Pusha-T - My Name Is My Name Review
Posted by David Hayter on 10.10.2013
The world has been waiting with bated breath for Pusha T's solo career to really deliver; well, ladies and gentlemen, the wait might just be over.
Pusha-T - My Name Is My Name
1. "King Push" 2. "Numbers On The Board" 3. "Sweet Serenade" f. Chris Brown 4. "Hold On" f. Rick Ross 5. "Suicide" f. Ab-Liva 6. "40 Acres" f. The-Dream 7. "No Regrets" f. Jeezy And Kevin Cossom 8. "Let Me Love You" f. Kelly Rowland 9. "Who I Am" f. 2 Chainz & Big Sean 10. "Nosetalgia" f. Kendrick Lamar 11. "Pain" f. Future
12. "S.N.I.T.C.H." f. Pharrell
Pusha-T is member of a deeply frustrating brotherhood. No matter how hot a track he drops or how intriguing his latest collaboration might seem; fans, critics and detractors alike will always refer to his former glorious. The halcyon days of youth now hang like the sword of Damocles over Pusha’s head, waiting to brutalize his latter day ambition.
It is worth remembering just how good Pusha-T was in his prime on the holy trilogy of Clipse and Re-Up Gang records (Hell Hath No Fury, Lord Willin’ and We Got It For Cheap Volume 3). They were terrifying and inspiring: the realest dealers around blending the ultra-modern production of The Neptunes with a distinctly old-school sense of ferocity and authenticity. Unfortunately, the works proved so strong that Pusha-T found himself cursed, like The Strokes and Fleetwood Mac before him, to have every new release compared to that one glorious moment in the sun.
Unsurprisingly, Pusha has tried to escape his own legacy and reinvent himself with a series of awkward sounding mainstream crossovers. His lyrical illusions always wowed, but he never quite felt comfortable either on his own output or with his latest collaborator and producer extraordinaire: Kanye West. Nevertheless, Pusha persevered. The luster surrounding his solo career continued to diminish through his frustrating debut and sophomore mixtapes until, at some unspecified point in 2012, Pusha’s creative flame suddenly began to flicker, threatening burn bright once more.
Maybe it was his swagger on “New God Flow”? Could it have been “Pain”, the first teaser single for My Name Is My Name? How about the lyrical drive-by that was “Exodus 23:1”, or perhaps the Wrath Of Caine mixtape with its stampeding standout jam “Millions”? Whatever the case, the word was out: (whisper it) Pusha-T might just be back to his best.
My Name Is My Name isn’t perfect. It stifles and frustrates as it teeters on the precipice of greatness, but it is yet another feather in the cap of what is fast becoming a banner year for hip hop. The flaws are those that any Pusha fan could have predicted in advance: the commercial crossover cuts just don’t suit one of modern hip hop’s most most intimidating voices. The Chris Brown assisted single “Sweet Serenade” isn’t a catastrophe by any means, but Pusha feels neutered as he tip toes between hooks. Sloganeering and gimmickry isn’t T’s game, and the idea of turning a shower of bullets into a “Sweet Serenade” is disturbing, and not in a good way.
Still, if Chris Brown feels like an alien invader on My Name Is My Name then Kelly Rowland’s nominal sex-boast-jam “Let Me Love You” is a complete aberration. It feels totally out of place tonally and it only serves to derail an otherwise deadly serious Pusha persona. If the label wanted a hit they should have simply slipped “Millions” from the mixtape onto the LP or allowed Pharrell to create a buoyant “Trill” style beat. Pusha might not be a pop star, but he can do triumphant braggadocio - just imagine Pusha waging war over the “Feds Watching” beat.
Thankfully, the vast majority of My Name Is My Name is driven by a Spartan lyrical assault that forgoes hooks in favour of hauntingly minimal beats and brutalistic word play. It’s remarkable that after more than a decade in the game, Pusha-T can still spit incisive rhymes about the one true love of his life: running a cocaine empire.
“Hold On” is a fantastic work of moral gymnastics. Pusha proves utterly unapologetic as he admits to making his fortune selling “hope to the hopeless”, but introspective as he admits that suppressing the cruelty of his life has left him callous on the inside. If this sounds like typical thug shtick, Pusha deftly changes tact by neatly marrying his drug illusions to a critique of an imbalanced education system:
“They tipping the scale for these crackers to win,
No reading, no writing, made us savage men,
They praying for jail but I mastered the pen”
All this word play is delivered over a dramatically tortured, but still glorious, Kanye/Hudson Mohawke beat.
My Name Is My Name is buoyed by sublime production. The thoughtful “40 Acres” earns its syrupy keys and solemn The-Dream chorus with a wonderfully introspective verse. Pusha praises Malice for turning his life over to God and rejecting drug dealer excess, but admits that he finds a life of unabashed avarice utterly irresistible.
The “Numbers On The Board” beat is still a stone cold killer perfectly suited to a no-nonsense rapper who any right minded individual would be scared to look in the eye. “Suicide” is a mini Re-Up Gang reunion and Pharrell’s beat pops and squeaks around Pusha’s dead eyed monotone deliciously. However, “Nosestalgia” provides the undoubted highlight. Kanye and co. serve up a harrowing-minimalist-sample-driven beat and Pusha-T and Kendrick Lamar go to work.
The reason “Nosetalgia” stands head and shoulders above MNIMN's otherwise excellent content is that, after nine unashamedly intense tracks, Kendrick Lamar finally shows the world the other side of the coin. Pusha’s verse details the life of schoolyard drug dealer with forensic precision and horrifying stoicism (“When a nigga dies we add a link to the chain, inscribe a nigga name in your flesh”). Kendrick’s treatise is more humane, he details the woes that Pusha and his ilk have inflicted on the lives of poverty stricken families across the globe. Building to a crescendo Kendrick confronts his zonked out father (who has Mexican food splattered across his chain) and escapes the vicious cycle by, ironically, making his millions rapping about his crack afflicted childhood.
“Nosetalgia” is the powerful dichotomy that My Name Is My Name needed. Despite Chris Brown and Kelly Rowland’s best efforts, this record is as cold as a two-week-old corpse and the product of black-hearted individual. It needed Kendrick’s contribution and Pusha-T’s own admission of guilt on “40 Acres” to counterbalance all the unrelenting ruthlessness.
The word play is tight, the beats are sick, and the central theme remains improbably fresh, but My Name Is My Name falls a whisker short of becoming dope-dealing-classic. Regardless, Pusha-T can hold his head high, he has maintained the standard in year that has seen killer records dropped on a weekly basis. My Name Is My Name can stand proudly alongside Danny Brown’s Old as we await the next astounding rap release and, for once, Pusha can enjoy looking forward and put his illustrious past behind him.
The 411: The uncompromising Pusha-T is a hard rapper to love as he coldly details the life of a dope dealing king pin but, with the exceptions of few misjudged crossover attempts, My Name Is My Name is the kind of harrowingly sinister record that demands attention. Kendrick Lamar is ultimately required to bring a dash of humanity to an unflinchingly stark LP that thrives on black hearted avarice. Still, with or without the assist, Pusha's intensity and the routinely stunning beats of the G.O.O.D Music crew carry the day.