Pusha T is one of the most slept on outstanding rappers of the last 20 years. When people talk about the best rappers of this century, a few of the same names are mentioned: Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne, and J. Cole. But Pusha T has consistently been putting out excellent rap music for as long or longer than all of these artists. Pusha T is often recognized as one of the pioneers of a subgenre of Hip Hop called “Coke Rap.” It is a style of music that is very dark and harsh; it is characterized by lyricism about buying and selling coke, and all of the ugly things that go along with that lifestyle. It is made by individuals that most people would not want to mess with. Pusha T initially rose to fame as a part of the legendary rap duo called Clipse, which he formed with his brother, No Malice. Clipse was one of the best Hip Hop acts of the 2000s. Two of their records, Lord Willin’ and Hell Hath No Fury, are considered to be some of the greatest of the decade. Since Clipse disbanded in the late 2000s, Pusha T has gone on to become President of Kanye’s GOOD Music record label; he has also had a successful solo career, having released multiple critically acclaimed albums. Throughout his career, Pusha T has proven he can rap on any kind of instrumental, showing that he is always willing to go outside the box. This latest record, however, which is called It’s Almost Dry, is produced by Kanye and Pharrell, who are two of his oldest and most frequent collaborators. I am interested to see how they will make this recipe feel modern while capturing that magic they have had in the past. Please let me know in the comments how you feel about It’s Almost Dry, and also comment what your favorite songs are from this record.
It’s Almost Dry starts with ‘Brambleton,’ which has a dark and imposing yet somehow relaxed sound to it. It is driven by a Funky synthesized keyboard riff, and it is put over a bass-heavy yet sparse Hip Hop beat that reminds me a big of the kind of beats Clipse became originally known for. The overall sound of the song is very somber and calming; it makes me think of smoking and driving after a long workday. Pusha T has a storytelling style and demeanor in the way he raps in this song. He raps with a sing-song tone that goes with the melody and beat extremely well. In ‘Brambleton,’ Pusha T is talking about the disloyalty of him to one of his former associates. In particular, this refers to an interview Pusha T’s former manager did where he revealed way more about Pusha’s past than he was comfortable with. Ultimately, ‘Brambleton’ is about betrayal. While ‘Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes’ also has an overall sound that is reminiscent of the music Clipse grew up making, it has a way different energy than the song that precedes it. For one, this track is a lot faster-paced than the previous one; it has a fast-paced and intense beat that gets one’s blood pressure to rise. The melody is provided by another synthesized keyboard; this melody, however, has a lot more of a glitchy and distorted sound. It gives the song an anxious and intense energy. Pusha T raps with a blunt and tough flow that adds to the energy of the instrumental. His flow rides the beat in a very clean yet uneasy way. Pusha T raps with a seriousness that adds to the dark and shadowy nature of the song. In ‘Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes,’ Pusha is talking about his life as a highly successful Crack Cocaine dealer. He proclaims that the drug addicts buying his Crack are essentially shining his fancy cars since their money pays for the cars and the cleaning of them. He calls himself “Cocaine’s Dr. Seuss,” as he is excellent at telling stories and rhyming about selling cocaine. Following this, we get ‘Dreaming of the Past,’ which features Kanye West. The title of this track fits its sound well, as this is the first song ok the record with an instrumental that sounds like it’s from an old Kanye project. This track has retro Kanye over it. This melody of this song is provided by a sample from the track ‘Jealous Guy,’ which is performed by Donny Hathaway and originally recorded by John Lennon. The song has a happy-go-lucky feeling to the way it sounds; the instrumental has a cheerful tone. Pusha lets go of his rough and harsh demeanor in this song. The way he raps on this one is a lot lighter than it was on the first two tracks. In this song, Pusha and Kanye are rapping about all of the cool and great and fancy experiences they have had due to their positions in life. Both rappers seem truly grateful for this song. The next song, ‘Neck and Wrist,’ features Jay-Z and Pharrell. It is a fan favorite from the record and is considered by Hip Hop heads to be a song of the year candidate. This song has a large and menacing Trap instrumental which matches its theme well. The song has a light melody provided by another synthesized keyboard, and the beat is super bass-heavy and harsh. The chorus is provided by Pharrell in a soft yet matter-of-fact manner which fits in with the verses well. Both Pusha T and Jay-Z are in their element on this track. Each of them deliver confident and boisterous verses which make it obvious they are very serious about what they are talking about. In ‘Neck and Wrist,’ Pusha T and Jay-Z are talking about their former statuses in the drug world and their current statuses in the Hip Hop world. They are informing the listener about what it is like to be a true kingpin.
Tomorrow never comes until it’s too late… ‘Just So You Remember’ has such a classic feeling to it. This song could be a sleeper hit from this record. I know the Hip Hop heads love it. ‘Just So You Remember’ is a song with that old-school Kanye production. The song is driven by the sample, which guides the melody of the track while acting as its chorus(the sample comes from the 1972 song ‘Six-Day War by Colonel Bagshot). Pusha T has such a menacing and intimidating way to the way he raps in this song. He wants to drive his message as bluntly as he can. In ‘Just So You Remember,’ Pusha T is reminding his contemporaries who he is and who they are messing with. If they forgot about his past and how can he when prompted, he is making sure they know now. ‘Diet Coke’ is a song that is similar to the one that precedes it in many ways. It is another song with an old-school feeling to the production which is produced by Kanye. It is also another song where a cool sample drives the melody and flow of the song. The aforementioned sample is from Jerry Butler’s 1974 song ‘Take the Time to Tell Her.’ ‘Diet Coke’ is a matter-of-fact song about selling cocaine. Full of so many fun and witty bars from Pusha T, this is a crack dealer’s anthem. ‘Rock N Roll,’ which features Kanye West and Kid Cudi, is another song that has emerged as a fan favorite. It is personally my favorite song on the record. As much as the last two songs felt so much like classic (producer)Kanye instrumentals, this one takes the cake. I swear this instrumental would fit in so well on Kanye’s first two albums; it is an awesome blast from the past. This song features a chipmunk soul version of a sample from Beyoncé’s song ‘1+1’ as well as drums by Pharrell. It makes for such an interesting and unique-sounding instrumental. All three artists are in their bags while rapping and singing this song. It is like they have been waiting for a beat like this. In ‘Rock N Roll,’ Pusha T, Kanye, and Kid Cudi talk about their former lives and how they need to cherish every moment. It is such a great song that should make so many old fans of these artists happy. ‘Call My Bluff’ is another fan favorite from this record. It is probably my top song on the album other than the one that precedes it. This song has a very minimal yet nasty-sounding instrumental; it sounds even more like a classic Pusha and Pharrell combination than the earlier songs on this album with that feeling. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me this was an old Clipse song that I had somehow never heard; that’s how much it reminds me of the music they came upon. The song features a low-key and creepy synth melody which is placed over a sporadic snare beat and heavy bass from pounding 808 drums. This track has such a foreboding tone to it. Pusha comes in with a calm yet fierce demeanor. It matches the tone of the instrumental perfectly. It has the sound of a song by someone who shouldn’t be messed with. The meaning of ‘Call My Bluff’ is pretty self-explanatory. Pusha T is dating his rivals to come at him and see what happens.
‘Scrape It Off,’ which features Lil Uzi Vert and Don Tolliver, has the most mainstream modern sound of anything on this album. I can’t lie, it does feel a bit out of place, but I assume it was meant to be a song that pulls more casual Hip Hop fans into listening to this album. Even though it feels out of place, it’s still a good song. Don Tolliver sings the chorus on this traditional Atlanta-style melodic Trap beat, and this chorus is extremely catchy as most sung by Don Tolliver are. Lil Uzi Vert’s voice and flow create a nice contrast from Pusha T’s, and it gives the song a fun texture. ‘Scrape It Off’ is a song about selling coke and flexing your assets. It is pretty straightforward, to be honest. Next, we have ‘Hear Me Clearly,’ which features Nigo for his assistance in the production. If you aren’t familiar with Nigo, he is most well known for being the head designer for the clothing line A Bathing Ape. He and Kanye created the instrumental for this song. It has a very menacing and foreboding tone to it that feels almost scary in a way. The instrumental is very minimalistic, with a simple melody being provided by a piano and a basic old-school-style drum pattern giving us the best. This instrumental reminds me of 90s underground Hip Hop; I could see the Wu-Tang clan hopping on this bear back in the day. Pusha T’s voice and flow match the harsh and grim nature of the beat well. Pusha T has the tone of someone I would not want to piss off in this song. In ‘Hear Me Clearly,’ Pusha T is asserting his dominance over the rap game and the coke dealing game. He knows he’s at the top of the ladder and he is daring anyone to try to knock him off the top. Next, we get ‘Open Air.’ It is a song that shows Pharrell’s talents as a producer in a way we usually don’t see. This song has a dark and ominous modern Trap beat that one would not expect from Pharrell. I would expect to hear this kind of beat from someone like Zaytoven or Metroboomin. It shows off the versatility Pharrell has as a Hip Hop producer. The melody for this song is not very different sounding than the one on ‘Hear Me Clearly.’ Although it is synthesized, the pacing and pitch of the melody are not far off from the one in the previous song. The whole instrumental feels similar to ‘Hear Me Clearly’ in a way. One of the reasons the transition between these two songs is so clean is because of the similar sound they have. ‘Open Air’ has a slowed-down pace to it that is dictated by a heavy modern Trap drum pattern, though. This beat makes these songs distinct and stand out from each other. Pusha T has less of a cruel and raspy sound to his rapping style in this song. Instead, his voice and flow take on more of a storytelling mood. In ‘Open Air,’ Pusha T is telling the listener about what he had to go through growing up. His life of drug dealing was not pretty, and he wants the listener to know about every ugly detail. The album closes out with the song ‘I Pray For You,’ which features Labrinth and former Clipse member/Pusha T’s brother, Malice. This song sounds like a Trap anthem that was produced inside a church. The melody is provided by organs playing a melody that sounds like it should be played after the Gospel has been read. The melody is assisted by Heavenly vocals provided by Labrinth, who also delivered an intro for the song in which he states he’s praying for everyone in the world. Both Pusha T and Malice have a hopeful tone in the way they are rapping. It is probably the most “cheerful” sounding song on the record(cheerful being used loosely). On this track, Pusha T raps about his and his brothers’ lives and how they have gotten to where they are today. It has been a crazy journey and it shows how resilient they are. In his verse, Malice raps about how he has found God and has a new perspective on life. He does briefly let the listener know that the killer is still inside him, though, and that you still do not ever want to cross him. I could see this song being another sleeper hit among Hip Hop heads. It has such a triumphant feeling, and it features two great verses from two rap legends who hardly collaborate anymore. ‘I Pray For You’ is an exceptional way to end this record.
As I started in the introduction, Pusha T might be the most underrated top rapper of the last 20 years. It’s Almost Dry is a record that helps confirm this sentiment. Pusha T has been so consistent throughout his career, and that consistency shines in a major way on this album. For pure fans of Hip Hop music, there is not a mediocre song on this record. I would argue that it honestly has zero skips. There are a few songs that may not be made for the more casual Hip Hop fan, but no one can deny the quality of all of these songs from a pure Hip Hop standpoint. Pusha T proves he can still rap on a wide variety of instrumentals on the record, and it shows he is just as focused as ever from a lyrical standpoint. The flow of the album is a bit sporadic, as it switches back and forth between very different styles of production from Kanye and Pharrell, but the quality is so high that this isn’t a problem in the slightest. It’s Almost Dry is one of the best rap albums of the year by one of the best rappers in the world, and I am positive it will be near the top of my year-end list for best records.