Despite what people might lead you to think, with their new fangled fandom and hashtags, Pusha T has been round for a long, long while.
As part of Clipse, he put out two of the best rap albums of the Noughties - supremely produced efforts showcasing The Neptunes at their absolute pomp and two rappers, brothers Pusha T and Malice, who would rap their fucking arse off about selling crack in a way that didn't seem like the average sort. There was no over-dramatisation, shit was cut straight to about their shit getting cut straight up and - aside from a feature on Justin Timberlake's first solo single and, perhaps, their single Grindin' - they never really 'broke'. Albums one and two placed fourth and fourteenth in the charts but they were never breaking into the upper echelons of rap, no matter what Pitchfork might say.
Their third album, 'Til The Casket Drops' dropped and nobody gave any fucks. In typical rap fashion, Clipse had aimed for chart success and lost sight of what made they great in the first place, putting out an album dominated by up-beat poppy tracks instead of clubby pyrex-inflected bangers. Suffice to say reception was mixed and the album peaked at number forty-one in the US Billboard charts.
Pusha T's solo move seemed like a strange choice at first. Both members of Clipse had similar sounding voices which worked well in tandem - Malice's voice a pitch higher, his delivery a little more angular compared to T's relatively level-headed approach - but you wouldn't have pitched either as a standalone star.
With that said, stand-out singles like King Push and Numbers On The Board had made expectations for Pusha's first solo LP, 'My Name Is My Name' sky high. Perhaps it was unfair on him. The songs had the trap-level head-nod factor with the added cachet of coming from a rapper of genuine calibre and the internet went pretty crazy for them.
On 'leaking', first impressions of My Name Is My Name were good. The opening one-two of the aforementioned singles remains potent but after claiming he 'don't sing hooks' on King Push we get a couple of tracks with piss-poor choruses, sappy production and Pusha pushing a cadence softer than warm puppy shit. The middle section of the album is made up entirely of skippable tracks. 'Sweet Serenade' isn't so much bad as reductive and dull, the The-Dream produced '40 Acres' sounds like something that Mariah Carey would throw out for being too treacly and 'Hold On' features an uncredited Kanye West in his worst, most grating form with Rick Ross' appearance adding genuine levity.
There's nothing wrong with thematic left-turns in an album but there's no real coherence. You can't top and tail an album with bangers, filling the middle with absolute dross like 'Let Me Love You' (featuring Pusha's girlfriend Kelly Rowland) is borderline disrespectful. On the aforementioned Kelly Rowland track, he sounds bored and tired; like he's just found himself in a rubbish Ja Rule B-side or the rap equivalent of being made to wait outside a dressing-room in a shop while your girlfriend tries on shoes.
For those keeping count, that's two great tracks to open and six that are absolutely terrible. There are only twelve tracks on the album, total, and half of them are unlistenable. Even the tracks that follow are sullied by juxtaposition, like that middle section is some kind of poisoned wound. 'Nosetalgia' (featuring Kendrick Lamar) is still great but if you're listening in sequence and you made it that far you deserve some kind of prize, I guess. 'Pain' uses explosions as drums for fuck's sake and it still fails to bang, instead merely pausing on the 'Meh, it's okay' side of the scale. No song that uses explosions as fucking drums should be so bland but the appearance of the lamentable Future - genuinely one of the worst things to happen in music since somebody gave Stevie Wonder a synth - manages to undo all of the song's potential for enjoyment.
Album closer S.N.I.T.C.H. fares little better and makes it, for those keeping count, three great songs with seven flat out terrible tracks and two that are okay at best.
The problem, it would seem, with 'My Names Is My Name' is that it's clearly not an album. It's not an album's worth of quality or cohesive like an album should be. It's an EP at best. If this entire album was a free to download mixtape, I would have still been disappointed. As it stands, as a debut LP for an artist that a lot of people had high hopes for, with considerable production clout and money behind it, it's fucking atrocious. It watered down what makes Pusha T great and what made the opening two tracks great when they were first released.
It's a problem that seems endemic with hip-hop: a genre so obsessed with money and status that it'll regularly throw out the formula in search of hitting it big. There's very little cachet left in being a starving artist in rap music or even one merely carving out a decent living making personal, coherent music. It's Mayback or fuck off. It's Lambo or go home.
That kind of cavalier attitude should make for exciting music and originality. It doesn't. It entrenches the kind of hip-hop homogeny that killed mainstream hip-hop.