Pusha T returns to villainy on ‘King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude’

By Kunal Khunger

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(Eddy "40oz" Rissling ( the Come Up Show)/Flickr)

(Eddy “40oz” Rissling ( the Come Up Show)/Flickr)

Pusha T makes no attempt to be anything but a menace.

The former drug dealer-turned-rapper has been a constant display of lyrical talent since his debut with Clipse’s “Lord Willin’.” Since splitting off from Clipse and his brother’s group to pursue a solo career, Pusha T has retained that same rugged charm and lyrical wordplay that had defined his early work. While his solo debut, “My Name Is My Name” was great in its own right, “King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude,” released in Dec. 2015, cannot help but feel like a return to form for the illustrious street rapper.

Since it is only a prelude, “Darkest Before Dawn” is a short album­ – only 33 minutes – that sprints furiously toward the finish line. This is a cold and aggressive package, with Pusha T furiously firing out sneak disses, cocaine references and braggadocio in rapid succession. Never has he sounded more inspired and in tune with himself as he does now, marrying his gritty ‘90s-esque lyricism with production by many of the world’s most acclaimed producers, ranging from established acts like Timbaland (who is present on three tracks) and Sean Combs to up-and-coming acts like Metro Boomin and Hudson Mohawke. Pusha T is a relic from a bygone era that has remained relevant through sheer force of will and talent.

And man, does his talent show here. Pusha T sets the mood instantly for the rest of the album with his ice-cold “Intro.” His devil-may-care attitude is more apparent than ever before as he states, “I done been black balled/And never gave a f*** ‘cause I’m Jack Frost/Of sellin’ that blast off.” Right off the bat, listeners know they are in for a treat.

The pace stays consistent, ranging from the piano ballad “M.P.A.” to the shade-throwing “M.F.T.R.” to the closer “Sunshine,” where Pusha T becomes political and addresses the issues of biased media and police brutality. Lines such as, “They ain’t new problems, they just old ways/I see one time turn sunshine into Freddie Gray,” are vividly and terrifyingly relevant today.

Pusha T wisely relegates most of his guests to hook duty, resulting in larger focus on his own voice and perspective. Trusted collaborators including Ab-Liva, Kanye West and The Dream, while younger acts like Kehlani and A$AP Rocky also get their time to shine. The only rap feature on the album come from Ab-Liva and Beanie Sigel, who both contribute stellar verses that only serve to complement Pusha T’s verses and strengthen the dark, cutthroat atmosphere that permeates the record’s entirety. One cannot help but admire Pusha T’s decision to relegate popular acts like Kanye West and A$AP Rocky to hook duty, further displaying his confidence and putting his lyrical skills in full display.

If “Darkest Before Dawn” is merely a sample of what is to come on Pusha T’s hotly anticipated album “King Push–“ – which is scheduled to be released in April 2016 – one cannot help but wonder what he can possibly pull out of his hat by now. “Darkest Before Dawn” is an album of such skill and precision that most rappers and hip-hop artists would die to produce such a tour de force. The fact that he has designated this masterpiece, as just a prelude will only serve to heighten expectations for what is to come – and rightfully so. Pusha T has stayed relevant and hungry in a genre that belongs to young men. So, there is no reason to believe he won’t be able to deliver again. One of the greatest lyrical talents of our generation just keeps on rolling.

 

Kunal Khunger can be reached at [email protected]