Pusha T, one half of Virginia Beach-bred “coke rap”-pioneering The Clipse, seems to have taken forever to drop his proper solo album My Name Is My Name, which finally saw the light of day this week. It must not be easy having his pedigree, though; he can deliver clever street-level raps on one hand while contributing to club anthems on another. It has taken the rapper years to hone in on that sweet spot in the market and put out a project like MNIMN, which derives its title from HBO’s The Wire. Joining Kanye West’s Def Jam-distributed G.O.O.D. Music upped the ante further, and after his scene-stealing verses on Kanye’s Cruel Summer (“New God Flow”), the question most hip-hop fans wanted answered was, ‘can Pusha T deliver a classic album?’
The question is highly rhetorical and subjective, of course; even a cursory listen will tell you the album is well thought out, sequenced and arranged. That said, while the production comes from A-listers like Swizz Beats, Kanye West and others, it is also consistently subdued, deliberately paced, more suited for headphones or a car audio system. There are no high-energy songs, which isn’t detrimental per se, but combined with Pusha T’s delivery, can make it seem like the songs drone on without emanating much emotion.
The lyrical intricacies, the conscious dope-boy perspective and unique topic angles comprise the best qualities of MNIMN. On “Numbers On The Boards,” which boasts production credits by Don Cannon, Kanye West and 88-Keys, Pusha T is in top form with quotable lines like, “Every car driven was decided by the whores/ Keep the sticker in the window in case you wonder what it costs/ How could you relate when you’ve never been great/ And rely on rap money to keep food up on your plates/ I might sell a brick on my birthday, 36 years of doing dirt like it’s Earth Day.”
Although it’s a Def Jam release, My Name Is My Name is an album by a rapper’s rapper. The label’s A&R touch is evident on R&B-flavored Chris Brown collaboration “Sweet Serenade,” but Brown doesn’t dominate the song, and the Kanye West and Swizz Beats production features choir voices in the background and a tempo almost identical to “Numbers On The Boards.” One of the album’s best cuts is “Hold On,” which bears the distinct Hudson Mohawke touch via well-orchestrated synths and piano arrangement, as well as a perfectly executed Rick Ross guest feature.
MNIMN is a mere 12 tracks, being long on epic, potentially classic songs with almost no filler. On “Nosetalgia,” the relatively simple beat co-produced by Kanye West, Twilight Tone and Nottz, lays a foundation for Pusha T and Kendrick Lamar to reminisce about the impact cocaine dealing and use had on their respective families. The Pharrell Williams-produced “S.N.I.T.C.H.” – which stands for “Sorry N***a I’m Trying To Come Home” – brings forth a different perspective, one that isn’t too often (read: never) celebrated in street-level rap.
With My Name Is My Name, Pusha T doesn’t compromise his core competencies for overt attempts at radio hits. The album has substance and a consistent sonic theme, although it does sputter at times. Even in its weaker moments, lyricism stays intricate, and it doesn’t hurt that Push’s voice is instantly recognizable. MNIMN does require that a listener have a certain taste – discernment, even – for rap music that toes the line between backpacker and street. With that out of the way, the level of appreciation for Pusha T’s long-awaited proper solo debut should increase and stay during many replays.