Pusha T – My Name Is My Name [Review]

My Name Is My Name

For most people, talent is the great equalizer that allows them to transcend any shortcoming or obstacle on their way to success. Or, simply put, talented people are usually successful no matter what circumstance they find themselves.

However, that hasn’t quite been the case for Pusha-T. First establishing himself as one half of the Clipse, Pusha and his real life brother Malice (Now known as No Malice) seemed to have the game on lock in the early 2000’s with their sophisticated d-boy anthems and affiliation with Pharrell. Yet, despite their immense talent, quality mixtapes and albums, the duo never seemed able to reach their potential as breakout stars. Most of the blame can go to Jive Records for mishandling the group, but still it feels as if the Virginia natives never received the respect they deserved.

While his brother sought redemption, Pusha T is still pushing the hustler lifestyle on wax and has been signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label since 2010. After a healthy amount of anticipation (and pushbacks) we finally receive Pusha’s proper debut album. Does My Name Is My Name establish him as rap kingpin, or a lowly nickel and dimer? Read and find out.

1. King Push
Produced by Kanye West & Sebastion Sartor
We kick things off with military drum pattern, chipmunked vocals against an eerie backdrop. Kanye brings in elements off the beat from “New Slaves” to really make the song pop. Pusha doesn’t waste a syllable as every word feels purposeful and menacing. Pusha’s bars come out visceral; you can feel his snarl as he enunciates each boast and threat. If you follow my reviews you know that I’m big on intros and track sequencing. This song is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. After Nas’ Stillmatic intro this may be my favorite opening track of all time. It was literally hard to take this song off of repeat. He definitely set the bar high with this one.

2. Numbers On the Board
Produced by Kanye West, Don Cannon, & 88-Keys
It’s amazing that a song containing three different samples can sound so minimal, but the production trio craft and simple, 90’s Hip-Hop style beat that Pusha rides with equal parts ease and flair. Pusha falls into the same trap that most of his contemporaries do; talking about guns, drugs, and money. The only difference is that Pusha T can make the same tired topics sound interesting for an entire album. This song is no different as T is in full d-boy flaunt mode, but he infuses each line with so much swag and personality it sounds unique and fresh. Peep the wordplay:

I’m so bossy, bitch, get off me
It’s a different jingle when you hear these car keys
Your SL’s missing an “S”, nigga
Your plane’s missing a chef
The common theme, see, they’ve both got wings
If you fly, do it to death
It’s only one God, and it’s only one crown
So it’s only one king that can stand on this mound
King Push, kingpin, overlord
Coast Guard come, 100 goin’ overboard
I got money with the best of ’em
Go blow-for-blow with any Mexican
Don’t let your side bitches settle in
Might have to headbutt ya Evelyn
Ballers – I put numbers on the boards

Everything on this song works, and the Jay-Z sample is just icing on an already decadent cake.

3. Sweet Serenade
Featuring Chris Brown; Produced by Swizz Beatz & Kanye West
On paper the Chris Brown assist looks like a shameless play at radio, but even when Pusha T goes pop he still doesn’t break character. The beat is dark and hypnotic, and instead of your standard rich guy good time story, Push narrates the song from the perspective of the weary drug dealer finally getting to enjoy the spoils of his last successful deal. The Clipse were always known for being able to craft radio friendly hits without compromising their street cred, and although Pusha T is flying solo now he doesn’t break that trend.

4. Hold On
Featuring Rick Ross; Produced by Kanye West & Hudson Mohawke
Kanye is still channeling his Yeezus sound as he crafts another scaled back beat; simple drum pattern, piano loop, and some auto-tuned wailing by Mr. West himself. But it sounds really damn good here. Pusha T continues his relentless self-promotion. He laments fake hustlers and asserts that his credentials are as pure as the Columbian that he moves (or moved). Which makes it all the more ironic that Rick Ross is on the track. Yet, whether you believe him or not you can’t deny that Ross at least sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, and that makes for another really good song.

5. Suicide
Featuring Ab-Liva; Produced Pharrell Williams
It’s only right that Pharrell makes his first of two appearances on the album when Pusha reunites with his Re-Up Gang Partner Ab-Liva. So far, besides the opening track the beats have really played second fiddle to the rappers, and this isn’t a bad thing. Pusha T is a grade A lyricist that doesn’t need to bide behind busy beat. This also isn’t to say that the production has been bad, the gritty bass line just begs to be ripped by a competent spitter, and neither man disappoints. With the chemistry these two have I’m kind of sad that they didn’t do a back and forth rhyme scheme, but that’s a small gripe as they both turn in stellar performances. Hopefully this collaboration is a sign of a new We Got It 4 Cheap tape.

My Name Is My Name Review

6. 40 Acres
Featuring The-Dream; Produced by The Dream & Rico Love
It wouldn’t be hard for Pusha-T’s detractors to label him a one trick pony, and there would be some truth in that. Halfway through the album and he’s still talking about cocaine. Yet, unlike most, Pusha is able to break the game down into the various nuances and facets so that even though you’re getting the same thing it still feels fresh. Here The-Dream co-produces a pensive beat as and hook as well as Pusha-T details how dealing shaped his heartless persona. While the first and third verse are standard remorseless king pin trope, the second verse really gives us some compelling insight into Pusha-T’s psyche:

Unpolished, unapologetic
Might have broke a heart or two but gave an honest effort
My nonchalant attitude is always fuck it
35 years of marriage and my momma left it
You shouldn’t question if you ever stood a chance with him
The better question is did you enjoy the dance with him
(Yughh!) I’ll probably never pull you chair out, bitch
You know this money grew your hair out
All that shit I bought you wear out
Rich, and I’m the only one I care about
Place none above me, God don’t like ugly
Hate me or love me, only he can judge me

The best bad guys give you just enough vulnerability to compel you to sympathize with their evilness, yet not too much that it makes you begin to confuse them with the good guy. Pusha strikes the perfect balance here.

7. No Regrets
Featuring Jeezy & Kevin Cossom; Produced by Hudson Mohawke & Beewirks
As we crossover into the second half of the album we pick up the pace with a frenetic soundscape. After the heavy subject matter of the previous song we get a much more carefree offering. While again we get another hood cliché (being real, doing whatever you want because you can) Pusha T has yet to take a song off. Each bar oozes conviction. Each word is brimming with the need to prove oneself. Jeezy comes through with a confident verse and while Kevin Cossum doesn’t knock you off your feet with his voice but it fits well with the song. Over halfway through the album and Pusha T is still rapping lights out. This album is starting to feel really special.

8. Let Me Love You
Featuring Kelly Rowland; Produced by The-Dream & Glass John
I have to admit this song had to grow on me. It really feels abrupt after the high level of energy from the previous track. While “Sweet Serenade” was a seamless transition into radio friendly, this song felt a little more like pandering. The beat, Dream’s second chance behind the boards, feels much better suited for the midsection of one of his albums. Yet, if you give it a few spins I promise it will grow on you. For starters, this may be the least amount of drug talk we get from Pusha T, which is kind of refreshing. Nevertheless, discerning listeners will pick up on the subtle metaphor on the hook as Kelly Rowland sings “You got that thing that makes a girl feel high”. We also hear one of the best Ma$e impersonations on wax ever. Pusha T sounds great as the cocky playboy knowing that he has his chick wrapped around his finger. Again, same old same old subject, but the way Pusha T makes it his own is really impressive.

9. Who I Am
Featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean; Produced by Kanye West & DJ Mano
While “Let Me Love You” was a diamond in the rough, this song is really a head scratcher. Pusha T comes in for half verse then gives 2 Chainz a full first, comes back for a quick bridge then gets followed by Big Sean. If either of the guests star’s rhymes were on their own projects I’d say they were good, but these guys are so out of their league rapping alongside King Push that it almost comes off as embarrassing. I know these guys had great chemistry back on “Mercy” but trust me when I say that ship has sailed. Say what you will about the Chris Brown and Kelly Rowland songs, but at least they were executed well. This track screams commercial and fails to hit the mark.

10. Nosetalgia
Featuring Kendrick Lamar; Produced by Nottz, Kanye West, & The Twilight Tones
Wow, just wow. W-O-W. This song is THAT F’ING GOOD. The plucking cord, the BDP sample, everything just feels utterly epic! Pusha T and Kendrick flow so well together that you’d think K-Dot was the long lost third member of the Clipse. Pusha plays his usual drug dealer role, with Kendrick detailing his interaction with drugs as a bystander to his family being users and finally being the metaphorical equivalent. I want to put the entire song’s lyrics up, but just reading them won’t do it justice. You HAVE to hear this song and play it at least 50 times.

11. Pain
Featuring Future, Produced by Kanye West & No I.D.
While Future on a beat with No I.D.’s name attached to it sounds weird, it works. Kanye and his mentor give the duo some boom bap and Pusha breaks down what true pain is. Future sounds pretty out of it but his codeine and Auto-Tuned warbling don’t take away from Pusha T doing his thing as we begin to wind things down.

12. S.N.I.T.C.H.
Featuring & Produced by Pharrell Williams
Pharrell comes through to help close out the album. I find it kind of odd that Pusha T decided to go out on a concept song. Usually the last song is used for declarative statements of victory, or at the very least tying up the album. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a bad song; Pharrell crafts a really soulful beat and Pusha’s narrative skills are as top notch as ever as he details the unraveling of a tight relationship due to a disloyal friend, but ending the album here makes the album feel incomplete, like there should be another song or two following it. Yet once Pharrell’s smooth falsetto wraps up, so does the album.

Bottom Line:
If you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this album. I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen so much done with so little. Pusha T is an unapologetic drug rapper. His subject matter is rehashed cliché; yet you would think you were getting a 10 course meal when really Pusha T reinvents the same meal over and over again while somehow finding a way to make it fresh and exciting. And it’s not only the superb lyricism that hooks you. It’s the menacing delivery. The undeniable overconfidence. The stylish arrogance. Pusha T may only be a few inches deep, but he makes his small pond look like a lush ocean.

This album feels like it was made with the intention of being a classic. I must admit I wrestled with the idea. Was this album ready for nappyafro’s third classic rating? It felt like it. Great production throughout. A trimmed offering devoid of filler songs. Superb lyricism. To be perfectly honest for a second I was beginning to prep myself for the brunt of delivering the sacred five stars.

Yet, just as I wanted to anoint J. Cole’s Born Sinner as a classic but couldn’t, the same fate befalls this album as well, albeit with fewer transgressions. I really only have two gripes with the album. The first being the placement of the song “S.N.I.T.C.H.”. Placing the song anywhere else would have been completely fine and done no harm, but by placing it at the end causes the album to lose cohesion.

The second complaint is much more serious. There are far too many guests on this album. Out of 12 songs, Pusha only rides solo on two of them. While quite a few of those guests only perform hook duty, and no one ever outshines Pusha T, the fact that he doesn’t carry a heavier load on this one literally keeps the classic status mere centimeters out of his grasp.

All in all though this album is superb and highly enjoyable and should easily be in best of and album of the year conversations. It may not be 100% pure, but Pusha T definitely comes with some straight dope. For real.

rating-four-and-a-half-a

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