His name is his name. But you've come to know Pusha T (nee Terrence Thornton) as that guy from the Clipse. The bullish one. The one who says "YEOUGCK" every three bars. The one who has been screen-printing rhymes at GOOD Music for three years now. Pusha T never struck anyone as a lone ranger. You don't view him in the same light as individual mainstream successes like Drake, Kanye West, or even Big Sean. Push has always been a part of a whole -- a capable part, yes, but a part nonetheless. With My Name Is My Name, Pusha T wants you to recognize his game.
This is not your typical rap debut. For starters, Pusha's been here forever. He first stormed the scene with brother Malice (now No Malice) as the Clipse in 2002. After releasing three solid-to-great albums, Malice found God and Pusha T found Kanye West. Since becoming a G.O.O.D. Music soldier, Push has gone on to release a grip of mixtapes. He was one of the few bright spots on GOOD Music's tepid Cruel Summer. He was last seen pushing coke and patois on the brilliant Wrath of Caine.
"And they say I'm on the verge of winning/I'll claim victory when Malice on the verge of sinning"
The album's driving force is that familiar drug dealer/rhyme slinger duality. My Name Is My Name is a bag of dirt and diamonds. A cathedral in the hood. Clean hallways and grimy panes. Unholy matrimony. Pusha T hasn't touched snow in years, but he's still raw enough to sell you dope.
The recipe succeeds in part because of Pusha T is still one of the most potent emcees working. "King Push" starts the album on a high note. A familiar Yeezus sample finds a resting place here. Like Marlo Stanfield, the character who inspired the album title, Pusha doesn't demanding respect; he takes it. "All that's missing is a dash - difference between me and Hova," he brags on the opener. Aside from Rick Ross' rare moment of vulnerability on "Hold On" and Kendrick Lamar's storytelling finesse on "Nosetalgia," no one else even comes close to challenging our host on his own turf. Marlo buried bodies to instill fear in his enemies. Pusha bodies rappers to prove his supremacy.
We already knew that Pusha T was capable of spitting blacktop bars. But he's added another ingredient to the mix: self-reflection. "No Regrets" in particular blurs the line between remorse and defiance. Even when he's reflecting, Pusha T is still concocting wicked rhymes to ensure that no challenger, Jeezy in this case, can outmatch him.
"Foreign cars on a freight train, for every n---a they railroad/Rent-a-cars we road run/Money longer than train smoke/I done been in that same boat/I ain't letting this chain go/Representing my n---as down, till they free 'em like Django."
My Name Is My Name has some of the best beat selections in rap this year. Kanye West guides the process and the boardwork echoes his ideas. All the elements of a Kanye West template are present: distorted vocals, stuttering drums, and the experimental edge that suffused Yeezus with an esoteric sense of intrigue.
Album highlight "Suicide" takes us back to the early-00s with its steely, unlit Pharrell beat. Ab-Liva stops by for a brief Re-Up Gang reunion and makes the nostalgia worthwhile. It's an ardent reminder of what made Clipse so formidable a decade ago. "Let Me Love You" also has a throwback feel, but mainly because Pusha does a Ma$e impression so good I found myself checking the credits to make sure it wasn't Pastor Mason Betha.
My main gripe with My Name Is My Name is that it's stuffed with guests. I counted eight rappers, four singers and Pharrell. It has more guest spots than songs. Most rappers would crumble under the weight of such an elite crowd. But Pusha T ensures that you barely remember his cohorts by lacing every song with his rejuvenated flow. It's no surprise that the two best songs on My Name Is My Name are also the only solo cuts here: "Numbers on the Boards" and "King Push" in that order. The former is one of the best rap songs out this year: a chest-pounding bragfest full of slick metaphors, drizzled atop a rocket of a beat. YUCK.
Pusha T wants us to remember his name. He's off to a promising start.