There are ideological questions about what kind of a rapper Pusha-T can be in 2013. The Clipse drug-talker has enjoyed a higher profile and (assumed) increased financial success since singing with Kanye West and G.O.O.D. Music in 2010, but while he’s more of a household name now, he often seemed unfocused and unsure of himself. Leading up to the release of My Name is My Name, he kept appearing on prestige tracks with the Rick Ross and rapping about his wealth, his women and his lifestyle and sounding like no one in the process.
My Name is My Name doesn’t shed any additional light on this issue. Pusha is still far removed from his drug-dealing days, and getting ever farther. Yet, his voice comes most alive when he talks about street violence, street culture, street hustle. In a way, his current narrative holding pattern is common: what does the person who fought and scrapped to have everything actually do with it?
Still, philosophical questions don’t matter as much when one of the best rappers is going nuts over some of the most exciting beats of the year. Sure, Pusha is rehashing the coke talk that he perfected on Clipse records like Hell Hath No Fury, but on the other hand, HE’S REHASHING THE COKE TALK THAT HE PERFECTED ON HELL HATH NO FURY. T hasn’t sounded this focused, this connected to his material since the early 2000s.
The album’s production is similarly impressive. Kanye West has assembled a murder’s row of established and up-and-come beat makers for the record: everyone from Pharell and Swizz Beats to Don Cannon and Hudson Mohawk contribute to the record’s foreboding, threatening motif. Songs like “Numbers on the Boards,” “Hold On” and “Nosetalgia” accomplish the impossible task of sounding both like grimy hood anthems and million-dollar luxury beats.
Perhaps this, then, is the best way to look at what My Name is My Name, and by extension, Pusha-T, can do: he may never evolve past his hood inspiration, but when the world bends to meet him, Push comes off sounding like the only street rapper who ever mattered.