“Daytona” is Pusha T’s Best Work Yet
by Conor Green
Whether one likes it or not, popular hip hop music in 2018 is dominated by mumble rap and distorted trap beats. The most popular artists in the industry gain buzz off of 15 second Instagram video snippets, rarely release full length projects, and often see their first success on the Soundcloud charts, not Billboard. This new direction rap music has taken in the digital age has surely helped to evolve the genre into an exciting, limitless medium for art. Yet, it is still refreshing to hear a traditional album of hard hitting bars, which is exactly what Pusha T delivered. With “Daytona,” Pusha proves that true lyricism in rap is not a lost art.
Pusha is one of those artists that is not an “old head,” but surely is not a part of this new generation of rappers. As a Kanye West signee, Pusha has managed to stay relevant since his debut album “Fear of God II” in 2011. Over the years, he has collaborated with the some of the most buzzing artists such as Tyler, the Creator, Chief Keef, and A$AP Rocky, all the while maintaining his identity as an artist and not compromising his style, which some would say is more old-school. He has hopped on tracks with 90’s legends such as 50 Cent and Juicy J, going bar for bar with some of the best to ever do it. While Pusha has remained quiet for the past few years, “Daytona” showcases the strides Pusha has made as a rapper and serves as the pinnacle of his career up to this point. “Daytona” speaks for itself and ends any sort of speculation that Pusha is overrated.
Perhaps one of the best aspects of the album are the beats on which Pusha raps over. Coming in at only seven songs, each track is hard hitting and is amplified by its masterful production. Behind the diverse sampling and unique sound of “Daytona” is none other than Kanye West. West went above and beyond just producing, as he reportedly payed $85,000 at the last minute to have the cover art changed to a picture of the late Whitney Houston’s bathroom. This was certainly a questionable choice by Pusha and West, but it comes as no surprise after experiencing West’s MAGA mania tweets and downright bizarre behavior for the past month. West is also featured on the track “What Would Meek Do.” The duo goes back and forth, each defending their status and machismo with a tenacity that makes one wonder just how inflated their egos are. The song starts with West asking, “People talking sh*t, how would you respond?” Pusha fervorously responds, saying “I’m top five and all of them Dylan/ I am the hope, the dope dealers won.” Known for constantly talking about his days as a prolific drug dealer, this is just one of the many times Pusha alludes to his rags to riches dopeboy lifestyle on “Daytona.”
While Pusha’s drug talk may get a little repetitive and monotonous at times, he makes up for it with cunning punchlines and tongue twisters that are littered throughout the album. On “What Would Meek Do,” Pusha raps, “Angel on my shoulder, what should we do?/Devil on the other, what would Meek do?/Pop a wheelie, tell the judge to Akinyele/Middle fingers out the ghost, screaming ’Makaveli.” On “Santeria,” Pusha effortlessly raps, “They say that death comes in threes, how appropriate/Triple back, they rush in like Soviets/At the Kremlin/Searching for the green like a Gremlin, presidential emblem.” It is entertaining to see Pusha rap with such elegance, twisting and turning through a medley of topics, but still making it sound good in the end.
The album’s opening track, “If You Know You Know,” features a commanding guitar riff that is a precise, air tight embodiment of capitalist rap. Pusha brags about “Pullin' up in a new toy/The wrist on that boy rockstar like Pink Floyd/Waving at rude boy/I'm waving at you, boy.” Pusha keeps this same relentless energy up throughout the whole album. He even goes as far as to diss Drake for having a ghost writer on the closing track “Infrared.”
Pusha’s oozing confidence is what makes the album so entertaining. With every bar he is firing a shot. He really does believe he is one of the best artists out right now, and after this album, he very well may be.