you want to be the best, being assertive is what needs to happen. He’s definitely been showing confidence from the beginning and he even stated that “his records don’t have to sell”, because (as stated on the track), he’s been able to make money through music and drug dealing – no worries. Only the 2nd track in, and it’s feeling like a good rap album is about to take shape, and that’s all the game needed.
There’s always a call for celebration when you’re winning, which is the entire point of a Sweet Serenade. The Virginia collaboration of Chris Brown and Pusha (in case you forgot that Chris Brown was from Virginia) is one that many thought was well overdo, or one that people didn’t think would happen at all because they were really in different lanes; however, it happened and here it is – there’s softness of the hook that somewhat covers up the aggression of Pusha. Much like Exodus 23:1, that whole song were shots directed to the Young Money camp (specifically Wayne & Drake), and on this track you hear more subliminal messages that give off the idea that he’s not even done yet.
“Look, my ouija board don’t never lie to me
The best rapper living, I know who’s alive to me
Yeah, the competition’s all but died to me
Raah, I make these mothafuckas hide from me”
Much like how Kendrick stated that he’s trying to murder his competitors on Control, Pusha just said the same thing, and tracing back to the YMCMB feud, they haven’t said anything back to him because they’re stifled to retaliate (although Lil Wayne made a stupid diss track called Ghoulish). Competition is back in full swing as you can tell, but there are still those protected behind their feelings and “taking the high road” is better for their public image (Hip Hop in 2013, ladies and gentlemen). More metaphors and contrasts of drugs to music are being made, because he’s essentially ascended in the ranks of both cultures to a top position where he’s winning, hence why he’s celebrating. This one had to grow on me because I wasn’t feeling the hook (I’m still on the fence), but the verses alone made up for it, and were the reasons why I tolerated it so much.
On the tracklist (that was criticized for being so feature heavy), Rick Ross was on it, and having collaborated on Millions from Wrath of Caine, I wasn’t too sure how to go about it, because I hated the song besides the hook (let’s be real – that’s 75% the reason why people like the song). What Hold On would bring, as I was listening, was Kanye West doing his Autotune harmonizing (like his Autotune solos on Runaway & Blood on the Leaves), a dope beat that was produced by Hudson Mohawke & Kanye, and also 2 fully laid out and open verses by Ross & Pusha.
“I sold more dope than I sold records
You niggas sold records, never sold dope
So I ain’t hearing none of that street shit
Cause in my mind, you mothafuckas sold soap”
When you have so many rappers claiming to have sold drugs as their come up into the rap game, but not have the accuracy to back them up, it’s good to see Pusha take the stand to call them out (although we’d love some names). Trap is the popular thing to be a part of, and it takes away from the actual rappers who sold drugs to pretty much live off of because music was an option.
The highlight of the track was Rick Ross’ verse, because he wasn’t about his usual “big bank take lil bank with a shark in the fish tank while I’m rolling down the block in an army tank” style, but he brought it back to his roots and got real humble for a bit. The honesty that people would rather listen to (like myself), is what made it so good and to me it was his best verse since Devil In A New Dress from Kanye’s MBDTF (ironically, G.O.O.D Music).
“I seen children get slaughtered, niggas’ grandmothers assaulted
Throw a gang sign, dare you do something about it
Fuck copping them foams, when you copping the home
Cop a kilo and have them people on top of your home”
As people get caught up in the material world (I mean, Ross & Pusha are very open about their material things), when it gets down to the fundamentals of what’s important: family, stability and prosperity, you have to think about where your priorities stand, and that’s what I felt Ross was saying on those couple of bars. The track itself definitely was beyond what my expectations were, and I’m glad that it surprised me, because from the rappers who you feel are going to do the same old same old, it’s good to know that they still embrace the notion that it’s sometimes deeper than rap.
Suicide brought in some of the older elements of Pusha’s career and brought it together. With Pharrell producing (who was a frequent collaborator with Clipse) and Re-Up Gang’s Ab-Liva as a featured rapper (also used to be a frequent collaborator), there was something for older fans to have an appreciation of whether it was a production or on the lyrical level. Where there are drugs, there’s bound to be violence, and this track is a statement that if you mess with Pusha, well, that’s your life – you just ordered your own funeral (for your career, at least). It reminded me of Fabolous’ Suicide, but it really all stems back to KRS-One, since he was the originator of the hype and constant use of it in Hip Hop for many years to follow. There were even more shots at Drake on this one (everyone’s gunning for him, and I like it)
“I build mine off fed time and dope lines
You caught steam off headlines and co-signs
Young niggas cliquing up with my rivals
Like the bible don’t burn like these bullets don’t spiral
Like I can’t see the scene that you mirror in your idol
But a pawn’s only purpose is completely suicidal”
Whereas Pusha is self made self paid, everyone knows that Drake had the big co-sign by Lil Wayne, and also Drake’s song ‘Headlines’ was one of his biggest songs that helped propel his stardom (although he was pretty much already there with other singles). I already know that the jabs are just going to continue being jabs with no return in sight, and it’s Pusha’s obligation to keep adding fuel to the fire. He essentially said the same thing on Exodus that he’s saying here, meaning that he’s just a pawn for the higher ups until his career eventually spirals down. I just find the whole thing funny because back before Drake was even a common household name, he looked up to Pusha T & Malice…now the tables have turned, and considering that Drake is the higher up on the Hip Hop food chain (if we’re looking at right now), it’s only natural that others will be coming after your seat on the ‘throne’.
More honesty, but in the form of getting more on a personal level, 40 Acres (helped with The-Dream on the hook) gets into a history of Pusha that deals with two sides: his escalation in the drug game after his manager Tony got locked up in jail for a drug bust, and personal relationships – looking at his parents how they divorced and also his relationship with his brother, Malice. On a freestyle-turned-track on Fear of God, Pusha summed it up in one line
“Tony found prision, Malice found religion, I’m still tryna find my way up out this fuckin’ kitchen” – Blow
40 Acres and a Mule are what were promised to the former slaves, but it never happened. It was supposed to be part of their reparations, and it’s like Black people in America are still hoping to receive some sort of benefits from their history of pain, torture, and sorrow. The idea ties in to the point where everything that Pusha went through and continues to go through, he wouldn’t want to revisit his past, because he’d rather work to get what he deserves (basically, get rich or die tryin’).
“Trouble world, trouble child
Trouble times destroyed my smile
No change of heart, no change of mind
You can take what’s yours but you gon’ leave what’s mine
I’d rather die, than go home
I’d rather die, than go home
And I ain’t leaving without my 40 acres”
There are a lot of references to how his past experiences are reflected on his black skin (hence the presumed album cover of what looks like Pusha looking towards the heavens but has a pitch black skin tone), and it’s just the evils of his past taking shape as like a permanent stain he can’t rid of. Although he has financial success and can buy his own 40 Acres and a Mule, it doesn’t take away the past and that it’ll always stay with him, which is exactly what America’s problem with slavery is – accepting that it happened, and it’s a dirty stain in their history that they won’t be able to get rid of.
At the beginning of No Regrets, I honestly thought that I was going to hear “DJ KHALED! WE DA BEST!” because it sounded like that type of beat, but it had that ‘we made it, we’re victorious, look at us’ attitude behind it. When you’re the one who makes it and you’re putting on for the boys in jail who have to see your success from behind bars and on the TV screens, it’s a great deal to embrace the success that you have, and have no regrets about the past to reap the benefits of now.
“Nowadays I sell hope, what you rather I sell dope?
What I sell is a lifestyle, naked bitches on sailboats
Foreign cars on a freight train for every nigga they railroad
Rent-a-cars we road run, money longer than train smoke
I done been in that same boat, I ain’t letting this chain go
Representing my niggas down till they free ’em like Django”
It’s cool how the themes of 40 Acres and this song tied in together. What I also noticed was that since Pusha T is an orchestrator of beef with YMCMB, having 2 rappers who have had known beef with each other over the years on the same album is genius that a lot of people might have not noticed (Rick Ross & ‘no-longer-Young’ Jeezy). Jeezy’s verse was actually good, and I’m not a known Jeezy fan at all (more of a Ross fan, funny enough), but I do respect the craft of his hustle, because he is one of the original trap rappers who was about the life that they rapped about. He’s also another rapper whom a lot of people claim talks about the same thing, but it has got him to astronomical heights – so he sold some drugs; whatever. He got rich from it, and he’s has no regrets about it.
“Streets taught us, streets raised us, had it less determined
Dodging jackers, dodging murders, federal to state pen
Uncle got power, now I see him in another 10
We was set up just to lose, Lord know we trying to win”
Because the track sounds very DJ Khaled-ish (or maybe a little All of the Lights-ish), it still has room to grow. It’s not bad, but I don’t love it.
The album takes a bouncy turn, and when you hear the lovely Kelly Rowland on Let Me Love You, for some reason I got reminded of Clipse’s track Ma, I Don’t Love Her from years and years back, so maybe this was a more grown and mature approach to match that song’s background. The craziest thing that happens is when Pusha starts rapping and I’m sitting here thinking that I’m listening to a Ma$e track. It’s insane how he was able to perfectly replicate Ma$e’s voice and flow; it was very impressive. In what sounded like a Neptunes production (which it wasn’t – all The-Dream on this one), Pusha played the role of a player who has this chick that he just wants to have sex with and nothing more – he has a girl, and that’s where the Ma, I Don’t Love Her story comes into play, although he’s buying her all of these things if she remains on her best behaviour (looks like he’s on his worst), and doesn’t blow the cover for the both of them. It’s a playful song, and in most cases, it’s true that these men and women have flings and affairs while wanting to spice things up in their own lives. I liked it a lot, actually. I think it’s because I can do a little Harlem Shake to it; that boosted it up in my likeability.
Alright, the beat for Who I Am is crazy, but when it breaks down, even till this day, I still found it difficult to catch it, but this track was the G.O.O.D Music collective (minus CyHi & Kanye) just saying a whole bunch of nothing except for who they are and that they want to be the same people who they are currently, forever. Pusha’s verse was too short, 2 Chainz was alright, but get Big Sean off this track with himself feeling like a grown ass little boy, although he still looks like a little boy, all 5’3 of him. The track could have been so much better and I felt like the beat went to waste (or maybe just get Big Sean off the track so I don’t have to skip past it halfway through).
The main track that a lot of people who anxious to hear was Nosetalgia, because it featured Kendrick Lamar, who was the same person to call out Pusha T on that infamous verse. Pusha responded on Twitter by simply saying “I hear you loud and clear, my nigga”, and here we are. No subliminal lyrics, no interviews on how emotionally sick and tired you are of being asked about it, but the challenge was accepted to make good music, and although this track was recorded before Control happened, it was still monumental because this would be the first time someone that Kendrick named would be on the same track as him. Now, the title of the track is straight forward, because it’s a play on the word Nostalgia, which is reminiscing on the past, but it’s spelled with ‘Nose’ because, you know…cocaine is snorted through the nose and Pusha was its distributor – simple as that. I watched the ‘Decoded’ video of him breaking down the verse bar through bar, but both of their verses (KDot & Push) are reflections of upbringing from childhood and how they tie into the drug game. With many references to the movie Boyz N Tha Hood (the video was also shot in Compton), that adds to the nostalgia, because that’s a classic hood movie.
“Zhivago tried to fight the urge like Ivan Drago
If he dies he dies, like Doughboy to Tre
If he rides he rides, Throwing punches in his room
If he cries he cries, we don’t drink away the pain
When a nigga die we add a link to the chain
Inscribe a nigga name in your flesh”
Also something that was a constant on the track was the BDP sample of The Bridge Is Over, by using “You better change what comes out your speaker” and “they must be on the dick of who” and that in itself is pretty much the actual response to the challenge that Kendrick issued in the first place – make better music. Pusha’s verse was nuts, and the beat (shout out to long-time producer, Nottz) is hypnotic to the point where I found myself having it on repeat for a long time. There are so many pop culture references to the past in Pusha’s verse that you literally would spend have the day on Wikipedia and YouTube figuring out just what he was talking about: Simon Red aka Suge Knight, Ferris Bueller, Starter Jackets, Beepers, and Timex.
Kendrick’s verse started off with a line from Boyz N Tha Hood (“y’all wanna see a dead body?”), but he says “you” instead of “y’all”. His verse put him into the perspective of his childhood witnessing the crack use in his own home, from his aunt’s abuse and her behaviours that made it obvious that she was a crack addict. His father was also a gangster back in the day, so he had his fair share of wheeling and dealing drugs, getting caught up in the street game, but what changes is that Kendrick starts giving his dad assurance that he’s doing to be a better drug dealer than him because he himself is a merchant of dope product – his raps.
“He said “son, how come you think you be my connect?”
Said “pops, your ass is washed up with all due respect”
He said “well nigga, then show me how it all makes sense”
Go figure, motherfucker, every verse is a brick
Your son dope, nigga”
A lot of people were surprised to hear Kendrick rap about cocaine, and even Pusha said that he was surprised to hear it because he took a walk into his scene (ironically, the video is them walking in a one shot take). If you knew Kendrick when he was K Dot, he has a song called Compton Chemistry, and he basically teaches someone how to make crack without ever doing it in his life (the benefits of being a fan coming in handy). Like Pusha, Kendrick also had some pop culture references, like Friday (Ice Cube & Deebo) and Sega Genesis. Not only is it the most hyped track, but it’s arguably the best track, and it was just proven that when there’s a challenge issued, there’s nothing wrong with inviting the challenger to spare in the metaphorical ring that is the rapper’s booth to see who has the better of the bout. It was an unlikely collaboration, but it definitely worked.
A collaboration that many didn’t think would have made sense (as I slowly raise my hand) was on Pain with Future on it. He’s one of the most popular rappers to get on a track and get it wild (See: Bugatti), but on this one, thankfully he wasn’t the focal point – it remained on Pusha, and I think that’s what was the misconception of the abundance of features. The days when rappers just rapped out their hooks has pretty much diminished, but you’re going to have other singers or even rappers singing their own hooks (which Pusha stated in the beginning that he doesn’t do). The beat had a feel that Jesus Walks did with the repetitive marching drum at the beginning, and you know it was about to get real authentic with its message. The emphasis of Pain ran through the track from start to finish, and it really highlighted the pain of the drug came and Pusha coming up from it. He understands that he could have been anyone else, but he chose the lifestyle with the pros and cons that came with it, and hence “my name is my name” comes alive (he pushed not only drugs, but himself to get to this position).
“It’s no risk without gain
It’s no trust without shame
It’s no us without ‘Cain
Push, my name is my name
In the kitchen with a cape on, apron
Tre-eight on, coulda been Trayvon
But instead I chose Avon”
The title of this album My Name Is My Name is a line from HBO’s The Wire (I’m still watching Season 2), and the character it comes from is Marlo Stanfield (whom I’ve yet to discover in the series). Pusha could’ve chosen to just be an innocent kid and end up being like Trayvon (hopefully, not dead), but he chose to be like another Wire character, Avon Barksdale, who’s a drug dealer – a successful one, at that, and he ran West Baltimore for a period of time, even while still locked up (which is pretty much where I’m at in the series). Your name is what you have, and you have a certain reputation that comes from it, so of course you have to defend your name, because there’s entitlement and status that comes with it. Even in The Godfather 2 when Michael is on ‘exile’ in Italy and he meets Apollonia’s father, he told him that people would pay a lot of money just to know his name – it’s a powerful thing. This song also had to grow on me a bit, because the flow was very stop and go (the intent of the track to deliver emphasis, I guess), and Future – I mean, I just can’t get into the guy when he’s constantly on Autotune. I know that he used to rap without it, so perhaps he’ll go back to that (Magic is still my guilty pleasure track for no reason – “FREE BANDS!”).
The ultimate (meaning ‘last’) track of the album is an acronym that spells out S.N.I.T.C.H and stands for Sorry Nigga I’m Tryna Come Home, meaning that I can’t listen to you or I can’t have a connection with you because I want to go home, not stay in a jail cell. When some of your boys go to jail, the question always is “is so-and-so gonna snitch?” and you always hope that no one does. The reason why people snitch is because they can’t handle jail, so they break the code and tell on others just so that they can become informants, and get paid to lock up people they were once considered good friends with. I’ve had friends locked up, and yes the suspicion of snitching did come about, but I don’t think that was the case for any of them. They did their time, got out, and are slowly moving on with their lives. Pusha is going through the feeling of one of his best friends turning into a snitch because they weren’t man enough to handle prision.
“I never thought I’d be the last man standing up
I never thought I’d had have to question “Were you man enough?”
Long letters how the streets got the best of you
Telling all your cellies how come I ain’t sitting next to you
Yeah, see I can read between the lines
So it’s awkward when you call and I gotta press 5”
It sucks when it happens in your circle, and one of your own turns their back and tries to use you to get to others out of their own benefit. It’s painful in a way to know that you can never look at that person the same, and that’s exactly what Pusha’s expressing on this track
“Break your heart when the man you call your brother
Be the same one that setting in motion all them undercovers
Called my mom mother, was at my graduation
When I signed my record deal you was my motivation
Uh, from great friends now it’s no affiliation”
I said that Pusha T hadn’t made a better song than My God or Alone in Vegas, but this one might be it, given the fact that it hit on a personal level that people could relate to (I mean, if you live in the hood), and the honesty of the emotion is what brings it to life. Not to mention that Pharrell on the hook and The Neptunes on the beat brings back good times Hip Hop had, and will hopefully have for years to come.
Pusha T wasn’t lying when he said he had the album of the year, because I do believe that he is in contention for having it. Honesty is the best policy, and there was a lot of that. Yes, he’s been fully open and vocal about his drug dealer history, but he expressed it differently than just an everyday mixtape track – there was crafted art that went into making this album, and it was worth the wait. The contributions from (almost) every rap feature added to the bar that Pusha set in terms of execution, and the production was great because there was a bit of everything here and there. Pusha T is who he is, and he’s not going to change how he is as an artist just to suit the needs of a greater audience. He’s been around for years, and just because he’s a solo artist with his first album, it doesn’t mean that the content changes in a drastic way (as many artists do when they change scenarios). There was aggression when it came to the jabbing at rivals, and those are certainly conversation starters. Overall, it was concrete content that delivered on different levels. Mind you, some songs took me longer to get into (because I don’t just give 1 listen write-ups), and it’s not a perfect album, but it is a good album that I proudly spent money for. Sometimes, you just want to hear raps from the environment that you’ve known your whole life. Some of my friends sold drugs and I knew drug dealers where I used to live in my own building. Where you find a connection with music, it often hits home on a personal level, and although it may not be the most amazing, you find it amazing to you because you can relate easily to it than others. I’m definitely a fan of this album, and I’d definitely encourage you to listen to it. I was a big fan of Clipse, so it was only natural that I’d be a fan of Pusha T. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX