“This my time, this is my hour,” Pusha T opens the first track on My Name Is My Name, what is technically his first solo full-length release. It’s not just bravado either – it does indeed seem that way, an oft-overlooked rapper’s prime moment to shine. If Kendrick Lamar delivered the universal Verse of the Year on ‘Control’ then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better, more brilliantly idiosyncratic beat over the past twelve months than on this LP’s lead cut, ‘Numbers On The Boards’. Uniting as many as it polarised, in that way the greatest of things often do, the rapper set the bar high for himself from the outset.
But ‘Numbers’ isn’t the only reason this LP has become one of the most eagerly-anticipated rap records in 2013. Release delays may have helped whet appetite, but, that aside, it’s also down to the fact that this isn’t any ordinary debut album. With three albums under his belt as one-half of brotherly duo Clipse, plus numerous mixtapes and guest slots to his name, Pusha T – at the ripe age of 36 – is hardly a young upstart cutting his teeth but instead someone ready to step it up a notch.
His former group, Clipse’s influence is well-noted. “Everything is Pusha T,” mentor and close collaborator Kanye West recently proclaimed in a typically-emphatic fashion at the rapper’s launch of the record, noting the star’s influence on current hip-hop culture. But despite such across-the-board high esteem for Clipse critically, the two always remained somewhat underrated commercially.
Having parting ways in 2011, brother Malice has since changed his name to No Malice, turning to God and releasing a Christian rap album in the process. Pusha, on the other hand, is undergoing a rebirth of his own; belatedly emerging as one of hip-hop’s hottest properties. While the pair had been responsible for some of the most imaginative and memorable lyrics of the past decade, there was always a danger of repetition and stagnancy looming. Keeping mostly to their own self-proclaimed genre of ‘coke rap’ (“I sold more dope than I sold records / You n***as sold records, never sold dope”, as Pusha raps on ‘Hold On’), this was always going to be a pitfall. On My Name Is My Name, the rapper seems hell-bent on proving his versatility, while also sticking to his strengths.
A quick perusal of the guest spots on offer and it’s clear that what’s to come will be an eclectic affair, with the easy-listening R&B fodder of Pharrell Williams, Kelly Rowland and The-Dream sitting alongside the likes of Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar and rap’s equivalent of a meme-generator, 2 Chainz. It is Kanye, predictably enough though, who has the biggest impact out of all the album’s collaborators.
Looming over the entire record, West is credited only with the vague label of ‘executive producer’. His input, however, is anything but vague – with his presence felt pretty much everywhere, from production to cover art. West’s autotuned vocals appear (uncredited) on ‘Hold On’, lead cut ‘Number On The Boards’ features a Yeezy-made beat, while opener ‘King Push’ even uses the same samples as Yeezus track ‘New Slaves’.
Much like Yeezus, My Name Is My Name exhibits noticeable fragmentation. The first handful of tracks showcase the kind of minimalist production West spoke of greatly prior to the release of his album but sadly on managed to deliver in patches. The sparse flow implemented on ‘Nosetalgia’ or ‘Who I Am’ are far cries from the maximalist sonic onslaught that occupies much of the album’s additional tracks.
But while Yeezus suffered not only from fragmentation but also inconsistency, each song on Pusha’s record – with the exception of the throwaway club-appeasing ‘Suicide’ – seems a highlight. And despite West’s guidance, Pusha T’s individuality is still felt strongly, if not in terms of production then definitely when it comes to his verses. Several moments on the record you think you’ve heard the best bars of the album when, before you know it, Pusha’s hit you with another to top it – even when rubbing shoulders with one-to-beat, Kendrick Lamar, on ‘Nosetalgia’.
In My Name Is My Name, Pusha T has produced one of the most diverse and constantly rewarding hip-hop records of the year; twelve tracks tied together by a man at the top of his form and who, quite soon, may yet reach the highest summits.