Album: My Name Is My Name
Artist: Pusha T
Released: Octorber 7, 2013
For the longest time, it seemed like Pusha T’s best days were behind him. Once part of the promising hiphop duo Clipse, with his brother (No) Malice, Pusha T once helped create albums as popular and well-received as Hell Hath No Fury and Lord Willin’. However, label issues and a general rut seemed to stall his musical career and though his recruitment into Kanye West’s label G.O.O.D Music began with promise, with excellent verses on important projects like West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the G.O.O.D Music collection Cruel Summer, the question still lingered – does Pusha T have what it takes to stand on his own? My Name Is My Name, his first solo major label album, is his defiant answer. It is a return to the origins of the genre, its lyricism a throwback to the trap lord phase of the gangsta era, its sound grounded firmly in the present with Kanye’s Yeezus influenced minimalism providing the overarching musical framework for the album’s production. After West’s bewildering ‘Everything is Pusha T’ rant, big things were expected of this project and thankfully it does not fail to deliver.
Thematically, this is a very simple album. Almost every song consists of Pusha T revisiting familiar topics – the drug game, fame, his place in hiphop and the prices he has paid to secure each. This is not an album to go to if you want nuanced discourse on the merits and downsides of the drug trade, nor is it one if you value self-awareness above everything else. Despite that, however, it is an honest album with Push evoking some powerful images from a past life and painting familiar pictures with slightly different colours. The real reason that the album shines actually comes down to the old adage of storytelling: it’s not what the story is about that matters, but rather how it’s told. Pusha T is not really saying anything on this album that a hundred albums have not touched before, some in much deeper detail but he is lending the tale his own voice and experiences. It is clear that he has given the actual verses themselves a great deal of thought with clever punchlines and bars filled with double meanings and intelligent allusions. Combine all of that with a veteran’s flow and you have songs with words that are easy on the mind and the ear. A great example of this in action is on the imagery filled track ‘Nosetalgia’:
“Twenty plus years of selling Johnson and Johnson,
I started out as a baby-faced monster,
No wonder there’s diaper rash on my conscience”
While Push does at least a credible job throughout the album, there are simply some tracks where the production lets him down. He sounds best on hard-hitting, heavy sounds like those in ‘Numbers On The Boards’ or ‘Nosetalgia’ but seems a little uncomfortable on smoother, R&B influenced tracks like ’40 Acres’ or ‘Let Me Love You’. His flow on these songs is not terrible by any means, but the tracks’ sounds just do not match his harsh, forceful style.
Great things were understandably expected of this album given that Yeezus himself would be heading the production team. It would be ludicrous to suggest that the production has let the album down yet it is a testament to Push’s verses that this is closer to the truth than one might expect. The production is certainly the weakest link in the album and it’s a shame given how well the album begins. The sound of each of the first three tracks is nothing short of stellar, with West bringing back the dark, minimalism that was a hallmark of Yeezus. However, while Yeezus’ sound felt exceptionally, and some would say unpleasantly, rough, the same kind of sound suits Push perfectly. The minimalism lends strength to his voice while the dark tone matches his subject matter perfectly. The paradise is lost shortly after though as the production begins to wander away from its initial master plan. While none of the sounds at outright awful, they are undeniably plain – ‘Suicide’ which features Pharrell Williams at the production board seems a little too simple for the album, almost as though he got Kanye’s memo but couldn’t follow the directions perfectly. Then there is ’40 Acres’ which is far too slow and drains the energy built from all the tracks preceding it. The worst offender however, is ‘Who I am’. The track consists of a single, simple loop that gets very old very fast and the repetitiveness is made worse by 2Chainz repeating himself with an oddly clumsy flow.
My Name Is My Name gets its name from the TV show ‘The Wire’ and is oddly appropriate to an album in which most of the content seems drug related. This album is Push’s attempt at saying that he stands by who he is, what he is and how he got to where he is now. While all of this is fine on paper, there are some clear signs here that this is not an entirely honest record either. Push talks about being ‘unpolished’ and ‘unapologetic’ but the real truth of the matter is that both those statements are false. The production here is a little shaky but at the same time, there are enough pop-music powerhouses supporting it that it simply cannot fail – an album full of Kanye, Pharrell and (god save me) Swizz Beatz is hardly going to go unnoticed by the mainstream. There is definitely a conscious attempt to appeal to the pop as well – songs like ‘Let Me Love You’ with Kelly Rowland are a clear pander to the mainstream. At the same time, while it can be entertaining to listen to unabashed narcissism and dope boy swagger, an album full of it feels empty and soulless. These are aspects of the album that are not strictly musically related but pull it down nonetheless. It is a good album, without a doubt, but it could have been great if its creators had all tried to put their souls into it instead of selling those souls away.
Numbers On The Boards
|King Push||Kanye West||5|
|Numbers On The Boards||Don Cannon||5|
|Sweet Serenade||Swizz Beatz||5|
|Hold On||Kanye West||4.25|
|No Regrets||Hudson Mohawke||4|
|Let Me Love You||The-Dream||3.5|
|Who I Am||Kanye West||3.5|