Even after finding critical success with the release of his first official GOOD Music EP Fear of God II: Let Us Pray in 2011, Pusha T was still stuck in a transition period being less than two years removed from the last Clipse album Til the Casket Drops — the Virginia duo’s final project together before their current hiatus.
Despite having already paved a solo career for himself with GOOD Music, Pusha was still mostly being billed as member of Clipse rather than being recognized as the individual talent Kanye West believed him to be.
After Fear of God II dropped, Pusha still wasn’t getting much attention outside of Clipse diehards. Last year, he appeared on the GOOD Music compilation album Cruel Summer where the 36-year-old rap veteran was forced to share the spotlight with younger stars like Big Sean, Cyhi the Prynce and Kid Cudi.
Thanks in large part to the success of his second mixtape Wraith of Caine at the top of the year, Pusha’s position as one of the game’s finest lyricists was beginning to solidify before his album single “Numbers On The Boards” took him over the top and proved a hip-hop song with such a high level of word mastery could still attract mainstream appeal.
Pusha has finally released his first full-length studio debut My Name Is My Name and the finished product is one of the most lyrically dense, furiously delivered and brilliantly produced pieces of hip-hop in recent years.
The album opens with Pusha proclaiming “This is my time, this is my hour / This is my pain, this is my name, this is my power / If it’s my reign, then it’s my shower” on “King Push.” Rapping over a chopped up sample of Kanye’s “New Slaves,” everything about this track feels like you’re in the presence of hip-hop royalty and Pusha’s vicious vocals demand respect.
The song “Sweet Serenade” is by far the biggest surprise on the album in terms of an unexpected collaboration that works — and works well. Pusha taps in Chris Brown to provide the chorus of this club-inspired record that shines over Kanye and Swizz Beatz co-production and shows the rapper’s range in styles.
On “Hold On,” Pusha gets assistance from Rick Ross (and uncredited Kanye harmonies) on a raw introspective track about life as drug dealers. Though Ross spits his verse with equal conviction, Pusha delivers some puncturing lines when he raps “I sold more dope than I sold records / You niggas sold records, never sold dope / So I ain’t hearing none of that street shit / Cause in my mind, you mothafuckas sold soap.”
The Pharrell-produced track “Suicide” featuring Re-Up Gang affiliate Ab-Liva feels and sounds like a Clipse throwback with Pusha flowing effortlessly over familiar but ultimately satisfying territory. “40 Acres” is another standout that conveys a brilliant contrast between The-Dream’s airy chorus and Pusha’s tough raps over a minimalistic beat.
After Jeezy and Kevin Cossom appear on the track “No Regrets,” My Name Is My Name suffers a very slight setback with “Let Me Love You” featuring Kelly Rowland and “Who I Am” featuring 2 Chainz and Big Sean. The songs aren’t terrible per say, but “Let Me Love You” sounds out of character (and kind of Mase-esque) for the album while “Who I Am” is too much like every other song with a 2 Chainz and/or Big Sean feature.
“Nosetalgia” brings together two of hip-hop’s best lyricists as Pusha gives Kendrick Lamar his opportunity to show and prove. The result is a lyrical onslaught with both rappers performing to the best of their abilities and Pusha never backing down to the hype beast Kendrick has become.
The album’s final track “S.N.I.T.C.H” (“Sorry Nigga, I’m Tryna Come Home) sees Pharrell returning with more top-shelf production as well as a hook. The song sees Pusha addressing former friends turned snitches that’ve been dropping his name, it’s about the code of the streets and how snitching is still the most heinous of crimes in the hood.
My Name Is My Name sees Pusha improving on what he does best — spittin’ multilayered lyrics that almost always bring something more than meets the eye. There are weaker points on the album, but even those weaker points still sound better than the majority of mainstream hip-hop today.
While fans eagerly await the return of Clipse as a duo, My Name Is My Name proves Pusha T is confident carrying his own project separate to the music he makes with his brother and if it’s a sign of things to come — there’s no need to rush the next Clipse album.
Get at me on Twitter @PatCwiklinski.