October 12, 2013

Two Gut Reactions: Pusha T - My Name Is My Name (October 8, 2013) + No Malice - Hear Ye Him (August 18, 2013)

First off, apologies to everyone who kept checking back to see what I would write about after Drake. While I'm still trying to work through the real life shit that triggered my most recent hiatus, I have been actually trying to write, but I've blown self-imposed deadline after self-imposed deadline, due to a combination of exhaustion and laziness. (Hi, Deltron! Maybe we'll see your post up here soon, yeah?) As my way of trying to make sure you all have something to read while you're at work / in class / mid-coitus, today I present a double review for the brothers Thornton and their separate solo full-length debuts.

After what seemed like decades of hype that followed him upon signing with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music imprint, Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton finally released his first actual album, My Name Is My Name, on Def Jam's imprint this past Tuesday. Push has spent his time post-Clipse wisely, offering solid cameo appearances and mixtape tracks that successfully kept him in the spotlight, both on the Interweb (where he is a fixture on other hip hop blogs) and in the mainstream, thanks to 'Ye's attempts to keep his vanity label relevant even though it has evolved far beyond what it originally focused on. I'm just saying, you don't sign 2 Chainz to your label and still claim that you're all about releasing good music, and I say that even though I like a couple of his songs. But still.

My Name Is My Name is surprisingly compact for a debut album released in 2013: perhaps Pusha T felt his last three projects, the mixtapes Fear Of God and Wrath Of Caine and the EP Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray, were bloated enough. The project features only twelve tracks, with no skits, which is a fucking godsend in this day and age, and production is handled by a myriad of contributors (no surprise there), but was overseen by 'Ye himself, who throws stuff in here and there. My Name Is My Name follows in the Kanye tradition of featuring approximately seventeen producers per track, which isn't always a bad thing, and all but two of the songs feature guests, which actually can be a bad thing. With a Def Jam budget behind him, though, said producers and guests are mostly of the A-List variety, if that helps.

Although I suppose Pusha T isn't technically introducing himself to the public, so it may not be quite so terrible: if you pick up this project and/or are reading this article, it's because you already know who he is (either because of the Clipse albums, or maybe you just really liked “New God Flow” and his verse on 'Ye's “So Appalled”), what he's about (still coke raps, although he's certainly trying to branch out), and why you care (he's one of the better rappers out today, and yeah, I said it), so you don't need all that much of an introduction.

I'll probably get a lot of shit for this, but fuck it: I didn't like “King Push”. There isn't anything extraordinary about the instrumental, with its attempts at sounding like an abstract trap song failing to gel with its surroundings. (Okay, I lied. There is one interesting aspect of the beat: the fact that it was originally credited to Kanye West and actor Joaquin Phoenix, who has since gone on record as saying that he didn't produce this song as much as he introduced a friend's beat to the G.O.O.D. Music camp.) Pusha T doesn't sound particularly inspired, either. So what if he “don't sing no hooks”, as he feels the need to repeatedly explain on this glorified rap album intro? That shit doesn't matter if he doesn't write good songs, and he is capable of writing very good songs. This shit, however, could have been one of the shittier throwaways from Wrath Of Caine. Yeah.

I liked this track when Pusha first leaked it to the Interweb, though. Over an unorthodox Don Cannon / Yeezy concoction, our host runs through two swaggerific verses where he sounds as confident as ever. The Jay-Z vocal sample smack in the middle, taken from the “Rhyme No More” portion of In My Lifetime Vol. 1's “Intro / A Million & One Questions / Rhyme No More”, is jarring, but helps reinforce Pusha's own agenda. The fact that he apes some of Hova's lines from “Ignorant Shit” at the very beginning accomplishes this, too, but whatever. Our host excels over this sparse, minimalist beat. Hopefully this won't end up being the best track on My Name Is My Name, since this is old as fuck, though.

Seriously, why do rappers still feel the need to work with that cocksucker Chris Brown? All of the negative press surrounding him will inevitably latch on to them. And why would Pusha T write a song for the ladies, anyway? Well, to answer the second question, he still hasn't, not really, since the title “Sweet Serenade” casually masks the fact that this is a Swizz Beatz-produced shit-talking session. This wasn't that bad: hell, if someone would be nice enough to edit out Brown's chorus and replace it with literally anyone else (fuck, I would even accept Miley Cyrus as an alternative at this point), this might be a radio hit, and deservedly so, as opposed to whatever the hell it currently is.

Pusha T and Officer Richard Ross turn their cover of the Wilson Phillips standard into a somber track urging their colleagues to work their way through their pain and grief, offering assistance along the way. Well, that's what Rozay does, anyway, as he turns in one of his less-annoying verses: our host cycles through boasts about his drug-selling prowess (according to my notes, I had originally written “drug-selling powers”, which is actually funnier) before ultimately settling on a theme. 'Ye and Hudson Mohawke's instrumental mirrors the serious tone of the track: only the Auto-Tuned vocals crooning throughout (allegedly performed by an uncredited Kanye West) take the listener out of the experience. Not the best song ever created or anything, but this certainly could have been worse.

Another unorthodox beat, this one courtesy of Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes (the primary force behind the Clipse, as you'll recall if you're still reading this review), and dear God does it knock. The hook is overly wordy, but when it comes to the actual verses, our host pretty much kills it with his braggadocio. It's also nice to hear that his chemistry with Ab-Liva is intact, as the Re-Up Gang members deliver entertaining bars. Liva proves himself to be a solid supporting player, as this is Pusha T's show, after all. Nice!

Also not bad, although, as is his way, Pusha doesn't really connect with the alleged subject matter (which one should be able to quickly determine by reading the song title, reading and then Googling the song title, and/or being Spike Lee) until the very end. Up to that point, he's all about the shit-talking, even getting a bit personal regarding his parents and his brother Malice over a low-key Rico Beats / The-Dream production that Drake would gravitate toward. The-Dream also lends his vocals for a hook that, yes, seems to have nothing to do with anything, but he doesn't sound bad, just kind of unnecessary. But I still thought this was alright.

Shit, there's a lot of Auto-Tune on My Name Is My Name, huh? Hudson Mohawke's production is very radio-friendly (today's radio, anyway), and will probably end up becoming a minor hit, since those who live vicariously through a rapper's boasts about their lifestyle (for Pusha, this apparently means “naked bitches on sailboats”) will be drawn to living a life with “No Regrets”. Terrence and (no longer all that young) Jeezy share freely about how they each live their respective lives to their own definition of the fullest. Doesn't really speak to me, but honestly, this could work much better in different surroundings, specifically in a crowded vehicle where everyone sings along to Kevin Cossom's hook while on a twelve-hour road trip where everyone is delirious and hungry or something.

What the mother fuck is this shit? Who the hell signed off on “Let Me Love”? At least Pusha T seems to be in on the joke: his Ma$e-like flow during the first verse morphs into a straight-up Mason Betha homage during the second stanza. So much for Pusha T not writing songs for the ladies. And Kelly Rowland, best known for being hotter than Beyonce (come on, you know I'm right), is cast in a thankless role that could have gone to pretty much anyone. Sigh.

Possibly because Pusha T isn't a fan of Drake's “All Me” but more likely due to his G.O.O.D. Music association, our host recruits Aubrey's co-stars 2 Chainz and Big Sean for “Who I Am”, a track where 'Ye and DJ Mano don't use the ESG “U.F.O.” sample in the overly-obvious manner that everyone else does. Truth be told, Drake's song is the better track: Tity Boi and Mr. Naya Rivera sound less invested in their verses on here. Which is unfortunate, since our host is on his boastful shit. Side note: just like “All Me”, the very title “Who I Am” really seems like it should have been attached to a Pusha T solo song and not a posse cut, right? A weird comparison to make, but apt.

Leaked prior to the album's release, and why not? K-Dot is a hot commodity right now, especially post-”Control”, so Pusha's team not promoting the shit out of the Nottz / Yeezy-produced “Nosetalgia” would have been a really goddamn fucking stupid move. The beat isn't exactly a banger, but its yelping guitar licks and minimal drums grow on you like mold. Our host relays more tales of working his stove, but Kendrick makes things personal (as he tends to do), talking about how that white has affected various members of his family. Not my favorite on here, but I can see why it has so many fans already.

When “Pain” was released as a teaser single, it made very little noise in our chosen genre, but I found it damn near delightful, and I still do today: the instrumental, credited to Kanye and No I.D., is dramatic and militant, with Terrence commanding the listener's attention. Future's Auto-Tuned vocals on the hook even manage to fit the proceedings, by which I mean he wasn't terrible. I'm happy that Pusha left this shit on the final tracklisting.

Pharrell “Mr. Summer Jam 2013” Williams pops back up to both perform on and produce the final song. “S.N.I.T.C.H.”, which, yes, is named after a bullshit acronym that rappers love to force into existence. (The title apparently stands for “Sorry N---a, I'm Trying to Come Home”, a sentence that isn't even grammatically correct in most conversations.) Skateboard P Auto-Tunes his vocals, which is weird when you're already used to how he normally sounds when he sings, but the beat isn't bad, as Pharrell has long since abandoned the blingy synths that The Neptunes had become famous for. Pusha is okay, but for an album closer, it's remarkably unremarkable. And so.

THE LAST WORD:  My Name Is My Name has gotten a ton of positive reviews and good press, and I'll give it this: it builds on Pusha T's early promise in ways that the mixtapes and EP failed to.  But I didn't think this was consistently great: in fact, the constant stream of guest stars detracts from the star attraction.  But overall, it is still fairly entertaining: Pusha T is still one of my favorites in the current crop of emcees, and he branches out beyond coke raps successfully.  My Name Is My Name is more like a Clipse album that has slightly different subject matter and is missing one-half of the duo than it is a true Pusha T solo, though: maybe it would have helped if he didn't call in so many goddamn favors.  Production-wise, though, this project is one of the better entries of 2013, even with the missteps along the way.  "Numbers On The Board" and "Suicide" fucking bang, too: I don't need to hear an entire album featuring Terrence rocking over beats made up of whatever the fuck I have lying around my house, but it's good to hear that he has an ear for beats that take place outside of the Neptunes spectrum.  And yes, I know Pharrell produced "Suicide": just stay with me here.

In 2010, both halves of the Clipse, Pusha T and Malice, announced that they had parted ways with Jive Records, their previous employer.  Malice took things one step further, departing the rap game almost entirely while Push found himself rolling with Kanye's camp.  Although I remember hearing rumblings about 'Ye specifically wanting to sign Push and not Mal, there was good reason why only one-half of the duo pressed on: Gene "Malice" Thornton found God.

Changing his rap name to No Malice, which is apparently a quick way of showing the masses his re-devotion to his faith, Gene released a memoir, Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind & Naked, which detailed his conversion and the shunning of his past life as a man who glorified the distribution and partaking of cocaine and other drugs.  Meanwhile, his brother Push continued down the same path he had during the Clipse glory days, finding even greater success, but Gene was not moved.

Unable to stay away from the rap game forever, No Malice released his solo debut, Hear Ye Him, nearly two whole months before his brother, which is just weird timing more than it is an act of, um, malice.  (My Name Is My Name had been pushed back a bunch of times, as is Def Jam's way.)  Indicative of his new outlook on life, Hear Ye Him is a Christian rap album where Gene is unafraid to share his beliefs, but one where it otherwise sounds like, for lack of a better phrase because my brain hurts right now, a typical rap album that one-half of the Clipse would have released, regardless on the need to rely on the muse that is cocaine. 

No Malice released Hear Ye Him independently on Reinvision to critical acclaim, at least most of which must have been leftover goodwill from the early Clipse albums and those Re-Up Gang mixtapes, right?  His production budget was, unsurprisingly, significantly lower than his brother's, but he snagged one guy even Pusha couldn't get to commit: Chad Hugo, also known as the less-vocal half of The Neptunes.  Most of his guests are limited to folks who like to croon during hooks, but he convinced his boy Ab-Liva and his brother to contribute verses, so it should at least feel like a Clipse album, albeit one with a radically different focus.


The first track I ever heard from this project is also, conveniently, the first actual song on Hear Ye Him. No Malice calls in a favor from Re-Up Gang seat filler Ab-Liva over a fairly dope Illmind instrumental. Liva excels in his co-starring role, as he is prone to doing, while our host runs through an eye-opening performance that will remind the listeners, “Oh yeah, he doesn't rhyme about selling cocaine anymore”. No Malice sounds downright upset over the actions of his fellow rappers and reaffirms his commitment to his Lord. Sounds cheesy and entirely unappealing, I know, but take it from me, “Smoke & Mirrors” is just a good song. Bonus points awarded for the music video, which featured the haunting image of a teddy bear with half of its head on fire. Truly creepy. I don't know if it was the smartest move to have Liva be the first actual rapper on Hear Ye Him, but so be it.

Although No Malice has either fallen out of favor with or has decided to branch out from both of The Neptunes (along with every other rap producer in history, apparently), he's still managed to snag some banging beats for his solo debut, such as Cam Calloway's work on “Blasphemy”. Former Star Trak labelmate Fam-Lay lends a hook that distracts from the overall product, since the word “God”, as in “goddamn”, is censored (and yet Liva was able to drop some not-quite-explicit-but-not-radio-friendly bars on “Smoke & Mirrors", so what's with the double standard?), but No Malice salvages the track with two entertaining verses that will recall a simpler time, when he was still working those corners, while not pandering to the audience just because his outlook on life has shifted. Nice one.


Over some dramatic Profound Sounds entrance music, No Malice uses his two verses on this title track to repent for his past sins, mostly involving the distribution of cocaine and, to a far lesser extent, the glorification of said distribution of cocaine through his past bars. He officially buries the Malice persona, as if you hadn't realized by now that he's a changed man, as signified by the addition of the qualifier “No” to his rap name, and even goes so far as to kinda-sorta advise his brother Pusha T to do the same, although he's quick to mention that he's happy to see his rhyme partner succeeding. Although all of his talk about the “second coming” becomes a bit heavy handed, our host even handles that subject matter with grace. Huh.

While the censorship was annoying on the hook of “Blasphemy”, I weirdly appreciate the fact that Gene is editing out his own curses on this project: it reinforces the idea that nobody is perfect, and it would be both unrealistic and rather suspect if No Malice's bars were suddenly squeaky clean after a career filled with drugs, sex, and excess. The Grip Productions beat clicks in all the right ways: I also find myself admiring our host's ear for beats, apparently. Lyrically, No Malice is all about the power or positive thinking, although, as all rappers do, he feels that he hasn't received enough credit for influencing those who came up after him: somehow these two clashing ideals merge onto one song that's actually pretty good. The hook also contains a sly reference to Pet Rock and C.L. Smooth's “They Reminisce Over You “T.R.O.Y.)”, although many will probably think of it as a slight dig at Pusha T's “My God”. So.


Nando Pro's beat sounds pretty much like everything else on the radio these days, which isn't a bad thing, but it's my least favorite instrumental thus far. Still, our host's two verses go a long way toward explaining what happened to him during his hiatus: he helpfully explains that he grew “sick of rap”, was bored by all of the questions regarding his (and his brother's) actual experience moving product off the corner. No Malice walks away from the track his own man: so far, he's been more consistently entertaining on his solo album than Pusha T has managed on the few mistakes and such he's released since the last Clipse project. Weird.


The lone Clipse reunion track on Hear Ye Him one-ups My Name Is My Name merely by existing in the first place, since Pusha couldn't fit his brother onto his own solo project for whatever reason. And aside from the reggae-tinged chorus, this shit is pretty good, especially the dope-as-fuck S1 / Greg Fears instrumental. The brothers Thornton deliver relatively clean performances, building off of each other's energy in such a fashion that you're left hoping for a full-length reunion album sooner rather than later, even though you know the subject matter's going to be all over the place. It's nice to hear Pusha and No Malice put aside their differing world views in favor of delivering a hot song, and that fact that they actually succeeded is just cake.

A misstep, although it was still sweet of Gene to rep for his brother like that. Still, there's no need to actually listen to this track.

I've actually heard “June” on the radio, so I was prepared when it came up on Hear Ye Him's tracklisting, and I have to say, I didn't care for it much at either time. J-Maxx's organ-heavy instrumental isn't the worst I've ever experienced, but the hook that it builds around is self-serving and insipid, which No Malice cannot ever overcome through his three verses, all of which say the same thing. We understand that you're repenting for your past life, dude: there's no need to keep repeating the same messages. Bleh.


Sappy as shit, but No Malice sounds genuine, so his sentiments seem heartfelt, especially as he explains-slash-describes his relationships with Pusha (an ongoing theme on Hear Ye Him, apparently) and Pharrell Williams, who he appears to have no working relationship with anymore? The hell? Whatever, that will probably change again in a couple of years anyway. But our host doesn't have a bad word to say about Skateboard P, or Chad Hugo (who is mentioned, but not extensively): hell, he even shows love to ex-Re-Up Gang member Sandman. The fact that he chooses to stick to good thoughts where others would see fit to throw barbs is admirable. But I would still sit through the song just the once.

This ode to living by the beat of a different drum would have been more potent had No Malice felt the need to edit out the female vocals, as all they do is essentially repeat what our host just fucking said, which is frustrating. The rest of “Different” is okay, and the positive message is nice, but that kind of killed it for me. Sigh.


Hear Ye Him ends with a dramatic track that both swings the pendulum back in the right direction and takes a (very) mild potshot at Jay-Z and Kanye West (also known as Pusha T's boss. Hmmm...). Chad Hugo (I know, I was surprised, too) lends production that is moody and interesting, while our host's words may share a similarity to what he's said before this evening but still manage to click with the listener. After some dead air, No Malice caps off the project with a brief sermon spouting the benefits of asking for forgiveness, if you believe in that sort of thing. A bit over the top, but he gets his point across.

THE LAST WORD:  With Hear Ye Him, No Malice proves that it is possible to record and release a Christian rap album that won't turn away those who are less than willing to give stuff like this a chance.  It helps that he admits constantly through his bars that he isn't perfect, and elements of his past life creep back into his lyrics as a way of proving that it's impossible to change everything about yourself overnight.  This makes Hear Ye Him even more endearing, however, and the fact that a lot of it legitimately sounds really fucking good is a plus.  Those of you two who found yourselves tuning him out more and more during the Clipse's later years because of his shift in demeanor should give this a spin: you will be pleasantly surprised, guaranteed.  The production is pretty good, No Malice hasn't really lost a step with his lyrics, and, when you combine the best tracks on here ("Smoke & Mirrors" and "Shame The Devil" are standouts, but there are plenty more entertaining tracks to find) with the finer songs on My Name Is My Name, you can create a pretty fucking great Clipse album.  

OVERALL: Don't expect greatness from the Pusha T album, and don't let the 'Christian rap' label turn you off from No Malice.  There's good stuff on both, though.  Give them a spin.


You can read more about the Clipse here, and Pusha T's other work here.


  1. im shocked you didnt like king push....

    1. I just didn't see/hear the appeal.

    2. I know.. you didn't even compliment it on skipping the traditional rap album intro haha. I feel like the beat on King Push is massive and cinematic.. and he uses the word promenade kind of like that Clipse song where you noted that No Malice used the word socialite

    3. I agree. King Push is massive.

  2. Wassup Max it's been a while, glad to see the reviews are back. I haven't heard No Malice's shit yet, so I can't comment on that, but I thought MNIMN is an okay album, I didn't like it as much as you seemed to like it but some of the songs on here do bang. Although I'm probably just comparing this too Hell Hath No Fury a tweeny bit too much. Suicide is my favourite song on the album. Pusha T is definitely one of the better rappers out currently; I agree with you on that. I also thought to mention that on 'Nosetalgia' Pusha T outshines Kendrick, only because Mr. Duckworth sounds a tad uncomfortable on the beat. All in all, an okay album, but a part of me just wishes Pusha T would have more tracks on here that sounded more like 'Keys Open Doors'.

    Great Review(s)!

    Also, I'm intrigued: what songs DO you like from Tity Boi?

    1. I also have a problem comparing everything the Clipse members do to Hell Hath No Fury. And "Keys Open Doors" is highly underrated.

      Also, it's harder for me to answer the 2 Chainz question unless I'm drunk and at a party or a club. His stuff is built for those specific environments. Except for "Feds Watching", I suppose, which isn't bad.

  3. still haven't listened to hear ye him yet, but mnimn was pretty mediocre imo. i'm looking forward to hear ye him after this though, thanks for the review

  4. Now this is why I head to this blog; innovative posts that nobody has ever done before. I have never seen a gut reaction featuring both members of the Clipse until now. Glad to have you back Max and I hope you remain back Max because this website is why hip-hop isn't dead.

    I'll try to get the reader reviews I promised in soon, I'm feeling quite a muse myself; feels like I'm back for once.

  5. Religious music: barf.

    Anyway, Nosetalgia is quite good. However, as with all Pusha material, I sense it will become forgettable in a few months time. He has a knack for making hot music, but that's exactly what it is: hot. It swiftly cools, becoming lost in a sea of frigid mediocrity.

  6. homosensationalOctober 14, 2013

    Miley cyrus bangers please critics already calling it a classic and I agree I sold my enter the 36 chambers vinyl for it and dont regret it one bit real talk

  7. homosensationalOctober 14, 2013

    Great blog by the way

  8. Hey Max, What do you think of Busta Rhymes anouncement of ELE 2 and Wu Tang's A better tomorrow. (I loved the review by the way)

    1. As with anything Wu-related, i'll believe it when I see it. Also, I don't think anybody was really clamoring for a new Busta Rhymes album. I could be wrong.

  9. MNIMN wasn't too bad. The album does have tracks with replay value unlike most of the albums out now. The next Clipse album is going to be produced by Pharrell and Kanye.

    I'm surprised you haven't reviewed the Prodigy/Alchemist "Albert Einstein" album yet. That's been in rotation lately.

  10. Max, can you please give an opinion on Eminem's new song?

    1. When the album comes out next month, sure.

    2. You could do an 100 calorie gut reaction of his new song?

    3. Last time I did one of those for an Eminem single I got in trouble with Interscope (even though Shady Records sent me the damn single, but anyway). And also, I can't fit 100 Calorie Gut Reaction posts in my schedule at the moment. Don't fret: doesn't the album drop in a few weeks?

    4. Although I wouldn't want Interscope to send you to the naughty corner again, One does wish your blog had more 100 Calorie Gut Reaction posts solely because I would like to hear your opinion on songs that are discussed in hip hop but don't end up on albums (for instance 'Control' featuring Big Sean, and Mr. Duckworth).

  11. Any chance for an Indicud review? Your last two Cudi reviews are two of the funniest things I've ever read.

  12. Which album would you say you liked better?

    1. Even though it seems like I did just that throughout the post, it's difficult to compare them. Coke rap vs. Christian rap? But I did find No Malice's project a tad bit more interesting mainly because it was different than what I usually listen to. "Numbers On The Board" and "Suicide" trounce everything on Hear Ye Him, though, so.

  13. Max, ive been a reader for over a year now. I've always felt you've judged fairly and feel like this is a last bastion for real hip hop fans to congregate to. I'm virtually on my knees begging you to at least give a listen to the underachievers debut indigoism. An album by a duo from New York that is the best album to come out of that city by two emcees since The Cold Vein. Thanks for the great reviews and glad to see you back, best wishes.

  14. My Name is My Name wasn't quite as good as I thought it would be, but there were still some good tracks. Hear Ye Him was better than I expected.
    Max, what do you think is the album of the year so far?

  15. i thought Pusha's album was really good. Over half of it is in heavy rotation

  16. As for Hear Ye Him, I agree with you when you say the album is successful in being a religious album but doesn't turn away fans for being one. It was an insightful listen, definitely. Clipse fans should go out their way to listen to it at least once, and not let MNIMN overshadow this. Once again, when compared to Hell Hath No Fury I'd say the last song on that album 'Nightmares' sounds the closest they've done to Hear Ye Him. Lyrics-Wise, Malice is (No) Malice and the production is much better than expected.

    It's also great that both the Thornton Brothers' solo debuts lasted less than 45 minutes: that was absolutely AWESOME for my attention span. Even with the useless interludes on Hear Ye Him that could've been attached in the beginning or end of songs that are next to them. There is absolutely no surprise, Max, that you are getting less and less creative about making jokes about skits in albums. One would get tired about writing about the uselessness of them for 6 and a half years. But the skits on No Malice's debut are among the most useless skits on hip hop albums ever. They're that pointless.