Pusha T pushes boundaries with latest album

Alex Burnham, Writer

Though Pusha T formed a hip-hop duo more than 20 years ago, his career seemed aimless until recent developments.

It wasn’t until 2010, when he signed to the GOOD Music label, that his path in the record industry appeared calculated — at the very least movable.

Kanye West featured the New-York-born, Virginia-raised rapper on two albums (“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and “Kanye West Presents Good Music Cruel Summer”). Though his presence on both was evident, even dynamic, it cannot compare to his debut studio album “My Name Is My Name.” The record, released Oct. 9 jointly by GOOD Music and Def Jam, surpasses all expectations of the 36-year-old MC.

Kanye, Pharrell Williams and Swizz Beatz all collaborated on production, creating a sonic terrain that highlights each producer’s talents without detracting from the lyrical capabilities of Pusha.

King Push,” the album’s opener, has the artist describing the album’s content (his career dealing drugs, expensive merchandise and more drugs) amid a steady bass kick and sampling from Kanye’s “New Slaves.” The methodical introduction moves slowly, but it works effectively in showcasing a mature, well-produced record, complete with appropriate subject matter.

And this perhaps is Pusha’s greatest struggle and achievement: the candidness of his second career dealing drugs, the alacrity with which he accepts his role as both artist and gangster.

Greed seeps from his lips in most songs. He raps, “I just wanna buy another rollie, I just wanna buy another band, I just wanna sell dope forever, I just wanna be who I am.” But it is perhaps justified by the authenticity of his lyrics.

On the synth-fueled “40 Acres,” complete with telecaster twang and steady bass line, he juxtaposes slavery with selling dope. He describes how fathers would leave home and how mothers would be unable to care for the children – the dysfunction of life in the city. Ultimately he raps, “Money’s universal, that’s the only language.”

But the “drug-dealer dichotomy” is difficult to accurately define. Pusha himself admits that it’s “hard to get a handle on this double-edged sword.” He considers himself twofold in this sense, tactfully embracing both lifestyles and rapping about them simultaneously.

And however lyrically successful the album is, a certain victory has to be credited to Kanye’s lack of vocal appearance. He only produces, diminishing none of Pusha’s vocal achievements. Dark songs like “Who I Am” certainly come from the same vein as “Yeezus,” but “My Name Is My Name” remains more accessible.

After 46 minutes of perfectly crystallized production, some humorous lyricism from 2 Chainz  (“entrepreneur/strip club connoisseur”) and the proverbial Hudson Mohawke song (“No Regrets”)  found on every rap album these days, “My Name Is My Name” halts after an echo of 808’s on “S.N.I.T.C.H.” This is a Pusha T, reinvigorated.

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