Pusha T — DAYTONA ANALYSIS & REVIEW
We can talk all we want about how this album is timely for cultural purposes, and while that has importance to it, I’d like to bring up how timely this is in terms of the music. In an age where anything goes, where anyone can pick up a microphone in their basement to get noticed, and where lots of the rap world has fallen into hands that strive for marketability over creativity, Pusha T delivers a nice reminder of where the levels of thought, effort, and attained feel within this style used to operate.
The layering of each song was rather uniform and simple, but it came to be a crucial and successful tactic. The songs were all built around one small, repetitive instrumental seed (or vocal in the case of “Infared”) that sticks around for a long time as somewhat of a meditative mantra. These small motives did well to outline an easygoing, understandable static harmony to lock into and provide a simple but driving rhythmic addendum to the beat to enforce the groove.
With nothing else really creating the song besides an electronic beat, a human voice, and these thin instrumental motives, it’s an example of a musician really sticking their neck out and going all-in with betting on those tiny, repetitive ideas to always capture good attention and ignite emotion. It’s not a rare tactic in this style, but it’s one that only few succeed at. This album just barely succeeds, with each musical foundation finding some sort of unique groove to latch onto while staying at a good consistent emotional level. Important thought surely went into each repetitive idea, even if in the end they seem quite simple and routine. They made a short 21-minute album seem quite substantial and steady. That is the core of what’s cool about this album.
Now, the textures were very thin, even bleak at times, and did miss opportunities to enhance the emotional weight of the sound with perhaps an added synth tone or stronger bass. None of the musical foundations were so enticing that they made me want to jump from my seat and share it with the world. Only the song “Santeria” had any important development in the timbre or meaning in its textural diversity. Still, these background structures were nice feel-good backbones to the music and did just enough to set this album up for being considered a solid work.
The melodic layer, being the actual rap, was very close to getting it there. Pusha T showed strong talent in line construction, rhyme scheme, and rhythmic flexibility, which rightfully took the spotlight of these songs and made each song’s meaning go beyond the notes and rhythms. The song “The Games We Play” was especially neat in rhythmically twisting phrases and creating real artistry in lyric deliverance above a simple beat. Again, like the background, nothing done in the foreground made me completely lose my mind or get super excited, but it had enough obvious thought and congenial ideas to make it a worthwhile listen.
That is, except for two songs, “If You Know You Know” and “Come Back Baby”, where the rap faltered in rhythmic engagement and held the work back from solidity in my book. It had nothing to do with tempo or overall atmosphere; it was simply a lack of varying rhyme patterns and a rather boxed-in rhythmic flow that was slave to a basic meter. I also didn’t find Kanye West’s featured part in “What Would Meek Do?” to be anything remarkable or worthy of putting in; Pusha creates much better rhyme schemes throughout and could have done it better alone. That faltering was also quite exposed given the thin texture and absence of any other developing linear ideas, as well as it only being a seven song album.
For its political messages, individual jabs, and fourth wall breaks, along with being in this very lucrative, popular style, this is getting quite a bit of attention and will certainly effect the music world this year. While it really shouldn’t be the best rap album of the year, I think it actually is so far. We’ll see if that stays, or if someone else among the many steps up.