[29 October 2013]
There is no shortage of coke rappers in today’s oversaturated music market. However, there is a white line of sorts that separates the dopest from the others. The story of the one-time drug dealer gone legit and recalling his past over beats is one that has been told time and time again by the likes of Jay Z, Young Jeezy, T.I., 50 Cent, Yo Gotti and even hip-hop’s resident law enforcement official, Rick Ross, to an extent. No one, however, seems to do it as convincingly as The Brothers Thornton—Gene and Terrence, also known as Clipse. Amidst hardships on both the personal and business side of matters, the duo managed to record three critically acclaimed albums with three major record labels over the span of seven years. In hip-hop, authenticity is the name of the game and from their inception, Clipse always had a flair for the dramatics with intricacies that place the listener right in the center of that drug deal gone awry or right next to the pot of boiling water in the kitchen.
Following the release of Til The Casket Drops, the duo took a leave of absence to focus on solo ventures. Malice released a book entitled Wretched, Pitiful, Poor, Blind and Naked. Pusha T signed with Kanye West’s GOOD Music and began making several high profile appearances on songs—perhaps none more notable than his guest verse on “Runaway” from West’s 2010 opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and “Mercy” from the GOOD Music compilation album, Cruel Summer.
Fast forward to 2013 and after several delays and a hefty avalanche of mixtapes (Fear of God, Fear of God II: Let Us Pray, Wrath of Caine), Pusha T’s major label debut album, My Name Is My Name is ready to flood the streets. With Kanye serving as executive producer, MNIMN also enlists the production services of the likes of 88-Keys, Don Cannon, No I.D., Sebastian Sartor, Swizz Beatz, Glass John, DJ Mano, The-Dream, Nottz, Rico Beats, Beewirks, Pharrell Williams, Hudson Mohawke and The Twilite Tone. While Pusha is proudly proclaiming his name to be his very own, he has an extensive list of guests coming along with him for the ride, including Rick Ross, Kanye West, The-Dream, Kelly Rowland, Young Jeezy, Chris Brown, Ab-Liva, Kevin Cossom, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Pharrell and hip-hop’s current golden boy, Kendrick Lamar. Even with its sprawling guest list, like most Clipse-related albums, My Name Is My Name keeps things relatively short and sweet with its 12-deep track listing and a playing time that clocks in slightly over 45 minutes.
The album’s opener, “King Push”, begins with a few sonic waves and a crisp snare drum before being accompanied by a thumping bassline and a confident Pusha T declaring with his first line that this is indeed his time. The track serves as a platform for Pusha to differentiate himself from any other rappers who could possibly even fathom themselves as being competition, and is a self-serving coronation of himself as King of the D-Boys. “Numbers On The Boards” is a subtle-but-effective ode to excess, whether it be in the form of luxuries or cocaine. Irony aside and simply put, Pusha is no D-League player when it comes to either one. With veiled disses and double entendres throughout, the Chris Brown-featuring “Sweet Serenade” is one of MNIMN‘s early standout tracks.
An Auto-Tuned and uncredited Kanye West croons at the top of “Hold On”, before giving way to Push and Rick Ross as they drop inspirational jewels for those with aspirations to make it out of those illegal ways of life that more often than not don’t seem to end very well. The Pharrell-produced “Suicide” features long time Re-Up Gang affiliate, Ab-Liva, and finds Pusha in familiar territory at his shit talking finest—once again dismissing any notion that him and these other dope boy rappers are anything alike at all. The only thing that’s missing from the track is the newly-reformed and saved No Malice. “40 Acres” and “No Regrets” seem to work in tandem with the overarching theme being perseverance though whatever struggles may arise and a staunch refusal to falter and return to humble beginnings. Inspiring.
The upbeat “Let Me Love You” features vocals from Kelly Rowland and, if one didn’t know any better, it would be easy to say Mase as well. Alas, it is merely Pusha T doing an impression of the former Bad Boy turned pastor and he hits it on the head. The song itself focuses on the tangled web of a casual relationship between a not-so-cheap thrill seeking celebrity and a woman who wants more than that. Putting their own twist on the U.S. Army’s “Be All That You Can Be” slogan, Pusha T, 2 Chainz and Big Sean find themselves carving out their own versions of The American Dream. They opt to forego working a job for 30 years or more in favor of selling dope forever and shun the 2.5 children and a wife in favor of a bad bitch in a swimming pool.
One of My Name Is My Name’s standout tracks, if not the album’s superlative song, is the Kendrick Lamar-featuring “Nosetalgia”. Produced by Nottz, the song reflects on the crack cocaine epidemic of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s from two distinct viewpoints. First, with Pusha T expounding on all of the luxuries being a young kingpin afforded him. Then Kendrick Lamar poignantly illustrates the detrimental effects of addiction and the grim reality of being a washed-up drug dealer. Following “Pain”, the album comes to a close with “S.N.I.T.C.H.”, an acronym standing for Sorry N***a I’m Tryna Come Home. The track is produced by Pharrell and also features him on the hook. Some people just aren’t built to do long stretches of time behind bars and to obtain a reduced sentence, sometimes those people will roll over on whoever they can. The track finds Pusha coming to grips with the fact that someone he used to consider to be a brother has become a snitch and trying to offset everything his former compadre is talking about over the tapped phone lines.
My Name Is My Name is an album that listeners will either love or hate, with seemingly no room in between. It’s a bit much to take in upon the first listen, especially with so much hype behind its release, but with repeated spins and closer examination of the product, so to speak, the dope is as nice as advertised here. Much like the character Marlo Stanfield, from HBO’s The Wire, who uttered the phrase that is the album’s title, Pusha T is ambitious, ruthless and hellbent on earning and retaining his respect. Even with all of the mixtapes and guest appearances prior to the release of MNIMN, the lingering question was whether or not Pusha could deliver a solid album without his brother by his side volleying intricate crack tales back and forth. The album’s guests are a nice touch, but Pusha still finds the space to shine in his own accord as well. The GemStar razor, baking soda, mason jar, dinner plate and cocaine never left the kitchen and, while it may seem that the brick isn’t as pure as it could be, the end result is just as potent as its ever been. Yuugh.