Written Before Listen
Pusha T is back and is here with Kanye West and Pharrell Williams being his only producers. Pusha T is not only one of the most prevalent rappers when it comes to coke rap, but is also known very well for his highly publicized beef with Drake. After all of that, he’s been kind of quiet except for some features, but now, 4 years after his best solo release, he’s back. I’ve heard a lot of great reviews and also some mid reviews on this so I'm definitely coming into this with mixed expectations but I know this will be a fun review no matter what, so without further ado, let’s get into it.
So before we get into my thoughts on the album, I thought I’d get on my thought on the songs. Since this album is produced by Pharrell and Kanye, I decided to break It down. We start the album with two Pharrell beats and two good ones at that. We have the surreal opener “Brambleton” where Pusha T cuts to the chase right away. Mentions his drug-dealing past with bouncy flows, the only thing this song needs is Malice and we would have a Clipse classic on our hands. The beat for “Let The Smokers Shine The Coupes” has somewhat of a claustrophobic beat to it but the mellotron samples are catchy. The next Pharrell appearance is with the song “Neck & Wrist” and it’s one of the trappier songs on the record. The atmospheric bells, the not so swingy beat, and the simplistic flows are pretty modern. The next Pharrell beat is “Call My Bluff” and I think this beat is so half-efforted. I know Pharrell kind of has a less is more approach to his beats but he tries creating this sinister beat and it doesn’t work in this situation. We have “Scrape It Off” following after and to me, it's forgettable as the only memorable thing about it is the Don Toliver hook. The last Pharrell beat we have on this record is “Open Air” and it feels like an afterthought to me. I always love mellotron but this is just the Logic stock instrument. Overall, I think the Pharrell beats are a mixed bag. I think there are some notable highlights but there are some instances where Pharrell doesn't seem to be trying that much, and this is coming from someone who loves Pharrell and his production style.
First off, without looking at the credits, I could probably tell which beats are Kanye’s and which beats are Pharrell’s. The first instance of a Kanye beat is the song “Dreaming Of The Past” which samples Donny Hathaway's jaunty cover of John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”. There is then “Just So You Remember” which is a trackback to DAYTONA with its minimal percussion pattern and airy vocal sample. “Diet Coke” on the other hand is probably one of my favorite beats on the album altogether. Its arpeggiated piano loop and chipmunk vocal sample are old Kanye to the max but it’s not too nostalgic that it goes back in Kanye’s direction. “Hear Me Clearly” is a beat that ventures out of any Kanye style heard as of now. Doing research, this song was supposed to have a Nas feature, and god damn why isn’t there a Nas verse on here? The final Kanye beat is “I Pray For You” which is probably my favorite track on the entire album. I love the hook, I love the organs, and I love how there’s a Clipse reunion. Overall, I think the Kanye beats shine brighter than the Pharrell beats. I just think his style meshes with what Pusha is trying to go for. Don’t get me wrong, I like how Pharrell is returning to the producer for Pusha but There is a reason why DAYTONA was such a revered project.
Lyrically, I think Pusha is still strong. We start with strong lyrics on “Brambleton” and songs like “Just So You Remember” and “Hear Me Clearly” follow along with its ferocity. I don’t know if it's the backlash Pusha has gotten over the years, but he seems to be trying new flows and I have to say it just doesn’t work. There are numerous bands, artists, and even rappers who have stuck with one style and I think Pusha could’ve stayed with that one style for a good long time to keep on dropping good music, but with songs like “Call My Bluff” and “Neck & Wrist” Pusha trying out these flows sound way too forced and unnatural, but once again that’s just me.
Before I get to the verdict on the album, I should talk about the features. We have two Kanye features on “Dreaming Of The Past” and “Rock n Roll” and while the former has a brutally unfinished Kanye verse, the latter has a quality singing performance where Kanye discusses his current troubles involving his ex-wife Kim Kardashian. On “Neck & Wrist”, we have the superstar lineup of Pusha T, Pharrell, and JAY-Z and I will say that all three do their job, but JAY-Z takes this song and makes it his with his signature style of quotable and legendary one-liners. Going back to “Rock N Roll”, who let Kid Cudi sound this distorted? This thing is brutally clipping and it's so hard to listen to. It doesn’t even makeup with the signature humming that happens later in the track. There is then the track “Scrape It Off” with Don Toliver and Lil Uzi. God, this track is forgettable. I said it before but in case you forgot, I’ll say it again. The last track with the feature is the track I’ve alluded to already, the closer “I Pray For you”. It’s a Clipse reunion, what more can you ask for? With that being said, I like most of the feature choices here. I honestly think Pusha didn’t do wrong with any of these features, but we desperately need that Nas feature now knowing about it.
I think I’ve already said what was negative. I think some of the Pharrell tracks were punched a little under their weight as songs like “Call My Bluff” and “Scrape It Off” are tracks I can take or leave. I also think Pusha as a rapper has lost some of his magic which is unfortunate due to his still-relevant status. He honestly was more relevant than he ever was back in 2018 and now he’s here and can go back to doing what he liked doing, making coke raps. Overall, A pretty solid outcome from one great lyricist.
Don’t let the negative comments distract you. I liked this album. I think this has great highlights and having two star producers on this album is a feat in itself. With both producers being heavy assets of Pusha’s career, we could say that there is some deja vu applied to this but I honestly think this was a direction we would’ve all loved to see. Overall, solid project.