Review Summary: Still better than your favorite rapper.
Although Clipse went on a bit of an unofficial hiatus, both members have stayed extremely busy with hip-hop and other ventures. The music is still dripping from their not-so-proverbial tap as slowly as we’ve come to expect it to, but what we are getting isn’t the typical Clipse fare. Malice strayed the path, finding God and followed Mos Def in relinquishing his claim to one of the slickest hip-hop monikers of all time (well, he really just added a “No” to it, but that’s probably much worse) while Pusha, who was almost always outclassed by his elder brother – although a strong case can be made in the form of Hell Hath No Fury
– decided to kick-start a solo career on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label, returning to his ‘uknowwhatisell’ roots and rhyming about cocaine and the streets over Kanye selections in place of Clipse’s definitive Neptunes joints. But with Malice presently out of the game, and on the meager strength of Pusha T’s solo endeavors (a few hit-and-miss EPs and a handful of show-stealing features) it looked like the younger Thornton brother might have trouble standing up on his own. Malice was always the perfect counterpoint to Pusha’s acerbic, gruff flow, and from what we’ve seen since the brief dissolution of Clipse, Pusha shines on songs for which his task is to only craft one verse, and runs into walls when he’s forced to hold a listener’s attention for the full three minutes. But interestingly enough, on his solo album, the opposite is – to a degree – true, and for all my bluster about the struggles King Push would likely face on his solo album, he is uniformly on point, and if it wasn’t for a smattering of weak features, My Name Is My Name
would likely be one of the strongest hip-hop albums of the decade thusfar.
My Name Is My Name
is on the whole a very concise effort by Pusha T, whose rhymes are tighter and more focused than ever, and whose strong wordplay and incredible delivery shine brilliantly atop the beat selection. And remember, this isn’t a Clipse album; if the beats aren’t grimy minimalist canvases to Pusha’s seemingly vitriolic disgorge of witticisms (“Numbers on the Boards”, “Pain”), then they’re dark and haunting backdrops to Push’s categorically aggressive braggadocio (just about everything else), with only a pair of notable exceptions: “Suicide”, the Neptunes produced Lord Willin’
throwback, complete with a predictably stale feature from Re-Up Gang compatriot Ab-Liva, and “Let Me Love You”, the only dedicated ‘for-the-bitches’ song on the album, featuring Kelly Rowland singing on one of the album’s only hooks while Push waxes Ma$e on the verse. And again, lyrically Push has probably never been better. Even on songs with shitty features like “No Regrets” and “Who I Am”, he’s able to keep them afloat with his immortal ad-libbing and venomous fury, which makes it worthwhile to at least listen to his first verse if only just to imagine whether bullets actually fly from his mouth when he spits (and songs like “King Push”, “Numbers on the Boards”, and “Pain” make a good argument that maybe they do). Pusha’s storytelling game has gotten much better as well; “Nosetalgia” (seriously, watch the music video; it makes an already great song that much
better) sees Push and Kendrick Lamar reminiscing on their experiences growing up during the crack epidemic of the ‘80s, while “S.N.I.T.C.H.”, aside from having an incredibly clever and elaborate acronym for a title and a welcome feature from Pharrell, follows Pusha as he tells the (true?) story of a childhood friend cooperating with the feds in an effort to get out of jail. But not enough can be said about [i]My Name Is My Name[i]’s sleeper highlight “Hold On”, the disgusting piano-driven track drenched in Yeezy genius and layered with poignant introspection from both Push and, surprisingly enough, Rick Ross. Though the album isn’t peppered with tons of standalone quotables, (“a pawn’s only purpose is purely suicidal” might not sound like much by itself, but within the context of the verse it’s mind-blasting
) it is laden from top to bottom with stellar, succinct verses, and with Kanye West at the helm of production, My Name Is My Name
comes out a near-perfect product, and one of the most satisfying hip-hop releases in recent memory.