Album Art: My Name is My Name Photo by Courtesy photo
When picturing Pusha T working on his debut solo album “My Name Is My Name,” I like to imagine him in a studio with an enormous white board full of lists and brain webs detailing metaphors for cocaine and selling it.
As he records, he crosses them off the list to remember not to use them twice.
Notable metaphors in “My Name Is My Name”: “Johnson & Johnson” (baby powder), “Aryan, blonde hair, blue-eyed like the Führer” (white, pure), just to name a couple.
Yes, Pusha T is a bit of a one-trick pony. Ever since coming up as half of the famous rap group Clipse in the early 1990s with his brother Gene Thornton (then known as Malice, now known as No Malice), Pusha T has solely and explicitly rapped about selling large amounts of cocaine to fund his hobby, aka rapping.
Still, nobody has ever rapped about a single subject as well as Pusha T raps about cocaine. His charisma and consistency has more than made up for some predictability, and with each release it’s exciting to wonder what he can think of next.
Rapping is only part of the equation in hip-hop though, and Pusha T has been blessed with incredible friends for producers over the years. Clipse was mostly buoyed by The Neptunes, led by Pharrell Williams. Since going solo, Pusha T signed to GOOD Music, letting artists like Kanye West and Hudson Mohawke produce his backdrop. Williams, West, and Mohawke are all on “My Name Is My Name.”
They help put Pusha T in his comfort zone with menacing, dissonant beats — the simpler the better. They’re the type of beats to play when putting on an angry face to ignore intruders to your comfort zone on the bus. “Numbers on the Boards” has been released as a single for a while, but is still the most vicious beat of the year. It’s vintage Pusha T-groove minimalism produced by West and Don Cannon. Intricate rhyme schemes, homophones, and tightly-packed wordplay hide beneath Pusha T’s simple confidence, while synths drone above perfectly timed, pitched-up drums. It’s the best track he’s made since his time with Clipse.
On West and Jay Z’s collaborative album “Watch the Throne,” Jay Z rapped on “Illest Motherf----- Alive”: “This is what the ending of Scarface should feel like.”
That seems to be a pretty apt comparison to the mood “My Name Is My Name” shoots for.
“Numbers on the Boards,” “Nosetalgia” with Kendrick Lamar, and “Suicide” are all no-frills, murderous adventures, but Pusha T dabbles into some heavy production as well. It’s the biggest risk that King Push takes on “My Name Is My Name,” with mixed results.
Auto tune smatterings from West on “Hold On” and Williams on “S.N.I.T.C.H.” are the main successes of this mild branching out. Rick Ross’ offering on “Hold On” elevates the track and is reminiscent of his verse of a lifetime on “Devil in a New Dress” off West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” It’s one of the better songs on the album.
Pusha T’s first stanza is partially a criticism of rappers who pretend that they sold drugs but never did. Thankfully Ross comes through, because he is quite publicly the most called-out rapper in this regard — his boasts are often thought to be false.
“No Regrets” and “40 Acres” are also out of Pusha T’s wheelhouse sonically, but lazy pop hooks and some subject rhymes like “School of hard knock / I attended,” make them head scratchers, rather than label pushers.
There are plenty of mysteries about Pusha T’s background, but when it comes to his music, listeners should know what to expect at this point. Incredible beats? Check. Reliably impressive rhyming talent? Check. Extravagant and hedonistic cocaine talk? Check.
“I might sell a brick on my birthday / 36 years of doing dirt like it’s Earth Day,” he raps on “Numbers on the Boards.”
He knows what he does best, and he’s sticking to it.
The Verdict: “My Name is My Name” continues Pusha T’s illustrious career of predictable, but excellent music.
Reach reporter Walker Orenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @walkerorenstein
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