If all of the forthcoming projects produced by Kanye West meet their release dates, then G.O.O.D. Music might just swallow all of hip-hop and perhaps even the entire music industry whole this summer. It’s been three years since Pusha T released Darkest Before Dawn, and quite a while since the rest of the artists with whom Kanye West has been working in Wyoming released as well (Nas, Kid Cudi). If DAYTONA is any indication of what’s to come, the masses might almost forget West’s recent social media statements.
Pusha’s new album, named after his favorite watch, represents the luxury an artist of his stature has at this point of his career in taking as much time as he needs to create a worthwhile project. In an age of radio singles, downloads, free SoundCloud releases, and viral videos, DAYTONA arrives as an antithesis, an exercise by a veteran that’s been in the game for more than two decades who no longer feels the pressure of making a name for himself or reaching a larger audience (“I’m too rare amongst all of this pink hair”). The album clocks in around 21 minutes at only 7 tracks long, but the deep production samples suggest months of crate-digging. There isn’t a shred of fat to be found here; no hooks, no clear radio single in sight. DAYTONA goes like the finest steak money can buy.
Some fans, undoubtedly, will feel shortchanged by less than ten tracks. The creative decisions do indeed leave little room for error with the album, but the finished product amounts to a statement from an artist continuing to reject what has become en vogue in the industry. Ultimately, Pusha T emerges triumphant, and any complaints will be most likely end up being similar to people complaining about the cover artwork (a photo published in 2006 of Whitney Houston’s bathroom) or to others complaining that he is still writing luxury drug raps. Pusha is a specialist, however, that writes such raps so well that most naysayers probably aren’t listening closely enough.
With DAYTONA, Pusha aligns himself with hip-hop legends, figuratively and lyrically. On the obdurate, no-nonsense “The Games We Play,” he compares himself to the likes of Ghostface and Raekwon (“To all of my young n****s, I am your Ghost and your Rae/This is my Purple Tape, save up for rainy days”), and later on “Infrared,” includes himself on a guest list that includes names like Jay-Z. Like the latter accomplished with American Gangster, Pusha has provided a highbrow appeal to tropes that wouldn’t be considered the shortest route to widespread appeal or the cutting edge of the genre. And after twenty years, there are few of his peers rapping at his level on “What Would Meek Do?” (“Angel on my shoulder, “what should we do?” (we do)/Devil on the other, “what would Meek do?”/Pop a wheelie, tell the judge to Akinyele/Middle fingers out the Ghost, screamin’ “Makaveli”).
Much will be made of “Infrared,” the album’s conclusion that seems to re-ignite Pusha’s beef with Drake and the Cash Money label. The song contains a Quentin Miller reference and at least one other shot at using ghostwriters, but the most scathing remarks are directed at Baby and Wayne. “Salute Ross ’cause the message was pure/He see what I see when you see Wayne on tour/Flash without the fire/Another multi-platinum rapper trapped and can’t retire.” It’s not just a diss track, but more of a declaration of Push’s own ability to navigate the rap game like he navigated the streets. “Only rapper that sold more dope than me was Eazy-E.” DAYTONA proves that King Push is still coming out on top.