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Album review: Pusha T 'My Name Is My Name'

October 09, 2013|By Ernest Wilkins, @ErnestWilkins

What’s that old phrase about still wanting to smell flowers while you’re still alive or something? I don't really recall it, but after the run he's had while still not being acknowledged for his skill, it's high time we gave Pusha T some roses. 

After riding a consistent career as one half of the Clipse (his partner/brother Malice since has decamped to a more righteous path as a religious rapper), Pusha found a new beginning as the lyrical muscle of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music camp. Tons of standout features and his own solo debut (2011’s “Fear of God 2: Let Us Pray”) later, we find ourselves at “MNIMN” (a reference to Marlo Stanfield, drug czar from “The Wire”).

If there are three takeaways from this album, they are: Pusha T would REALLY like you to know that he’s not a rapper, but a drug dealer who just happens to be great at rhyming (“I don’t make hooks,” he gruffly reminds you); you don’t need a bunch of heavy production to make a banging rap song (cut to Rick Rubin nodding on Jay-Z’s couch); and Pusha T can rap his ass off. 

Take opening track “King Push,” for example. The beat originally was rumored to have been produced by Joaquin Phoenix, of all people, but in actuality was helmed by the stepson of Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. No matter who’s behind it, Pusha floats effortlessly, jabbing and challenging the listener to deny his ability and/or flow. 

This flow is the handiest item in Pusha’s toolbox; he uses it to emphasize salient points (“40 Acres”), lower his voice to an almost growl (“Pain”) and weave a pitch-perfect Ma$e impression on “Let Me Love You.” (Seriously, you’ll do a double take.) The less-is-more aesthetic adopted by Kanye West and his in-house production/art studio have seeped into this record as well. The beats are minimalist, serving as a stage to let the listener truly hear what’s being said. That might sound like an old man gripe, but when the lyrics are this potent, you don’t mind a lack of clutter. 

Standouts include Pusha and Kendrick Lamar trading downright sinister bars on “Nosetalgia,” the braggadocios “Who I Am” featuring 2 Chainz and the final track, “S.N.I.T.C.H” feat. Pharrell, where Pusha opines on a friend-turned-informant. The subject material can get repetitive if you aren’t used to Pusha, but hey, a little cocaine talk isn’t the worst thing in the world. “MNIMN” is a welcome addition to what has shaped up as a rich year for rap fans.

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