Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Words by Phlip
After months on top of months of pushbacks the internet FINALLY blesses us with the solo debut of former Clipse Member Pusha T.
I can’t say how I felt about this album leading in, having seen him go from group member, to featured artist and now he is on his own for a feature-length album of his own…or as “on his own” as one can expect out of hip hop artists in 2013, more on that later.
I DO know that I expected some slick wordplay, well-played metaphors and for him to continue telling tales of a life as a coke dealer that has actually already been discredited, but who expects our artists to actually have DONE the shit they talk about doing anymore?
Anyway, let’s get into the music.
1 – King Push
The beat here starts off weird and kind of cryptic as one might expect from Kanye West as of late. Pusha immediately jumps on in at the onset of the bass. Kanye’s beat picks up elements as the lyrics develop to match.
The hook here is minimalist, and as expected we get well-presented coke raps. The saving grace of the song – despite the growingly complex beat – is its simplicity and the fact that we get two verses and the beat finishes off a good portion of the end of the song.
2 – Numbers on the Boards
Seconds in and I love this beat already. Again, we get no intro bars or extra drama coming into the song. I am noticing that we’re getting money talk, coke talk, sports references and punchlines, but not much in the way of substance here.
Don Cannon and Kanye’s Primo-esque beat makes this song feel a LOT harder than it probably is, and again the song’s simplicity and 2:44 running time might be its saving grace overall.
3 – Sweet Serenade (feat. Chris Brown)
Wait… Featuring who? Whoever this heavily voice-corrected person is doesn’t sound like the same dude from the Doublemint commercial.
Never mind, looks like we’re about to get our first song featuring an actual hook now. Pusha’s rhyme patterns on this song work very well against Swizz Beatz’s backdrop. It is with unfortunate irony that I say that I was pretty sure that this was a Swizz beat before I looked up to check.
Chris Brown’s hook is forgettable, and the subject veers away from the norm, favoring another cliché in violence as a “my raps are better than yours” metaphor.
This song was not bad at all, though.
4 – Hold On (feat.
Billy Bobb The Boss Rick Ross)
I don’t know who this Hudson Mohawke cat who made this beat is, but the first 7 seconds of the beat reminds me of Kanye West on 808s and Heartbreak and that other album that came after that (note, I HATED both of those), so this song is starting off as an uphill battle.
Dammit, right in on the “I sold a bunch of dope” tales right at the beginning. Does Mr. Thornton realize that an investigation got one their people knocked and them set loose without even being considered as suspects in the case? Shit, I need to back up and listen to this song again.
Okay… Lyrically, as expected, Pusha brings it, transitioning from a 3-syllable end-of-line pattern to a internal rhyme scheme and backing off to the 3-syllable scheme back at the end of the first verse.
Without warning or a hook (yet), we have another imaginary crack dealer jump in the fray and employ a technically inferior lyrical approach. Ross’ verse is no different from anything we always hear from him, and we’re rewarded on the other side of the annoying hook with 4 more bars of it, then he trades lines (well, line as they just repeat it) for the rest of the song.
No sir, I didn’t like it.
5 – Suicide (feat. Ab-Liva)
Before I even START this song, I will say it is a good thing to see people keep the people that came with them on as best they can. I mean, no one is much checking for Ab-Liva, but he has been around Pusha and The Clipse since no one was checking for them either.
As expected, Pharrell is on the beat (where the hell has Chad Hugo been of late?), and also as expected Pusha is at home on the beat. As ever, he does his money/dope/crime thing and I guess you should have come into this album pretty much expecting that. This song, marrying beats to lyrics from people familiar with working with one another, is really good.
Ab’s verse is nothing Earth-shattering, but I said that he was familiar with the Thornton brothers’ work, not that he was on their level lyrically.
Make no mistakes, I liked this song.
6 – 40 Acres (feat. The-Dream)
Seriously, is Terius Nash starting this song off with one of those nature show ballads?
Okay, Pusha is employing a slightly subdued, almost angry, tone of voice and I am not angry with that. For the first time on the album we hear mention of his brother, No Malice. Notice, I said MENTION, because as a gospel rapper, he will more than likely not be getting on a song with his brother anymore until he backslides like Mase did.
This song wants to be better than it winds up being and the lyrics match well with whatever it is The-Dream and Rico Beats are trying to accomplish. I am giving that more to Pusha than I am to the producers, because the hook makes this song a lot worse than it has to be. The second voice takes on a stronger and angrier tone, and I like how it comes across.
It isn’t a bad song, but I am not sure it ever makes any point related to its title other than the USE of the words “40 Acres.”
7 – No Regrets (feat, Young Jeezy & Kevin Cossom)
Hey look, another crack rapper whose team was investigated but escaped uncharged and unbothered!
I don’t know who is guilty of this beat, but it comes across as something tailored for Jeezy’s flow and subject. Pusha goes first on this “real nigga” anthem; making stops at all the clichés that remind us of the hosts’ realness, lack of regrets and the size of their bank accounts.
It seems that EVERY time I tell people that I just can’t get into Young Jeezy, I am looked at like I have an alien growing out of my forehead. As predicted above, this beat sets the perfect backdrop to his rhyme (non-) patterns. They tricked me by giving me another Pusha verse to end the song and to be honest, I can deal with simply skipping this one on subsequent listens.
8 – Let Me Love You (feat Kelly Rowland)
Before I got a chance to listen to this album the first time yesterday, a friend of mine mentioned this song on FaceBook as a homage to Mase. I chuckled it off, but as soon as I heard the song, I could see EXACTLY where he was coming from with that statement when looking at the song stylistically. The beat and hook reminded me of a ’98 Bad Boy production, and the rhymes made the Mase assessment spot-on.
What forces you to acknowledge, though, is that Mase was never as horrible a rhymer as some might want to us remember him as. Simply put, this song MIGHT be better with a better hook, but as it were, it is okay. Nothing will happen that makes you run back to it. The beat is not bad or anything and this song exists in that “love rap song on every album” standard.
9 – Who I Am (Feat 2 Chainz & Big Sean)
This album is beginning to read as a “who you need to feature to recoup in 2013” list.
The only reason I can imagine that 2 Chainz is on this album has to do with what label it is being released under. Pusha has dumbed his rhymes down to the level of his guest on this one and the beat is a mish-mash of elements presented from DJ Mano and Kanye himself. Personally, I hear nothing “Kanye” about it.
I am going to go ahead and be honest; I don’t like 2 Chainz. I don’t like anything he has ever made or been involved with and it is HIGHLY unlikely I ever will. I mean, the only way this song could be any worse is if–…
Shit… (not so) Big Sean is on this too? So now I have the only lyricist on the song dumbing himself down, Tauheed Epps being Tauheed Epps and now Diminutive Sean is back from his “bodied by Kendrick” hiatus and already throwing his weird little man voice inflections around recklessly.
I would have fast forwarded if I weren’t listening with the purpose of objectivity. I savored this song’s merciful end.
10 – Nosetalgia (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
First thing I noticed is that the title of this song is misspelled. I TRIPLE checked to make sure my DL wasn’t messed up.
Never mind that, though, because I like Nottz’ beat. The sound of the song at the outset is befitting to what the title would be if it were spelled properly. A return to the proper rhyme patterns and references and I am not mad at that at all.
Hey, speaking of Kendrick (which I did on the last song), he is back with that same voice he used to make hip hop very angry back over the summer. He is doing this beat justice, and I am not mad at his continuation of what he started before. If I could get past my dislike of his voice in general, I might consistently like this kid more than I currently do.
In total, this song was not bad at all.
11 – Pain (feat. Future)
I find it only fitting that this song is titled what it is, given it features
Scooby Doo on Autotune Future, because the hook might hurt your soul.
Pusha is punching short lines at a time, not using the whole bar for his lines, but I think that has as much to do with how Kanye’s beat is made as it does anything else. I say that because that assessment applies to the hook as well. Luckily, Future’s voice is not as loud as the radio has taught us to expect of him.
HOLY SHIT, KANYE SAMPLED THE GRINDIN’ DRUMS!!! sorry about that…
Seriously, though, this song would be infinitely more likeable with a different feature on the hook. The beat was well-done and the Grindin’ sample — though only 8 seconds long — took me there for a moment. Plus the raps employed were not bad at all.
12 – S.N.I.T.C.H. (feat. Pharrell)
“Sorry, Nigga, I’m Tryna Come Home.” Get it?
No D-Boy album is complete without at least ONE of these songs. I guess if you’re gonna follow a paint-by-numbers hip hop album script, it is only fitting that you have one (or some, as The Neptunes – meaning Chad is along for the ride this time) of the best in the business paint that background for you.
A slow-starter, this beat picks up pieces on the way to getting big on sound, without being huge or abrasive. Look, we know what the song will be about. Let us pay attention to HOW the story we already know will be told actually gets told.
Again, applying those rhyme patterns and attention to syllables makes the story completely interesting enough to hold our attention alongside the beat as presented.
Pharell reminds us what the acronym stands for without getting too in-the-way of the song.
And like that, close curtains.
What I liked: Terrance only mailed it in lyrically on one song, really.
What I LOVED: Number of skits/interludes = zero
What needs work: 12 tracks, 10 were assisted.
I am coming to grips with the fact that what I just couldn’t leave without being disappointed in with this album is going to be an issue with ANY album with a budget such as this…
And also, it was not as good on my third listen as it was on my first; falling from “damn good, I might drop a $10 on this,” down to “meh… this download will do it.”
I would call this a “listen to this in the car so the people on the bus stop think you’re cool” album, but not necessarily something you will put in and listen to just for the hell of it.
It will move a few units, but ultimately falls short of what I feel we could have gotten out of him.
Words by Phlip