Reviewed by Thomas Herron
A hybrid record executive-drug dealer. A 41 year old “new wave” rapper. An image of consistency combined with one of rap’s greatest innovators.
The juxtaposition of these aspects of Push as a person and as a rapper have come to define his career. The seven song EP is a perfect example of the balance Pusha T personifies.
As expected, Pusha T stays true to his roots by keeping his content similar; drug peddling.
Though drug dealing has come to define the “Drug Dealer’s Anonymous” rapper’s career, he somehow manages to find new lenses through which to apply his street life.
1. IF YOU KNOW YOU KNOW
The first track, “If You Know You Know” builds on both of these characteristics evident in Push’s music. Pusha T comes in hard as usual, staying true to his roots on a sort of upbeat reflexive beat that fits his signature flow, while still finding a way to keep it updated through a newer, complex Kanye beat. “If You Know You Know”, is a great example of how Pusha can find new ways to keep rapping about the lifestyle of a drug dealer, while still balancing it with a simple hook to avoid overcomplicating things and maintaining the song structure in order to keep it up to date with the rap game.
2. THE GAMES WE PLAY
The next track “The Games We Play” also contains a sort of powerful, grab-your-attention production to accentuate his flow. The former Clipse member hasn’t forgotten his roots and wants to make sure none of his listeners do either.
3. HARD PIANO
“Hard Piano” is one of the most complete songs. Pusha again uses his drug dealing past as a lens for the listener to see into the consistency of his career, especially in wake of the soundcloud rapper movement, possibly throwing shots at everyone from 6ix9ine to Lil Pump in saying “I’m too rare amongst all of this pink hair.” “I won’t let you ruin my dreams, or Harvey Weinstein the kid, good morning Matt Lauer, can I live?” This is a perfect example of Push throwing a big middle finger up to industry, referencing Jay-Z’s 1996 hit “Can I Live?” in saying he doesn’t care if people want him to change, while also balancing relevant societal issues as the channel for him to say “screw the industry.”
4. COME BACK BABY
Pusha continues combining another simple yet aggressive type beat on “Come Back Baby” with a soul sample that completely switches up from the lyrical content, keeping the listener on their feet. “Your life ends up a quote,” Push fires off on the verse, critically continuing “The good die young, all dogs go to heaven.” He capitalizes off of this to continue his habit of saying screw stereotypes of the music industry, and in this case, the street life.
Five songs in on “Santeria”, the flow starts to get a little old and though Kanye’s production has varied very well, they are consistent in the structure and the ear begins to realize it now. Then all of a sudden, his flow and the beat switches up as Push talks emotion and loss, talking to his lost friend Davon’s spirit. Push uses this to flow right back into anger and action, again deeper defining why he’s kept his content so similar over the years.
6. WHAT WOULD MEEK DO
“What Would Meek Do” is refreshing in regards to content, referencing Makaveli’s “Hail Mary” as Push stays true to the roots of rap - self-promotion, gangster rap, and battling. “I did it my way the proofs in the bricks,” featuring his signature “yeugh.” Regardless of all the controversy around Kanye West, musically the song would be better off without him. Kanye comes in and the content flips to him addressing his own controversy. Come on Push, you just said this ain’t for the conscious, keep it that way. The attempt to use Ye as another middle finger to popular opinion was well-intended, but it just doesn’t fit with the album content. The feature also has a certain feel as if Push and Ye wanted to be on the verse together to both troll and to show that political opinions can be exaggerated and varied, while having no effect on the music, moreso because the song flows well right into “Infrared” which begins with Pusha trashing Trump’s electoral victory. All that aside, titling a song “What Would Meek Do?” after Meek’s release sets high expectations in regard to staying power of lyrics, and that is lacking on the song.
The final track completes the album. Out of nowhere, King Push throws shots at Drizzy, bringing back up the Quentin Miller ghostwriting controversy. One does wonder why the shot wasn’t on “What Would Meek Do?” considering that was the cause of their beef a couple years back.
Push continues on his rant, trashing Lil Wayne saying now he’s just “flash with no fire.”
Using rappers like Weezy and Drake as a way to attack the current state of hip-hop is a little far fetched with the mumble rap movement so evident, but it worked because rap is in desperate need of controversy between quality rappers. Push finishes with another middle finger to the game, saying real rap fans have only been waiting for him to drop.
He’s a cornerstone of rap being able to keep the gangster rap roots of the genre alive while at the same time, finding a way to make it appealing through simple phrases and powerful, unorthodox production.
The weaknesses of the album are subjective, but evident. If the listener doesn’t want to hear about Push’s street life or his signature flow on every song, this isn’t the album for you. Push hasn’t shown much growth in content or flow throughout his 10+ year career, leaving the listener to decide if that is representative of consistency or stagnancy.
The production of this album does carry it to an extent, as Ye gave Push beats that fit extremely well with his typical flow.
The sample on “Come Back Baby” was a pleasant transition and gave the album some variety, and Push also made a Rick Ross feature on “Hard Piano” appealing again, simply because they fit so well together.
Songs like “Santeria” and “What Would Meek Do” make the album drag on a little bit, but otherwise the album fits the model Pusha T has made for himself, in dropping aggressive content through a calm and balanced flow.