Pusha T’s solo career post-Clipse has often seemed rudderless. He made great strides playing the preening, streetwise Mase to Kanye’s Diddy on songs like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Runaway” and Cruel Summer’s “New God Flow”, but it took him a few releases (Fear of God, a patchy stab at bygone Re-Up Gang mixtape glory, and its sometimes distractingly star-studded sequel Fear of God II: Let Us Pray) to find his footing on his own. When he did, on January’s Wrath of Caine, he surfaced snarling over trap beats. The mixtape often subsisted off the sheer intensity of his delivery, and it placed him in lockstep with the mainstream rap zeitgeist. But it also cut him off from the flashy new-money arrogance of the first 10 years of his career, and it suffered in spots thanks to a noticeably diminished lyricism. Push flounders without a hands-on producer, it would seem. For his major label debut, My Name Is My Name, Kanye West is that guiding light.
Kanye never utters a word here, Auto-Tuned scatting on “Hold On” notwithstanding, but the sound and scope of the record are unmistakably Westian. The blaring fanfare and hyperactive drum programming Hudson Mohawke and Beewirks brought to “No Regrets” are direct descendants of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “All of the Lights”. On opener “King Push”, Kanye and Sebastian Sartor reprise the vocal sample from the breakdown in “New Slaves”, pinching and distending it into funhouse versions of itself over horror movie synth stabs. Kanye’s production with DJ Mano on “Who I Am” advances the dark, austere Yeezus vibe as it melds oft-used samples (the “Yeah!” from Mountain’s “Long Red” and the frantic lick from South Bronx dance-punk pioneers ESG’s “UFO”) and a swatch of Warp producer Kwes’ serene “LGOYH” into something leagues more sinister than its requisite elements. My Name Is My Name is borne out of the same minimal, uncompromising darkness as Yeezus, but its communion with radio rap values delivers on the accessibility that listeners put out by Yeezus’ monomaniacal hellishness clamored for.
My Name Is My Name makes concessions for radio accessibility, but it’s never rankled by them. Guests grace nearly every track, but where they gobbled up real estate that should’ve been Pusha’s on Fear of God II, on My Name Is My Name, they’re mostly tasked with giving Pusha’s impish abandon wings. Frequent alley oops from singers scan as shots at offsetting the brass tacks boom bap of “Numbers on the Boards” and “Nosetalgia” with hooks, but Pusha seems wholly unfazed by any of it. He nets a beat from the-Dream and a lilting Kelly Rowland hook on “Let Me Love You” and effects a Mase flow so spot-on you’ll look for him in the liner notes. Elsewhere a disembodied, wraithlike Chris Brown’s good life platitudes on “Sweet Serenade” are waylaid by at every turn by gun-toting mogul talk.
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