On DAYTONA Pusha T finally makes his long awaited return to the rap game and delivers, but still leaves just a bit to be desired for.
Pusha T has been a staple in Hip Hop for years. Since the 2000’s Pusha T has dropped classic albums as part of the Clipse with Malice, like Lord Willin and Hell Hath No Fury. After his time with Pharrell and Malice, Pusha went on to work with GOOD Music and Kanye West. Through GOOD Music Pusha T delivered a few solid albums including My Name is My Name, which was probably his solo peak up until this point. So when Kanye announced Pusha T’s first album in 3 years, fans were eager to see what Push would bring to the table. With a run time of just 21 minutes, Pusha T keeps DAYTONA short and sweet. With this run time Pusha T can get all of his ideas out without overstaying his welcome, a rare case in contemporary hip hop. With stream Trolling at an all time, it is quite refreshing seeing some of the biggest artists shortening their track lists.
On DAYTONA we get what we expect from Pusha T: drug references, filthy flows, and unbridled cockiness. Pusha raps in his usual menacing tone, over seven different Kanye West beats that suit him perfectly. DAYTONA is a reflection of where Pusha T is at in his career, as well as Kanye in his production. Kanye has been known to take a back seat to other producers on his most recent efforts, so I was curious to see where he would pick up on his beats. He did not disappoint.
DAYTONA kicks off with “If You Know You Know.” The track begins with a skeletal intro, that just hints of the beat to come. This simplistic intro makes way for Pusha to set the tone of the track. You hang on every word Pusha T says, until you hear the refrain “if you know you know”, and then the beat comes in mercilessly. The high pitched guitar sample, with the erratic vocal samples energize the tracks immediately. Pusha rides this incredible beat impeccably with his usual confident energy. Lyrically Pusha flexes hard on this track. With many references to drugs, obviously, but also his standing in the rap game. “The company I keep is not corporate enough/ Child Rebel Soldier, You ain’t Orphan Enough/A rapper turned trapper cant morph into us/ but a trapper turned rapper can morph into puff,” is one of the many stand out lines on the song, referencing Child Rebel Soldier (Kanye, Pharrell, Lupe, push), GOOD Music, and of course his prominence as a drug kingpin.
The hype from track one rolls right into “The Games We Play.” This is maybe the best beat on the entire project. The tight looped guitar sample is menacing, and sort of psychedelic, and when the horn samples come in the beat becomes even more lively. And of course Pusha comes through with more impressive bars. Of course there are drug metaphors and lines about moving bricks, but it’s the lines like “I am your Ghost and your Rae/ This is my purple Tape, save up for rainy days” take the cake. Pusha also addresses his doubters about the album length with simple dismissal. Though Pusha is not known for his prowess with hooks, he comes through with an earworm on this track.
On “Hard Piano,” the project takes a slight dip in energy. The beat is very repetitive, enlisting moody piano sample that repeats itself throughout the track. Pusha comes through with an introspective verse about the potential pitfalls of fame, including women ,jewelry, and the law. Pusha also emphasizes his place among the top tier in rap saying “I’m too rare among this pink hair.” Tony Williams performs a dramatic hook for the track that fits the vibe of the track well. But unfortunately the hook is rather forgettable. Maybe if a little more was added to the production during the hook, it would have been more noteworthy. Rick Ross handles the back half of the track with his usual topics of drugs and money. But his verse was very run of the mill and seemed like a pointless addition to the song.
“Come Back Baby” is another prolific track form Pusha T on the project. This track illustrates the juxtaposition of the life Pusha has made from selling drugs to the life of the addict’s that he serves. On the verses, Pusha T raps over a simple percussion only beat that gives him plenty of space to rhyme. Pusha details the life of luxury he has obtained from dealing. But this is directly contrasted with the George Jackson sampled chorus. Jackson emotionally sings “Never have I been locked up in a world of misery/ I need you darling to set me free/ Come back baby, try me one more time/ Ooh baby, I’m bout to go out of mind.” Jackson is singing from the perspective of an addict almost begging for drugs to ease their pain. This shows the rare glimpse into the guilty conscious of Pusha T.
“Come Back Baby” smoothly transitions into the next track “Santeria.” Pusha raps over a dreary melancholy guitar lead about the passing of his friend De’von Picket. Pusha uses religion as an outlet for his mourning, rapping multiple metaphors revolving around God. Pusha is clearly shaken up by his friend’s murder, but he admits to his hypocrisy when he raps about his willingness to kill others in his life over drugs or money. The somber Spanish chorus makes the track even more heart wrenching. This tracks shows Pusha as a more complex person than he lets on.
What “Would Meek Do?” Is another highlight on DAYTONA. The beat consists of chilling keys as Pusha raps about his response to haters and doubters. The references to Meek Mill are timely, and represent Pusha’s carefree attitude towards the law. Kanye West takes advantage of his feature to respond to his critics, specifically the recent criticism he has been receiving for his controversial political opinions. His opening lines of “Poop Scoop” are a hilarious call back to his recent song Lift Yourself, which served as a troll towards Ebro and rap fans in general. Kanye addresses his critics saying he is out of touch because he is rich, poking fun at their criticism that “his hallway is too long.” Kanye then shows that he is not out of touch with societal issues in America with the lines “If you ain’t drivin while black will they stop you/Will MAGA hats let me slide trough the drive-thru.” These two lines show that Yeezy is aware of the prevalent racism in the American justice system. They also show another possible motivation behind wearing the MAGA hat (May be an allusion to the rumored performance art piece, but I am not going to give that theory credit until it is proven). Ye also mentions his struggle with mental abuse when he mentions his pills, but takes it further trying to be a mental health advocate by “showing his scars.” Overall, “What Would Meek Do?” Is a great track as Kanye steals the show with one of his most intriguing verses in a long time.
Lastly, how could we forget “Infrared,” the long awaited Drake diss. Infrared is a response to Drake’s song “Two birds, One Stone,” from a few years ago. Pusha raps over another skeletal beat with a simple drum pattern and an ominous vocal sample repeating “Infrared, you know what I mean?” Pusha T pens a large handful of quotables on this track as he attacks Drake and Young Money as a whole. From the get go Pusha goes at Drakes ghosts writing claiming his “hooks did it” and that “it was written like Nas, but it came from Quentin”, a reference to Quentin Miller, Drake’s alleged ghostwriter. Pusha later attacks Birdman for keeping his artists, like Lil Wayne, hostage and salutes Rick Ross for dissing him on his track “Idols Become Rivals.” Drake has since responded to Pusha’s claims that he is a “puppet” on “Duppy Freestyle,” which is a ruthless response to Pusha’s aggressive bars. This will definitely be an interesting beef to watch in the coming weeks.
Overall, DAYTONA lives up to the expectations that have been placed on Pusha T. The majority of tracks are filled with eerie and intense beats that suit Pusha T’s rhyme and flow style perfectly. But at a run time of just 21 minutes, I couldn’t help but feel a little unsatisfied. The tracks Pusha and Kanye laid forth are definitely formidable, and the short track list is commendable in this streaming age, but a few more tracks would have left me completely nourished. But with this gripe aside, DAYTONA was tight and entertaining.
Highlights: If you Know You Know, The Games We Play, Come Back Baby, Santeria, What Would Meek Do, Infrared
Lowlights: Hard Piano