Pusha T always gets unfairly maligned as just “that dude with all the cocaine lines.” And, yeah, you’ll be remised to find a Pusha T song that doesn’t include Push referencing some kind of cocaine metaphor. The thing is, it’s not like he’s bad at that, he has literally made a career off his dope boy image and rapping about things of that ilk for two decades now. First and foremost, though, Pusha is a lyricist, which means that he’ll throw in a bar about coke, yes, but it’s always some inventive line that you can’t believe he hasn’t used such-and-such to reference the white product before after all those years. He raps about a lot of the same stuff, and not only cocaine, but cars and jewelrry, but damn if I don’t sit back after the latest Pusha song I hear and be amazed that he’s still coming up with new ways to talk about all this basic stuff. See, I like rap about this, sure I like storytelling and deep thematic content, but I above all just like hard bars about the same ol’ cliche rap stuff, and Pusha always makes that fresh. I think it’s a mighty skill to rap about all this stuff, but continue to make it new after all these years that you have been rapping and it along with half the dudes out there and Pusha always stays on top.
So, yeah, I’m a little bit of a Pusha T fan, you could say. King Push has been by most anticipated album, and then with the revelation of about a month ago that he’d be releasing this little prelude mini-album before the end of the year my hype went into overdrive. My Name Is My Name was a great opening solo album for Push, one that opened him up to the masses to show what he could do by himself and really began to Push what a Pusha T solo song sounds like. Because as much as Push is all about the lyricism, his beats are always close behind in locking down his unique sound. They’re always a throwback to the yesteryear of 90s grimy hip-hop beats, but infused with a new school industrial type, that gives everything an off-kilter sound and makes a sound you’re really not sure if it should be rapped over or not.
King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude seems aimed to remedy and fix the few mistakes that My Name Is My Name did have. The new album is more refined and cohesive, helped by the fact that it’s only 10 tracks and 33 minutes in length, with nary a song that seems wasted or out of place. There is less features on here, with only two other artists spitting verses, the old Re-Up Gang stand-by in Ab-Liva and the always welcome Beanie Sigel, with others like The-Dream and Kanye West just helping out on hook duty. By doing so there’s no mistake that this isn’t a Pusha T album, no over-abundance of features and no overshadowing whatsoever.
As mentioned previously, what further cements this as a Pusha T solo release is the absurdity and griminess of the beats, helped along by executive producer Puff Daddy and Timbaland whose fingers are all over this thing. The opening beat seems engineered to make you hit personal records in the gym, followed by the beat on “Untouchable” that seems time-traveled from the 90s. “Got Em Covered” might be the most experimental beat on the album with a signature “bloop” sound that sounds like water dripping, or in Pusha’s case like some kind of drug cooking.
While his drug raps are his signature, this isn’t a one-trick pony type of album, Pusha laces the entire project with introspective musings on fame, money, relationships and the state of black America, most directly referenced in the probably best cut on the album, the grand finale “Sunshine.” Two of his acronym songs “M.F.T.R.” (More Famous Than Rich) and “M.P.A.” (Money, Pussy, Alcohol) deal with the aforementioned ideas of people nowadays seeming to be more content with being famous than actually maintaining any kind of personal of financial self-worth and people being driven and focused on superfluous things like money, women, and alcohol and drugs that get in the way of what really matters. But, if that realness is too much for you there’s always the coke rhymes such as “I’m Jack Frost of sellin’ that blast off” or “I’m the L. Ron Hubbard of the cupboard.”
My expectations were super high and I’m even surprised myself how much it exceeded things and now only ratchet up the hype for the full-length King Push that is supposedly supposed to drop in April. Push just continues to prove why he’s literally one of the most respected in the entire game, where nobody has a bad word to say about him (unless you’re Lil Wayne). This album just continues and hones in on what Push is all about nowadays the layered lyricism, the beats that make you crook your head to the side at first and then have you nodding along with it, to the confidence that makes this one of the best hip-hop albums of the year and a shining example of what the marriage between lyrics and beats can and should be.