mnimn-reviewPusha T – My Name Is My Name
G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam; 2013
Day & A Dream Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Buy: iTunes | Amazon

Seven years ago, coke rap post Only Built 4 Cuban Linx reached its apex. There behind the tales of packages shipped, scales weighed and bits of remorse dashed in Terrence Thornton & his brother Gene made arguably the best audio cook of their lives with Hell Hath No Fury, a middle finger not only aimed at their former label Jive  but for every critic who thought they had peaked with their We Got It 4 Cheap run. And for a brief period, Malice & his younger brother Pusha T were hailed as critical rap gods who still made street material for all of us to enjoy.

It’s been four years since the last full length Clipse album and while the brand is somewhat dormant thanks to Malice finding even more strength in God and becoming No Malice, Pusha continued to carry the torch, only aligning himself with rap’s most dominating creative in Kanye West and boasting, “I think it’s good ‘Ye found a blow dealer,” on 2012’s “New God Flow”. By then, Pusha T was a tantalizing piece of the G.O.O.D. Music puzzle, unfiltered and raspy muscle among a crew that all had individual goals within a mass collective. Pusha’s goals were rather simple — keep pushing the best product out while coming nowhere near to compromising himself for a pop sound.

That in a nutshell is what we get with My Name Is My Name, a debut album dripping with aesthetics from The Wire and drenched in history. This is nearly thirteen years of coke rap and fervor bottled up into a rather neat and manicured space. There’s a certain amount of fun to be had with any Pusha release, same with any Clipse release before it. There’s punchlines, slippery stanzas where Pusha sneers at competition while opining about lavish lifestyles before rap and his current place within it. “King Push” bats leadoff with militaristic snare drums that morph into that familiar coda from West’s “New Slaves” and Pusha making declarations and announcements at a steady pace.

The entire album rummages around like this, giving Pusha’s reflective and at times abrasive cadence a sense of gloss with high end production from the likes of Don Cannon, Kanye West & Pharrell who attempt their best to re-create the sticky, cartoonish grin that production on those Clipse records did more than a decade ago. “Hold On” is shiny and squeaky, sampling tried and true classics like “Long Road” by Mountain Red & ESG’s “UFO” with Rick Ross abandoning his usual mafioso attempts. Instead, he opts for a conscious, speaking on schools and wanting to be buried in “a glass casket/Windex wipe me down for the life after”. The irony here, between West’s annoying auto-tuned hunger pained groans is that this Ross verse exists on the same plane as Pusha openly bragging about selling more dope than records and chastising dope boy rappers who never did those deeds in real life. It’s quite certain that Pusha wears his street sentiments on his coke stained sleeves even when running over a skitzo Cannon & West push on “Numbers On The Boards” with “36 years of doing dirt” on his side.

With a revolving cast of characters from the likes of Jeezy who sounds absolutely inspired on “No Regrets” to Future’s on the stark flash bang of “Pain”, MNIMN feels like it should align itself the  contention as the year’s most straight forward rap album. Even with everyone attempting The Weeknd’s numb shot as hedonism here (Chris Brown on “Sweet Serenade”, The-Dream on the rather light piece of uplift “40 Acres”), nothing feels too problematic here — only slightly adhering to the formula that we couldn’t quite get 12 straight records of Pusha slanging keys by the boatload, even if we get a minor Re-Up Gang moment with Ab-Liva on the rather distinct “Suicide”. Instead, our closest moment of pure perfection, the marriage of Pusha’s low level energy and history works with Pharrell on the album’s closer “S.N.I.T.C.H.”. The percussions and mood match up with that of HHNF’s “Nightmares” and the ‘80s bass & snare round up a Miami Vice tale gone wrong, two friends splintered away by the game itself. To think, even the pun worthy “Nosetalgia” with Kendrick Lamar doesn’t win top honors here — only Pusha by his lonesome, being reflective on the album Kanye chose to champion about as loud as he possibly could.