February 3, 2013

My Gut Reaction / For Promotional Use Only: Pusha T - Wrath Of Caine (January 28, 2013)

Arguably the first project of 2013 that bloggers are actually getting excited about, Pusha T's free mixtape, Wrath Of Caine, is an album that wasn't supposed to ever exist.  When he discovered that his full-length debut for G.O.O.D. Music, My Name Is My Name, was being pushed into "eventually in 2013 someone will get to it" territory, the still-rapping-about-cocaine half of the Clipse decided to give his growing fanbase an appetizer made up of original songs.  Which would classify Wrath Of Caine as the audio equivalent of fried mozzarella sticks, or perhaps maybe miso soup.

Wrath Of Caine clocks in at less than forty minutes, as Pusha-Ton keeps things surprisingly concise, eschewing skits, interludes, and most mixtape filler bullshit in favor of actual music.  There are thirteen tracks on the project, each one handled by a different producer or team, which definitely doesn't help with keeping any sort of consistent vibe.  (G.O.O.D. Music bossman Kanye Kardashian West does appear, but only to "co-produce" someone else's beat, which seems very suspect to me.)  Guest spots have been handed out like candy out of a nondescript white van, but, weirdly, none of Pusha's actual labelmates made the cut: big names such as Rick Ross and French Montana are here because they are contractually obligated to appear on each and every project released in 2013, but for the most part, all of the rest of the guests sing on the various hooks dispersed throughout, leaving Pusha to handle Wrath Of Khan Caine on his own.  

Which will either be a good or a bad thing.  I'm guessing bad.

After a thoroughly annoying-as-fuck start that was truly unnecessary, Dready's beat kicks in, and Pusha Thornton unleashes a one-verse wonder introducing both Wrath Of Caine and My Name Is My Name.  The beat is par for the course, the "course" being how radio sounds today, but it isn't completely terrible, and our host's bars may only be inspired by the need to rush through this track in order to get to the next song, but at least Pusha sounds alright enough.

This ode to stashing your illicit drug money in your ceiling and keeping your guns in the closet next to your galoshes and your old Halloween costumes is allegedly co-produced by Kanye West (jumping on to Southside's original gig), but it sounds nothing like 'Ye's previous work.  Maybe it's a bit more polished than it would have been otherwise.  Anyway, it sounds interesting (if not "like God", as our host insists), and Pusha and his guest, recent drive-by target Officer Rick Ross, both command the listener's attention, Pusha more so.  I liked how he addressed allegations that he's making up all of this "former and current drug dealer" shit by claiming that his record sales aren't as huge as those of his enemies (*cough* Drake *cough* Lil' Wayne *cough*), but he still manages to drive the same type of luxury automobile as they do.  I felt that was a rather unsubtle way to say "fuck you" to somebody, but it was still pretty funny.  Not awful, but not awesome, either.

The guest star doesn't add anything to this track except for a terrible chorus, one that is so heavily filtered through Auto-Tune that the word "matter", which appears in the song's title, mind you, comes out as "matto"; although I'm sure Frenchy had fun getting his Future on, there was no need for his vocals to remain on the final cut.  Everything else about "Doesn't Matter", though, wasn't bad: the Renegades beat walks that fine line between dramatic tension and bombast with ease, and Pusha-Ton sounds as decent as he typically does.  If someone could get me a version wit one hundred and fifty percent less French Montana, I would be forever grateful.

Uniformly awful.  Not surprisingly, this was released as a single, because of course it was.  But why is Young Chop working with Pusha T if he was so upset at how Kanye and company hijacked his instrumental from Chief Keef's "I Don't Like" for their own remix?  (The answer is money, obviously.  I know how these things work.  The question was rhetorical.)

In which I get one step closer to my dream of hearing Pusha T and Action Bronson perform on the same track.  (I do have other dreams, fantastical dreams, but this is merely one of them.)  The reason I connected those two dots is because of producer Harry Fraud, who handles the wistful, ethereal musical framework of "Road Runner", production that Pusha T sounds pretty good over while respecting the boundaries presented.  He doesn't rip the beat to shreds or anything, but the track still comes across as pretty fucking good: I could have done without the hook (I know, shocker), but the rest of this really clicked for me.

The instrumental is credited to The Neptunes but was probably only handled by Pharrell and not Chad, since Pusha only finds the time to name-drop Skateboard P during this quick one-verse wonder.  On it, our host quickly runs down his history in the music industry, from the Clipse's aborted debut album Exclusive Audio Footage to his signing with G.O.O.D. Music (he mentions that he walked away with "So Appalled", from 'Ye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which is funny to me because my opinion has changed on the song since I first wrote about it and I now believe he does actually edge out Hova).  He even briefly explains the absence of his brother, Malice, now known as No Malice, from the rap game, for the listeners at home that may not understand why Kanye didn't just sign the Clipse.  Not a word about Sandman, though: I suppose Pusha really doesn't give a shit about the dude.  Here's my problem with this song: The Neptunes have been, obviously, instrumental in getting Pusha T to this point, with their work on all three (or four, depending on when you joined the party) Clipse projects, so why the fuck are they only being given two measly minutes on here?

I didn't care for this song.  The Boogz N Tapez instrumental is already soap opera theme song bland, but the chipmunk soul vocal sample that gives the song its name is really really really annoying, thereby halting any potential momentum in its tracks.  Pusha makes do, but Wale seems to phone his appearance on (what is with the echo effect throughout his verse?  Did he record his contribution while aboard a Russian space station?), which certainly didn't help matters.  I'll never be listening to this shit again, thanks.

The fuck was this shit?

So apparently this is the part of Wrath Of Caine that doubles as a potty break?

In an effort to prove that the Re-Up Gang still somehow exists, Pusha donates this Illmind beat (which is fucking fire, by the way) to Ab-Liva, who spits a one-verse wonder that proves that he is one of the best supporting players in our chosen genre, as he shines bright in small parts but may not hold up as well over a full-length album.  This shit rocked, though, so right now I wouldn't mind some more cameos being thrown his way.

Similar to Fear Of God and Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray, Pusha chooses to end things on a reflective note, rationalizing his illicit criminal activities and claiming that he's made it through the fire because he's been blessed with forgiveness.  Which makes no sense to me, and I would imagine that someone who is actually religious, such as, say, Pusha's brother No Malice, may beg to differ.  But B!nk's production was okay enough, although this was no "Alone In Vegas".  Fuck it, at least this mixtape is over.

SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN?  I wouldn't.  Although there are a few decent tracks on here, and it's very hard to argue against "hey, it's free, stupid", Pusha T's Wrath Of Caine is all bark and no bite.  Too many of the songs on here fall into the "really fucking useless" category: I can't imagine there being any way that Kanye would allow him to put, say, "Doesn't Matter" or "Only You Can Tell It", on his actual album, so this freebie ends up sounding like a project compiled with a bunch of throwaway tracks that has the adverse effect of making me suddenly not care all that much for the forthcoming My Name Is My Name.  There are sparks of promise on here, and if our host follows that trail his album may be successful after all, but if he sticks with this recipe (no pun intended), his days in the HHID "good" column will soon be over.  Mark my words.

There's more Pusha-Ton to be found by clicking here.


  1. So that Pusha-Ton wasn't a typo? Anyway Pusha on the Clipse > Pusha on his own. The guy can spit, but he seems to be a pretty bad decision maker

    1. He called himself Pusha-Ton on Comedy Central off their first album. I agree he was much better in the group. Malice's mature lyrics balanced him out and I think his and Pharrell's influences kept them from making average drug dealer music.

      I'll check this joint eventually but I doubt I'll be impressed. Pusha without Malice just hasn't been very compelling for me

  2. Max, I just realised that you don't have a single Ice-T post! Shocking stuff! Get on it man!

  3. Mo ICE T!!!!!!!!!! The man is a true legend in this game. I suspect you max, are not an Ice T fan. But hey prove me wrong.

  4. I feel like Fear of God was ten times better than this so I'm still hopeful for his solo debut. And the songs you liked were solid, but nothing was really ipod worthy on this mixtape sadly. I just hope he gets good production for his solo, and he should given the fact that he has Q-Tip, Kanye, and The Neptunes close by

  5. I could go for some Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.

  6. I generally tend to like your critical analysis on things however I have to disagree on this. Pusha is one the illest n trillest right now, I'm lovin' the dude...keeps shit street and not corny. Yeah, obviously Clipse was better, but that was then. I actually loved the intro of the Jamaican youth talking shit in Patios...and "Blocka" was my shit. I didn't even notice all that shit u mentioned about others not being present on the mixtape and why or why not but I don't really think it matters cuz at the end of the day who else is it supposed to be about? Not other muthafuckers, it's a Pusha T mixtape...and exactly what he said it was supposed to be... an appetizer. So essentially, he's really doing what any hard working artist would do...put some shit out there to keep the shit hott and still buzzin'...you gotta do that--especially if your album gets pushed (no pun indended).

    The drug dealer shit does get a little played out after a while, but I don't think he's talking about some shit he don't know about...it's just what he knows how to do...talk about drugs n fashion. Maybe he's not really a deep dude, who knows. But he did talk about the shit he went through and how he struggled with his career and how for one to know about his life that would mean they'd have to experience his losses too. I dunno man, that's some pretty deep shit for someone that just makes average drug dealer music.