12 January 2016

REVIEW: Pusha T - King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude

Even before Pusha T's debut solo album, My Name Is My Name, dropped in the last quarter of 2013, hip hop heads worldwide have been highly anticipating his sophomore release. With multiple release dates being pushed back for Push (yeah I heard it), many were left wondering when King Push would see the light of day. The VA emcee has kept his fans appeased with updates throughout multiple interviews. And the collective exhale (at least we hope it is) came when Push announced that he would drop a prelude in December. King Push - Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude would serve as an appetizer to Pusha T's King Push album. Even though the album is only 10 tracks long, Push managed to get a star studded production roster, which include: Kanye (of course), Timbaland, Boi-1da, Sean "Puff Daddy" (back to that right?) Combs, The-Dream, J Cole and Q-Tip. Pusha T is one of the few emcees that can pay homage to the golden era without being constrained by the boom bap sound. The catalog of producers on the album provide contemporary instrumentals that place Push in the epicenter of what would be considered modern hip hop sounds.

Lyrically, Push is sharper than ever. The dark grimy themes are created with his rhythmic cadence and unconventional metaphors. In a recent interview with Sway in the Morning, Push said that one of the toughest and most frustrating tracks to write for was Crutches, Crosses, Caskets. Puff Daddy provided the instrumental and was very hands on with the overall production of the track. The bars, "Take my time to craft shit/ Cuz I don't like back and forths with Puff about rap shit", summarized Push's experience. But Pusha T felt that Puff was able to inject a drive that elevated his lyrics. "If I know what you about to say, then that ain't the right bar," Puff said to Push. Say what you will about Puff the rapper, but Puff the producer has had a huge influence on the sound of east coast hip hop. Puffy has seen it all in his 20 plus years in the game. This makes him the "toughest critic in life..don't nobody push you like him in the studio."

Crutches, Crosses, Caskets is probably in my top 3 favorite tracks off of The Prelude. The other two are M.P.A. and Sunshine. M.P.A. is a Kanye/Che Pope/Cole produced track that on the surface appears to be a typical track talking about money, women and alcohol. But once you dissect the lyrics you see the track gets much deeper than that. But the single I really want to highlight is Sunshine. The distorted percussion instrumental seems to build in waves, the beat even drops the drums altogether to let Pusha T's voice be the focal point. Jill Scott provides haunting vocals for the intro and the chorus throughout. The hook, "I say hey, sunshine/ Oh how the day can be so long," starts the track off with the juxtaposition of a greeting a beautiful day, but wanting the day to end (sunshine can still shine on a day full of hardships and suffering). The powerful track touches on the Freddie Gray murder and the Baltimore riots (and other injustices throughout the nation). "I see one time turn sunshine into Freddie Gray". This simple line is extremely complex and poignant. "One time" are the police (because if you look at the police more than once time, they get suspicious) who turn a "sunshine" (sunny/good day) into a cloudy/dark day (Freddie Gray's last name is used as a double entendre). The murder of Freddie Gray turned a sunny/normal day into a cloudy/heartbreaking one. For the moment the trial has hit a block with a hung jury and is postponed until [no timeline given]. Besides Jason Van Dyke in Chicago, who was tried and indicted for murder, most cops get a slap on the wrist and keep it moving (and I say slap on the wrist because if you kill someone and get no jail time, you can't cry about nada).

Pusha T has always been a "hood reporter". He shines a light into his reality and share his struggle with the world. As his popularity and influence increased, he has made more efforts to speak on social issues when addressed. He knows his Clipse fans want to keep hearing him rap about the street life with the genuine insight that can only come from a handful of emcees. But he is no longer in his early 20s, Push is pushing 40 and is taking the next step in his career. The promotion to president of G.O.O.D. Music provides an even greater platform for him to grow in his professional career and personal life. If The Prelude is a glimpse into what King Push will achieve, then Pusha T will be a force to deal with in the coming years. 

Peep a few videos below and cop that record ASAP. 

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