Friday, August 22, 2014

"My Name Is My Name," by Pusha T (HHES Album Review)

Here's my review of the Pusha T album "My Name Is My Name," using the Hip Hop Evaluation System (HHES).

"King Push" is a solid song and starts the album off well. The lyrics are really dense and it definitely helps to bust out the Rap Genius annotations here. Pusha's delivery in this song is menacing and always compelling.

"Numbers on the Board" is one of the outstanding tracks on this album and of the year. The production is sparse, purposefully putting the focus on lyrics and delivery. That's a good idea. The beat is good, but the words are superb. The song barely has a hook, but it comes in at just the right time to tie things together and cement what's being said in the rest of the song.

I originally didn't pay much attention to "Street Serenade," mainly because I don't particularly like the hook. But after hearing it live, I really got into Push's verses, particularly the repeated Rick Flair "woo!" in verse 2, which kills live and seems to really stand out upon further listen on the album, too.

"Hold On" is one of the more introspective songs on the album and it benefits from some backing vocals from Kanye and, surprisingly, a Rick Ross verse I don't hate. If Ross was always like this, I might like him.

"Suicide" has another simple but powerful beat and some great wordplay from Push, but guest Ab-Liva just isn't on Push's level, bringing the song down a bit.

"40 Acres" shows that when it comes to lyrics, Push doesn't play and he is kind of light years ahead of most other rappers in the game. More sparse production leaves the power of the song all in the hands of Push (and the hook by The Dream) and he delivers.

"No Regrets" shows the one weakness this album has--vocalists other than Pusha T. Every time Push gets going good on a verse, a subpar hook comes in or a guest (in this case Jeezy) comes in and the contrast is strong enough that you're like "alright, let's get past this so we can get back to Push." This is far from the only song that happens on. In this song, when Push does return, he leads in with a triple metaphor "Presidential I came back," which refers to Obama's re-election, Push's return to recording after the end of his Clipse days, and the fact that he's back on the track after Jeezy's weaker (my word) verse. More of that would be better than more of the guests.

"Let Me Love You" contains the first great sung hook, this one by Kelly Rowland. The song is more upbeat, less gangsta, and more Clipse-like than any other track here. Those are compliments. The rest of the album is so hardcore this is a nice break that helps add weight to the other tracks. Push also varies his flow more here than in other songs and it works very well.

"Who I Am" takes it right back to the hardcore and brings back both Pusha rapping the short hook and the Rick Flair "woo" sound that appears on several earlier songs to very good effect. The 2 Chains comes in and puts me to sleep. He has 14 bars and 4 of them include "I got a bad bitch in my swimming pool." Big Sean is a bit better on his verse, but still doesn't hold rise to the level of Push.

"Nosetalgia" is not only the best song on the album, it's one of the two best songs released in 2013 (along with Schoolboy Q & Kendrick Lamar's "Collard Greens"). Here's why: 1. Push hits harder than anywhere else in his career. 2. Kendrick destroys the guest verse. 3. Awesome KRS-One samples. 4. Vivid storytelling and imagery. 5. Diverse flows. 6. A spare but perfect beat that, as with the rest of the album, gives the vocalists the spotlight and enhances what they do. 7. Probably the best wordplay on the album. If you don't know this song, you aren't listening to the best rap coming out these days.

"Pain" can't possibly follow "Nosetalgia" that well, no song could, but it tries by providing a more interesting and layered beat that might be the best on the album. One of the better (but still not great) sung hooks follows and then Pusha comes in with more top-notch rhyming that both provides some new references we haven't heard yet and ties the song to other tracks on the album.

"S.N.I.T.C.H." features Pharrell, but not at his best. The production is pretty simple for a Pharrell track, in trying to keep with the mood of the rest of the album, but Pharrell just isn't as good at it as Kanye. Pharrell's hook is worse, going down to the level of the album's other hooks by the likes of Future. Push delivers here much like he does on the rest of the album, but seems like he might have run out of things to say by this point.

Overall Analysis

Flow: 10. Pusha has a great flow. He rarely fails to deliver fully.

Lyrics: 9. The lyrics here are a bit heavily focused on the same few subjects, but they are very dense, interesting, and entertaining.

Message: 8. Most of the messages here are personal and historical, but you definitely get a pretty good insight into who Pusha T is or was.

Technical: 8. Pusha doesn't go in for too much speed rapping, but his flows always sound melodic and powerful.

Production: 9. Kanye knocks every track out of the park, the other producers don't suck either.

Versatility: 8. For the most part, Push stays in his lane, but when he ventures outside of it, it works well.

Collaborators: 6. There are a few really great collabs here (Kanye, Kendrick, Kelly) a few that are solid (Ross, Pharrell) and a bunch that are wek.

History: 10. This album is steeped in both gangsta rap history and broader history.

References: 10. You can't fully understand this album without Rap Genius, it's so packed with references.

Originality: 9. It goes down some well-worn content and lyrical paths, but it does it in ways that few others have done, making it a very strong take on an old genre.

Total Score: 87. This is one of the best hip hop albums of 2013 no question. This one made me a full-on Pusha T fan. Seeing him perform these songs live makes them even better.

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