Overt egocentricity seems to run rampant within the G.O.O.D. Music family. As the release date for the frequently delayed My Name Is My Name crept closer, Pusha T held no qualms about prematurely naming it album of the year and boasted, “There is no production in the world that is better than this album.” Even the almighty Yeezus—who recorded with him in Paris—made a rare exception to evangelize the accomplishments of his colleague during his “Everything is Pusha T” rant at a New York listening session.
Since basking in the limelight with mentor Kanye at the 2010 VMAs, the king of the coke flow has continued to relentlessly fight for respect as a solo artist while rising to fame as one half of Virginia duo The Clipse. With an acclaimed verse on “I Don’t Like” and three mixtapes including “Fear Of God” and “Wrath Of Caine” under his belt, his first studio effort, My Name Is My Name offers Pusha the chance to capitalize on the increased visibility that Clipse’s aborted Jive deal never afforded him. My Name Is My Name’s displays of skillful lyricism will help Pusha finally attain spots on hottest emcee lists and be praised by Rap aficionados ‘til the casket drops. However, it comes up short making a case for album of the year, and a good portion of the problem lies on the production front.
During the ardent opener “King Push,” he commands attention spitting, “This is my time, this is my hour / This is my pain, this is my name, this is my power, ” over a haunting drumline with ad-libs that sound borrowed from the same sped up vocal sample found near the end of “New Slaves.” His flow appears effortless over the beat reportedly supplied by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich’s son (courtesy of Joaquin Phoenix).
The thin line that separates glorifying a life of crime from reflecting on it has usually been decided by Pusha’s ability to talk about the mind state that goes into consciously choosing the street life. At his best, he’s done this, articulated how vapid the spoils can be or had Malice to balance him out. This time around, Pusha reflects on his escape from the drug game and its often-inevitable imprisonment on the Kanye and Hudson Mohawke produced “Hold On,” with the following bars:
“Painted my heart, it’s as black as my skin / They tippin’ the scales for these crackers to win / No readin’ no writing, made a savage of men / They prayin’ for jail, but I mastered the pen / Descended from kings, we at it again,” he emotes over somber piano chords.
Given that My Name Is My Name is Pusha T’s platform for rhyming over top-notch soundscapes, it’s unfortunate that a lot of the production doesn’t compliment his flow. “40 Acres”—produced by The-Dream and Rico Beats—sounds like a better fit for an easy-listening station. Pusha is on point with the social commentary, but the combination of the slow tempo, sparse keys and pulsating synths is just a poor match. And that’s a shame considering how great the chemistry between Pusha T and The-Dream was on “Dope Chick” and “Exodus 23:1.”
On the R&B infused track “Let Me Love You,” Pusha takes a page from Ma$e’s rhyme book and emulates his trademark flow from “What You Want.” At times, his voice is so uncannily similar to that of the former Bad Boy emcee, one might expect Total to join in on the hook instead of Kelly Rowland.
A trio of high-profile tracks near the end of MNIMN offer the best of both worlds in terms of Pusha T catering to the Top 40 crowd and still supplying the uncut raw fans expect. “Nosetalgia” offers the dual perspective of Pusha reminiscing about hustling with clever crack metaphors while Kendrick Lamar weighs in on the difficulties of witnessing his family caught in the eye of the ‘80s drug storm. The near-perfect contrast is complimented by a forbidding Nottz beat that samples BDP’s “The Bridge Is Over.” And long-term friend and collaborator Pharrell evokes the glory days of Star Trak on both “Suicide” and “S.N.I.T.C.H.”—with the former showcasing the kind of subliminal jabs the younger Thornton brother has been throwing for the better part of three years.
Sadly these moments are inconsistent and broken up by generally ill-fitting production. This is particularly troubling since it was a fair assumption that Pusha’s inclusion into the G.O.O.D. Music fold would provide more moments like “New God Flow,” “Runaway” and “So Appalled.” Instead, you can make a solid argument that G.O.O.D. Music Member Hudson Mohawke’s contributions are some of the album’s most sonically detracting. With an accumulation of gritty street tracks, Pusha T delivers “unpolished” and “unapologetic” lyrics, but frankly, it does not live up to the hype. Fans hoping for milestone production from Kanye’s camp like “Mercy” will be left searching in vain.