Pusha T ‘Daytona’ – Review

28 May

Recently, Kanye West hasn’t made life particularly easy for himself (or his defenders) so it’s nice to hear him back doing what he does best – producing great Hip Hop. Not to take anything away from Pusha T (a distinctive rapper who is delivering some of his sharpest couplets here) but this is Kanye’s party. Observe the dusty soul samples. The powerful pauses and moments of empty space that proceed a gut punch lyric. The daring concept, unexpected running length and controversial cover art (a photo of the late Whitney Houston’s bathroom) – all Kanye tropes. On ‘Daytona’ Kanye takes of his MAGA hat to put his producer one back on, and it’s a much better fit.

Other than his work in Clipse, Pusha T is probably best known for his guest spots and collaborations – his tight verses and easy on the ear vocal tone lend themselves to this format. His solo albums have been more a source of adventure and he has developed a reputation as being the connoisseur’s gangsta rapper; putting sharp observations about the culture over artful, often experimental, productions. With ‘Daytona’ he has produced something far more accessible but just as impressive. The audacity lies in the simplicity. Seven short, well executed tracks that take cues from 2003 more than 2018. The opening brace of ‘If You Know You Know’ and ‘The Games We Play’ are real old school world beaters; snappy rhymes over razor sharp beats and soulful samples. The album continues in this vein, and there isn’t a week song on here, or any opportunity that feels wasted or unnecessary. The guest verses – Rock Ross and Kanye himself – are short and well curated, though this is very much 2018, Make America Great Again, political firebrand Kanye in action. It feels somewhat jarring to hear him ‘poop skoop’ in the middle of ‘What Would Meek’ do. ‘You got to watch who you’re calling crazy’. Okayyyyyy.

At twenty minutes, the album is too slight to build up a real head of steam, and the occasionally vacuous lyrics don’t help cement a feeling of substance. Largely this is a braggadocios account of how great it feels to be a millionaire drug dealer – which won’t come as a surprise to anyone whose heard Pusha T before. Still, as innovative as Pusha can be in other areas, it’s disappointing to hear some of his tired, cliched themes re-emerge, not to mention the misogynistic and racist put downs toxically seep out of his mouth with noticeable regularity. As progressive as he is in certain areas, Pusha T, like his friend Kanye, is regressive in others. But ‘Daytona’ is superficially flawless and stylistically impressive enough to warrant repeated listens.

7.5/10

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