Pusha T is no secret to avid hip hop fans, but to the average listener he could easily slip through the cracks. He doesn’t focus on making club bangers and creating flashy hooks, which he makes clear on the album’s opening song “King Push” when he states, “I rap n**** ‘bout trap n****s, I don’t sing hooks.”
If you were around in 2002 and listened to hip hop, you might remember Pusha T as a member of the group Clipse with his brother No Malice. They became known as coke rap connoisseurs, riding that style to one of the best hip hop albums of all time, “Hell Hath No Fury.”
You won’t hear much of a difference in subject matter on Pusha T’s debut album “My Name Is My Name,” but you will hear a progression of sound thanks to his new friends, Kanye West and The-Dream.
Pusha T is provided a dark, gritty background for his even darker tales of street life and drug dealing, something that was not provided to him when he was primarily paired up with Pharell Williams and The Neptunes.
The minimalist, major key, lighthearted beats that accompanied his work with Clipse is replaced with the sound of albums like “Yeezus” and “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and you hear Kanye West’s influence as soon as the first note from “King Push” plays.
“King Push” shares the same sample as “New Slaves” by Kanye West, which is from the song “Nothing Bad” by Madza, a sample that goes uncredited on both albums.
After the opening track and the creeping, brooding stomp of “Numbers on the Boards,” Pusha T shares each of the remaining ten tracks with at least one featured guest. Some of them work, but most of them don’t.
Young Jeezy provides a drug dealing by the numbers verse on “No Regrets,” and Rick Ross offsets Pusha T’s well-deserved street credibility with his made-up tales of struggle and drug dealing, even though he is a former correctional officer, on “Hold On.”
Sections like these are some of the very few skippable moments on “My Name Is My Name,” even with subpar verses from 2 Chainz and Big Sean showing up on the deranged “Who I Am.” Big Sean provides his typical lazy, thoughtless, sounding more like Wiz Khalifa by the moment flow, but 2 Chainz provides some honestly entertaining lines like, “We the type of crew to get fresh just to sit in the living room.”
The biggest problem with “My Name Is My Name” is the guest spots, aside from the superb “Suicide” featuring Pusha T’s Re-Up Gang partner Ab-Liva, but even the worst guest appearances are masked with his constant energy, a trait that was missing from his previous solo mixtapes.
It is almost impossible not get out of your seat when you hear Pusha T yell “Woooh!” like a young Ric Flair. His enthusiasm for true hip hop is comparable to Flair’s enthusiasm for the world of fake wrestling, and his flair is even more intriguing. He already has alligator shoes, and I’m surprised he hasn’t bought himself a white boa and jewel-encrusted jacket yet.
These qualities are what make Pusha T one of the most interesting artists in the world of hip hop. There is no doubt that he is one of the best, if not the best emcee in hip hop, yet he will never attain the popularity of someone like Lil Wayne. Where Lil Wayne lied about his past for street credibility and then used that to make radio friendly songs, Pusha T stayed true to his roots, always being more Raekwon than Flo Rida.
This time around is no different, and he treats the listener to raw tales that culminate into the street portrait that is “Nosetalgia” featuring Kendrick Lamar. With lines like, “Black Ferris Bueller, cutting school with his jewels on. Couldn’t do wrong with a chest full of chains and a arm full of watches, what I sell for pain in the hood, I’m a doctor,” even Kendrick Lamar, the man who steals the spotlight in every feature, can’t stop Pusha T’s shine.
“My Name Is My Name” is either the best hip hop album this year, or it falls right behind Kanye West’s “Yeezus,” but either way it is testament to what can be done when you rap for yourself and not for plays on the radio. It is grim, it is unfriendly, but most of all, it is real.
Highlights: “Nosetalgia” “King Push” “40 Acres” “Suicide”
Just skip it: “Let Me Love You,” the Rick Ross verse on “Hold On,” the last third of “No Regrets”