Updated: Jan 21, 2019
Author: Sam Seliger
Kanye West has had a wild last couple months. First, West announced the release of five albums he was producing, the first of which would be Pusha T’s. Next there were the tweets showing support for president Donald Trump, then the infamous troll song “Lift Yourself,” with its “poopity-scoop” lyrics. Needless to say, when Pusha T’s album “DAYTONA” came out on May 25, nobody had any idea what to expect.
Photo courtesy of Pitchfork
But on “DAYTONA,” Pusha delivers arguably his best solo work project to date, and he does it all in just 22 minutes over only seven songs. Every song on the album is a standout, and not a second is wasted. West delivered on the production, churning out old-school boom-bap and soul samples, with his trademark melodic lines and modulations. The beats are hard, and far sparser than West’s other work in recent years. They evoke the classic drug-dealer raps of New York in the early 1990s, but revamped for the 21st century.
These beats give Pusha T the perfect environment in which to spit his old school raps of drug dealing and bravado, and to do it with a vengeance that we have not seen in his post-Clipse, G.O.O.D. Music days. Push spits with anger and intensity, and delivers lines like “Of all the things I've ever paid for / Know that it's no price tag when I wage war / It's no more to pray for, n------ get preyed on / Darken my doorstep, they told me the day's gone / You listening, De’von?” on the track “Santeria,” remembering his manager De’Von Pickett. He seems as energized as ever, especially for an old head, on tracks like “Hard Piano” with Rick Ross: “Had to find other ways to invest / 'Cause you rappers found every way to ruin Pateks. / It's a nightmare, yeah / I'm too rare amongst all of this pink hair.”
Photo courtesy of Pusha T's Facebook
When Kanye West makes a guest appearance on track six, “What Would Meek Do?” he is angry at the world for how the internet has responded to him in recent months and delivers a blistering verse far surpassing recent singles “Watch” and “Lift Yourself,” which he samples and references before throwing clever tongue-twisting rhymes about his opioid addiction and how he is about to take back over the music world. Not that Pusha gives up the spotlight for long: he mixes politics, rap history and Drake disses with a confidence and subtle anger that bring “Infrared” to another level. Opening the finale with “The games f----- up / N------ beats is bangin’, n----- ya hooks did it / The lyric pennin’ equal to Trump’s winning / The bigger question is how the Russians did it / It was written like Nas, but it came from Quentin,” manages to slam both Drake’s use of ghost writers and President Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russian government, while also referencing Nas’s classic sophomore album.
If “DAYTONA” has one flaw, it is that the album is too short. At only 22 minutes, the entire record could fit on one side of an LP (were it ever to be pressed on vinyl), and its seven-song tracklist is dwarfed by the trends of super long albums, like Lil Uzi Vert’s “LUV is Rage 2.” While this does mean there is no filler, and ensures that these songs, some of his best solo work, are not weighed down by clutter, it leaves the listener wanting more. One can only imagine what a reinvigorated Pusha T and Kanye West could have done with another 18 minutes of material.