My Name Is My Name (to be released October 8, 2013)
Never question my clairvoyance. It took over a decade but I predicted this moment.
The first time I heard Pusha T’s verse on “Virginia,” from Clipse’s 2002 debut, I knew he was going to be a solo rap star. No doubt about it:
In my “Home Sweet Home” I keep chrome next to my bones
Alters my walk to limpin’
Since I love the feel, I guess I’m passionately pimpin’
It ’tis what it seems
That thing imprintin’ through the seams of my jeans, by all means
He oozed charisma, launched punchlines like air-to-surface missiles and had undeniable presence on the mic.
Now that Clipse have parted ways (with brother No Malice dropping a solid debut a few months ago), it’s finally Pusha’s moment. And with the backing of Kanye West, one of the biggest stars in the game, Push’s long-awaited debut is his chance to turn potential into prosperity.
My Name Is My Name delivers. I told you so.
Pusha’s critics have long labeled him as a one-trick pony who sprinkles every single verse with drug references. It’s true observation, but a bit unfair. Pusha may be fixated on one subject but the creative way in which he approaches it puts him in a different league than most trap rappers.
The album opener “King Push” flagrantly calls out pretenders to the coke throne: “Vultures to my culture/Exploit the struggle, insult ya/They name dropping ’bout caine copping/But never been a foot soldier.”
The production is just as imposing as Pusha’s verses. Kanye and Don Cannon create a soundscape on “Numbers on the Boards” is delightfully sparse, giving Push breathing room to “go blow for blow with any Mexican.” “Sweet Serenade” is equally haunting, and thankfully my play Cousin Chris Brown’s guest vocals are appropriately muted. No screamy pop singing here. Pusha even counteracts the bouncy production Pharrell crafts on “Suicide” with his acidic bars, “feeding divas like he feeds the meter.” No one drops double entendres that are so instantly quotable.
Despite Ye’s unnecessary autotune crooning on “Hold On,” the first half of MNIMN is steps away from hip hop perfection. Unfortunately that hot streak cools considerably when the quality of guest stars wavers on the second half of the album.
Kevin Cossom’s hook on “No Regrets” is pretty repetitive and uninspired. 2 Chainz and Big Sean are totally out of their league on “Who I Am” – Medium Sean deserves a face full of E. Honda slaps for spitting “nann-nann-nann-nann-nann” without a hint of irony. Future also deserves corporal punishment for adding his special brand of wack sauce to “Pain.” Someone send me an MP3 that removes Future groaning like a mutilated kitten over the beat.
All those complaints I mentioned above have no bearing on Pusha’s performance. Besides a verse on “Let Me Love You” where he sounds like he’s been possessed by Mason Betha’s ghost, his wit remains razor-sharp. That’s best portrayed on “Nosetalgia,” when he goes toe-to-toe/flow-to-flow with Kendrick Lamar. Both tell stories about how crack shaped their childhood and how dope boys became dope rappers. Again, it takes the cliched trap-rap to another level.
“No reading, no writing, made us savage of men/They praying for jail but I mastered the pen,” Push preaches on “Hold On.” You can’t argue with him, My Name Is My Name proves Pusha possesses one of the mightiest pens in hip hop. C-list guest stars hinder it from reaching classic status but I dare you to find a better rap album this year.
But this shouldn’t be a surprise. I told y’all this day was coming.
Best tracks: “Nosetalgia,” “King Push,” “Sweet Serenade”
4 stars out of 5