Friday, June 1, 2018

Pusha T - Daytona Review

Like his recently reinvigorated (and entirely fabricated) beef with Drake, the promotional rollout for Daytona has been swift and deliberate. Consciously redacting the long-awaited King Push - one that was predated with the well-composed Darkest Before Dawn prelude - in favor of a new, Kanye West-curated approach has offered Pusha T something he desperately needed; A curtailed deadline. Limited to seven tracks, something that'll run throughout G.O.O.D Music's itinerary, the dialect presented on Daytona is both brief and absolute. Swift and calculated. Candid and steadfast. Time is of the essence in the age of consumption. Kanye's observance of our dwindling attention span helps shape Daytona into a project that demands your time, as it generously asks for no more than 23 minutes. Unfortunately, this firm decisiveness causes musical theatrics to fall by the wayside in favor of Pusha T's blunt assertiveness, one that slashes at the throat, leaving you with a few gasping breaths to enjoy it.

As to be expected, Pusha T's lyrical veracity lies in the vein of hard drug culture, financial flouting, gang bang griminess, and a trove of braggart similes and metaphors. With a mere 23 minutes to fill, and over three years since his last substantial material, it's safe to say this is Push's cream of the crop. Street-savvy lingo ("We got the tennis balls for the wrong sport" - 'If You Know You Know'), chest-puffed shit-talking ("I play musical chairs with these squares / Rich flair before they was Ric Flair" - 'Come Back Baby'), and clever wordplay ("We don't do vegetables, niggas get flatlined / Welcome all beef, then we heat em with flat irons" - 'Santeria') composes the bulk of Daytona. Pusha T makes up for his lack of content diversity and thematic relevance with his hard-nosed flows and maliciously spirited charisma, one that matches Kanye's retracted Boom Bap tastefully. Ultimately, the no-frills, modest nature of Daytona's seven tracks nullify the potential impact the audacious cover of Whitney Houston's crack bathroom could've had. It's never that grim or bleak.

The greatest curiosity of Daytona lies not with Pusha T, but rather the man tasked with supporting his impure characterizations; Kanye West. Unlike Kanye's transformative production history, Daytona takes a wise step back to his humble origins, melding his minimalistic College Dropout era sample galore with the percussion-driven hits of his Watch The Throne era. Chicken scratched Soul samples emerge on standouts 'If You Know You Know' and 'Come Back Baby,' playing fickle tricks with layered and looped drum kits and bass sets. The grooves match Pusha T's tone exquisitely, finding the rapper nestled in his comfort zone rather than attempting to be a Pop Rap star as we saw on 2013's My Name Is My Name. Trendy names like Chris Brown, Big Sean, and Future are removed and supplemented by the teamwork of G.O.O.D Music's two heavy-hitters, as Daytona very much feels like a collaboration project akin to Freddie Gibbs and Madlib's PiƱata. Much of Kanye's grimy production choices, like 'The Games We Play' or 'Hard Piano,' can be likened to Madlib's work on the aforementioned LP. Artistically refined with a foot firmly implanted on the streets to sense the vibrations.

Only album closer 'Infrared' strays from Kanye's traditional foundation of percussion, samples, and a Southern-infused blend (as seen on the rough hook of 'Hard Piano' and the redeeming one of 'Santeria'). Here, elements are transported to the darkness with tremors of bass acting as swarming monsters to the echoed vocals of The 24-Carat Black's 'I Want To Make Up.' Pusha T's viciousness on 'Infrared' almost disguises the fact that his lionized Drake diss is rudimentary, inadequate, and predictable. After impactful pieces like Andre 3000's 'Solo (Reprise)' on Blonde and J. Cole's '1985' on KOD, boilerplate diss tracks don't carry much weight when dispirited, and personally-affecting realizations, elicit a more poignant proclamation. Despite being marked by a propagative beef and occasional hypocritical statements (criticizing materialism on 'Hard Piano' despite flaunting it elsewhere, slamming Drake on his mum blacktivism while promoting drug usage and violence), Daytona still presents a handful of enjoyable trunk-rattlers that captures two talented artists working across stylistic barriers.

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