DAYTONA (released May 25, 2018)
In an era where we’ve been conditioned to believe that bigger is better, the realization that Pusha T’s LONG-anticipated third solo album would be a mere seven tracks long felt like a gut punch to some hungry fans.
As one of my boys said a couple of days ago, “We’ve waited THIS long and he could only give us seven songs?”
But I keep telling y’all, it ain’t gotta be long to be strong.
Never forget, I’m the guy who sat through that Lord of the Rings-length Chris Brown album. I walked away looking like Obama after eight years in the White House.
Pusha’s DAYTONA excels where today’s “playlists as albums” fail – it’s raw, minimalistic and airtight. The short runtime – barely 20 minutes – gives Push a laser focus.
There are no pitiful attempts at radio play. The album isn’t cluttered with guest stars or flash-in-the-pan producers. In fact, the album’s only headline-grabbing item is its last-minute album cover change, apparently a shot of Whitney Houston’s drug-riddled bathroom. It’s certainly fitting, and Lord knows it’ll get people talking.
Regardless, DAYTONA isn’t about stunts and gimmicks. It’s pure, uncut Push. And it’s his best solo album to date.
Pusha blasts out of the starting gate on “If You Know You Know,” effortlessly dropping the kind of one-liners that will give your finger arthritis from constantly rewinding the track.
The company I keep is not corporate enough
Child rebel soldier, you ain’t orphan enough
A rapper turned trapper can’t morph into us
But a trapper turned rapper can morph into Puff
Dance contest for the smokers
I predict snow, Al Roker
I only ever looked up to Sosa
You all get a bird, this n**** Oprah
The greatest criticism of Pusha’s work is that it’s a bit one-dimensional. Nine times out of 10, you’re destined to hear a verse soaking in drug paraphernalia. But what makes him infinitely more interesting than his immature trap peers is his wicked wordplay and, well, entrepreneurial spirit. While they get high off their own supply, with their content getting lost in a haze of incomprehensible mumbles, Pusha flaunts his success – “This is the drug money your ex-n**** claim he makes,” he gloats on “The Games We Play.” He even christens himself as “your Ghost and your Rae/This is my Purple Tape, save up for Rainy Dayz.”
And he’s not wrong.
Credit that to the incredible chemistry he and lead producer Kanye West share. Ever since Push joined Ye’s GOOD Music collective, we’ve been patiently awaiting for the pair to realize their collective potential as an elite rapper/producer combo. We’ve seen flashes of that brilliance in the past but DAYTONA finally sees them working together seamlessly.
Push uses the beautiful keys of “Hard Piano” to bully his opposition: “I won’t let you ruin my dreams or Harvey Weinstein the kid/Good morning, Matt Lauer, can I live?”
He’s clearly not sweating these Skittles-covered rappers – “I’m too rare amongst all of this pink hair, ooh.”
Once again, Drake and Lil Wayne feel the wrath of Pusha’s pen on “Infrared,” with the former getting blasted for denying his use of ghostwriters (“The lyric pennin’ equal the Trump’s winnin’/The bigger question is how the Russians did it/It Was Written like Nas but it came from Quentin”) while the latter gets eaten alive for his label woes (“He see what I see when you see Wayne on tour/Flash without the fire/Another multi-platinum rapper trapped and can’t retire”). At this point, it’s like shooting Swedish fish in a barrel.
DAYTONA’s brevity and Pusha’s singular focus on coke n’ cash certainly will leave the listener yearning for more diversity. Still, there are enough twists and turns, from the sonic superiority of “Santeria” to flashes of Old Kanye on “What Would Meek Do?” to keep things interesting.
But what really makes DAYTONA a landmark release is Pusha’s refusal to bow to the whims of the mainstream. He refuses to compromise who he is:
Remember Will Smith won the first Grammy?
And they ain’t even recognize Hov until “Annie”
So I don’t tap dance for the crackers and sing Mammy
‘Cause I’m posed to juggle these flows and nose candy
Pusha has the charisma, ability, industry backing and pedigree to be a chart-topping rapper. But he’d rather be the gritty cornerboy with a hustler’s ambition who stays miles ahead of the competition.
That’s Pusha T. And that’s why DAYTONA is the realest album of 2018 so far.
Best tracks: “Hard Piano,” “Infrared,” “What Would Meek Do?”
4.5 stars out of 5