May 25, 2018

My Gut Reaction: Pusha T - Daytona (May 25, 2018)


Ever since he released his first full-length solo album in 2013, Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton has been promising a project entitled King Push. It’s a title he’s so enamored with that he’s already used it twice: once for the opening song on said debut, My Name Is My Name (a track which, bizarrely, we all briefly believed to have been produced by actor Joaquin Phoenix because of members of the press who couldn’t be bothered to fact-check), and again on his sophomore effort, King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, which was originally supposed to be a teaser for the actual project, but ended up being its own beast due to the passage of time. He held onto this King Push dream for five fucking years, even releasing three alleged singles from the project to test the waters (including the Jay-Z collaboration “Drug Dealers Anonymous”), but, at the insistence his boss at G.O.O.D. Music, Kanye West (a label which is itself a bit confusing, since Push is the president of that label, so theoretically he should be calling a lot of the shots), he scrapped multiple completed versions of what was supposed to be his third full-length in a quest for perfection.

Which leads us to the roughly twenty minutes of music Pusha T has called an “album”, Daytona. Terrence claims the title was changed because of his mindstate at the time of recording this project in Wyoming alongside Kanye Alt-West, somehow equating the name Daytona with having the luxury of time, in that it took him five fucking years to deliver us twenty minutes of music. I still believe it’s so he can still promise his fans an album called King Push at a later date.


Having disowned his previously-released singles from what this project originally was (“H.G.T.V.”, a song I had forgotten existed; “Circles”, a Desiigner collaboration which, just, no thank you; and “Drug Dealers Anonymous”, which probably wouldn’t have fit onto here anyway, especially given Hova’s current animosity toward his Trump-loving former Throne buddy), Pusha-Ton started from scratch, working with his producer to deliver his typical coke raps, tales of selling coke, and lavish anecdotes of luxurious items he has purchased with profits gained by selling coke, but in a new and interesting fashion. It’s the man’s go-to theme, one he’s held on to ever since his early days within our chosen genre in the Clipse, a duo made up of his brother Malice No Malice and himself. In theory, this shtick should have gotten old very quickly, but Terrence has always had a good ear for production, and co-signs from his Virginia friends The Neptunes and, now, Kanye #MAGA, have helped him get his message across. All the while, the man has honed his craft, tightening his grip on his words and only speaking what is necessary for the audience to visualize his worldview.

Said coke raps had to have been in ‘Ye’s mind when he changed the album cover from whatever the fuck it was to the photo you see above, taken inside of the late Whitney Houston’s drug-riddled bathroom. Because nobody that seeks out Daytona would already be familiar with Pusha T’s particular set of skills, bro? Regardless, it’s kind of tacky as fuck, but unfortunately, it is a striking image, and all Kanye does is self-promote these days, so I guess he won this battle. (Although the $85,000.00 it cost to license the photo could have been put to much fucking better use: I hear Flint still doesn’t have clean water.)

Speaking of self-promotion, Daytona is the first of five promised albums from G.O.O.D. Music in 2018, and it is tainted by the actions of its executive producer, the aforementioned Kanye West. The man’s outright rim-jobbing of the alt-right, all done in the name of “independent thinking”, has turned off a lot of his fans, many of whom (like myself) consider him to be one of the finest producers in musical history, not just within hip hop, which makes it incredibly awkward that former Hillary Clinton supporter Terrence Thornton has to be the first out of the gate, as he’s been forced to give the press sound bites which express how much he and ‘Ye “disagree” politically. He’s been careful not to say too much, though, staying eerily silent throughout West’s entire debacle, as speaking out could have hurt his chances of getting a glorified EP’s worth of straight Kanye beats. We see you.

Daytona, which is less than half as long as Pusha T’s proper solo debut, Fear of God II: Let Us Pray, which actually was a fucking EP, features wall-to-wall production from West, who allegedly listened to what Push last turned in as King Push (a project with multiple producers, just like all of his past solo work) and elected to re-do all of the beats his damn self (sure, those aren’t the actions of a narcissist control freak). It only contains two guest verses, but neither come from his past lives as either one-half of the Clipse (not that No Malice would accept the invitation anyway: after dedicating himself to his God, he’s clearly moved on, subject matter-wise) or one-quarter of the Re-Up Gang (sadly, this means Ab-Liva, who has graced every Push solo effort thus far, has to sit this one out). Instead, Terrence ceded the microphone to the likes of Rick Ross (a past collaborator, so this makes sense) and ‘Ye himself, which, groan.

Anyway, here’s Daytona.

1. IF YOU KNOW YOU KNOW
Our host begins spitting immediately, which was a nice touch. “If You Know You Know”, a bullshit song title that approximates Pusha T winking at the audience while not really talking about his pre-rap source of income, and smugly at that, features an interesting ‘Ye instrumental that is minimalist at first, expanding every few bars or so, until the listener is forced to nod their head in agreement. The music is actually good, folks, especially if you fall into the minority that believe My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was an overproduced slog (yeah, those people do exist). Terrence’s bars land on the lazy side of the fence, a few deft punchlines and choice references to Hit-Boy and Trugoy the Dove deflected by standard-issue boasts-and-bullshit, but aside from the repetitive chanting of the title throughout, this wasn’t a bad way to start things, Not so much a “song” as it is a “rap album intro”, however.

2. THE GAMES WE PLAY
I really liked #MAGA’s beat on here, too: “The Games We Play” features musical backing that I only just realized I was hoping to hear on My Name Is My Name’s “Nosetalgia” (another West production that I don’t really give a shit about today, come @ me). This is the more casually boastful Pusha-Ton that I prefer, as he delivers a one-verse wonder with the confidence of Raekwon and Ghostface Killah, both of whom he compares himself to within a single bar. Coke raps abound, yes, but it seems like our host has yet to run out of ways to spin them, as his flow over this concise slab of funk is engaging as shit. Expect “The Games We Play” to dominate most of the critical takes on Daytona.

3. HARD PIANO (FEAT. RICK ROSS)
Pusha’s name-dropping of both Harvey Weinstein and Matt Laure timestamp this piece: in no way was “Hard Piano” ever considered for the original version of King Push. ‘Ye’s beat indeed includes a piano, although it isn’t as hard as one would have hoped. Our host’s verse sounds technically fine, but I couldn’t really get into it, now could I stand the hook, performed either by an uncredited vocalist or a sample (as of this writing there is no information available online), played in a register pitched much higher than absolutely necessary. Officer Ricky Rozay, who likely recorded his cameo in between his highly-publicized recent seizures, comes across as a cool, controlled crime boss type who has long been in the phase of his rap career where he’s inexplicably become much more interesting behind the microphone, so he easily walks away with “Hard Piano”, a track which, in truth, I’ll likely never get back to.

4. COME BACK BABY
Aside from the bit underneath the hook, a sample from who knows where at this point (I’m sure the full album credits will be available online by the time you two finally read this post, but fuck it), ‘Ye’s beat is very simplistic, so much so that the vast majority of “Come Back Baby” sounds like a freestyle over a generic boom-bap instrumental recorded for one of those Funkmaster Flex “mixtapes” released by Loud Records. Push is surely a capable-enough artist to walk through this kind of track with ease, but there isn’t much for the listener to grab on to here. Ah well.

5. SANTERIA
Thankfully nota cover of that Sublime song that was already played out in the late 1990s, “Santeria” feels like Daytona’s take on “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets”, in that a lot of Pusha’s bars seem similarly boastful, so much so that I’m sure the verses could be swapped out with very little overall impact. The music itself wasn’t bad: certainly a step above “Come Back baby”. But fans who were hoping for a bit more from our host on the lyrical side of things (and seriously, why the hell would you be expecting that at this point) will walk away disappointed. His early bars approach No Malice territory before quickly retreating, however: is it really too much to ask for these brothers to record another song together?

6. WHAT WOULD MEEK DO? (FEAT. KANYE WEST)
The song I had been looking forward to the least ever since I found out about its existence, like, two days ago. ‘Ye’s voice is the first you hear on “What Would Meek Do?”, but he’s there just to set up our host at first, who spits bars that aren’t about the formerly-incarcerated Meek Mill at all, really, over a driven instrumental that feels like #MAGA is mainlining the beat directly into your bloodstream. The music is pretty good, is what I’m trying to say. The conceit of the track is that Pusha and his guest are responding to media criticism in song form, so when Kanye West takes to the microphone, don’t let the audible grown you involuntarily let out obscure the gfact that he so clearly recorded his contribution within the past two weeks : shit, he even directly references that dumbass “whoopity-poopity-scoop” track he trolled his fans with in late April. ‘Ye sounds like he wrote his verse all by his lonesome: Rhymefest would never have let him sound like this, and his former ghostwriter-slash-fellow “independent thinker” CyHi the Prynce could never gift him bars this silly and off-beat. He performs with a mixture of exasperation and dickishness, as though he still doesn’t understand why anyone’s pissed off at him, because he doesn’t live in the real world and, while a musical genius, is a fucking idiot. Alt-right assholes, neo-Nazis, and Trump supporters (which, if you fall into one of those three categories, get the fuck off my blog) surely won’t be thrilled with his insinuation that he only wears a MAGA hat in order to avoid being pulled over by racist cops. But I digress: there are many other writers who will dissect and overanalyze ‘Ye’s verse on “What Would Meek Do?”, so I’ll end this paragraph by saying that I liked the music, and someone else should have been given the opportunity tp feature on here. I hear Meek Mill is available. Also, Pusha’s Chappelle’s Show reference at the top caught me off guard and made me laugh out loud.

7. INFRARED
Pusha’s Trump-baiting at the start aside, Daytona caps the evening with the most timely of tracks, the Drake dis “Infrared”, another entry into the most lethargic rap beef in recent memory. Kanye’s beat is sparse, barely providing any of the structure necessary for our host to catch the rhythm, which was an interesting choice, as Pusha T’s infrequent Drake attacks have all come across as opinions given during conversations held in the quieter backyards of house parties, except they happen to rhyme. Push references an old Re-Up Gang record while taking credit for shedding light on the victimization of Lil Wayne, who has famously been screwed for decades now by his label boss. The anti-Aubrey lines, which bookend the piece, all seem to focus on how he doesn’t write any of his own songs, a trait Meek Mill tried and failed to exploit back in 2015, since it turns out that nobody seems to give a fuck if Drake writes his own rhymes. Maybe “Infrared” is an actual holdover from King Push, because I have no idea why he’s just releasing this now. It probably should have been given away as a loosey, not unlike his other Drake disses.

THE LAST WORD: Terrence Thornton has been in the rap game an awfully long time. The man pre-dates the global popularity of his friends, The Neptunes. The Clipse’s intended debut album, Exclusive Audio Footage, features a Noreaga cameo recorded between 1996 and 1999, which was around the time he was blowing up as a solo artist. He started rapping around the same time as Lil Wayne, so you know the man is old. Through all of this, he’s never wavered from his commitment to deliver solid coke raps in an engaging fashion. But while Daytona has a lot going for it, such as its run time (getting rid of the bullshit filler is always a plus), its consistent sound (he may be an dumbass, but Kanye West still knows how to craft a beat or two), and Push’s own consistency behind the mic, it isn’t a perfect album. There are still tracks on here that won’t make it to your personal playlist. Hey, it happens. Music is subjective. Don’t believe anyone that tells you that this shit is flawless: there are too many critics out there whose intent is not to tell listeners the absolute truth, but to merely get their review out there first, and to hopefully catch the eye of the artist so as to curry favor. Pusha T is one of my favorite rappers out right now, and I’m always going to find something to like on his projects, so overall I wasn’t disappointed by Daytona: “The Games We Play” is a fucking banger, and I appreciate the experimentation “Infrared” attempts. The twenty minutes flies by fairly quickly, as well, so there’s almost no time investment here. So while it didn’t work for me entirely, I liked enough of this to be intrigued. And with that, let the media cycle shift to the next G.O.O.D. Music release, which is supposed to be Kanye’s own project, which, ugh.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Catch up with Pusha T, both solo and as a part of the Clipse, by clicking where you’re supposed to click.




7 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 25, 2018

    Is Kanye a dumbass or a brilliant market/self promoter? I'll bet he stole some of Eminem's fans who turned on him after Em went against Trump. He probably gained more fans from his antics and he also gave his entire label attention. I'll bet this got Pusha T some new listeners too. Maybe we are the dumbasses who don't understand what he's doing?

    I loved this entire EP or LP whatever it is. I thought every beat was great and I enjoyed Ye's verse. Max I find it odd that you sometimes say that Kanye is too serious in his rhymes even when he isn't taking them seriously.. confusing me man.

    I want to hear your take on A$AP Rocky's album! I think the production is next level.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AnonymousMay 26, 2018

      Fuck Kanye, fuck Push, fuck Trump and everything he represents, and mostly fuck this anonymous.

      Delete
    2. When I wrote that his verse on "What Would Meek Do?" was "silly", I meant it was BAD. And I never said his lyrics are too serious: my complaint about the entirety of Yeezus was that he lost his sense of humor, a trait he worked back into his repertoire on Pablo, for better and for worse.

      I wrote on twitter that you can hear my eyes rolling when reading my thoughts on his verse. I stand by that.

      Delete
  2. AnonymousMay 26, 2018

    I sincerely love this shit. But five years for a lunch break album? Come on, Push

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  3. AnonymousMay 26, 2018

    I find it very bizarre that Ye changed the album cover seemingly without Pusha’s consent, is this really a Ye project?

    ReplyDelete
  4. AnonymousMay 26, 2018

    If Kanye produces at this level for his own stuff, I'll be excited to hear it even with his lyrics. But man... that verse was bad

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  5. AnonymousMay 27, 2018

    Hey Max have you heard Guru's Jazzmatazz? If you have could you do a review on it. If you haven't heard it you should listen to it.

    ReplyDelete