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DAYTONA: ALBUM REVIEW by jordan de padova

Two days before its release, Pusha T announced the name of his third studio album: “DAYTONA,” along with a cryptic explanation. “DAYTONA represents the fact that I have the luxury of time. That luxury only comes when u have a skill set that your confident in.” When the tracklist was released shortly after, fans had a better understanding of what he meant. Although Pusha T had not released a project since his 2015 “Darkest Before The Dawn: The Prelude,” (what it was a prelude to, we may never know), “DAYTONA,” the culmination of three years of work, was a measly seven tracks long. “DAYTONA,” was the first of five albums all released in a month long period between May and June. All five albums were produced by Kanye West.

The first track, “If You Know You Know,” is a drug dealer anthem. With a tone to match the rest of his discography, Push talks the tricks of the trade and vividly paints a picture of his gritty rise to success. These picturesque drug raps are over a minimalistic beat which incorporates acapella sections and repetitive instrumentation. Overall the song is a high-tempo introduction to “DAYTONA.”

The second cut off the record, “The Games We Play,” is alluring right from the start, with a slow, hypnotic rhythm and a couple boastful ad-libs. Pusha T wastes no time transitioning to his verse, which although mellow like the beat contains some of the most aggressive and raw lyrics off the album, “The love just accentuates the hate.” This track is a short one and the message is concise and clear. Pusha T is commenting on how people portray themselves and the lengths to which people go to impress others.

“Hard Piano,” the third song on the tracklist boasts a rare feature, the first of two on the album, as Rick Ross contributes a verse. “Hard Piano’s,” instrumental is one of the more repetitive on the album but by using a sample to bridge the two verses, keeps listeners interested. Inferrable by the title the beat is made up of a piano riff and later in the track a howling vocal sample off of “High as a Kite,” by Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Rhythm Band is introduced. Ross and Push use allusion and metaphor to create very dense and esoteric verse which make for numerous quotables:

"The Warhols on my wall paint a war story

Had to find other ways to invest

'Cause you rappers found every way to ruin Pateks

It's a nightmare, yeah

I'm too rare amongst all of this pink hair"

Although “Hard Piano,” was hit or miss, the proceeding track, “Come Back Baby,” is a personal favorite off the album. The beat features Kanye West production reminiscent of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” The comparison is due to the use of a long sample with minimum distortion which really becomes the core of the track, as a matter of fact the chorus of the song is entirely a sample of George Jackson’s “I Can’t Do Without You.” Lyrically Pusha T is stunting; spouting numbers, name dropping, and getting in listeners face about how he sees his position in the rap game. He doesn’t want to be the best rapper to ever have moved weight; he wants to be the best dealer to ever rap. The verses off this song are among the most self-assured on the whole album:

"Who else got the luxury to drop when he want

'Cause nobody else can f**k with me?

What a showoff

Ni**a wrist for wrist let's have a glow off

F**k it, brick for brick let's have a blow off"

The fifth song on the album, “Santeria,” is Pusha T’s closest thing to a Latin chart-topper. Over a crisp sample of “Drugs,” by Lil Kim, Pusha T sporadically raps about topics ranging from the Kremlin to Rottweilers to Malcolm X. This variety of topics combined with amusing wordplay and imagery make for extremely engaging and interesting verses. The aforementioned latin flare is subtly audible in the instrumental but is extremely obvious in the chorus, sung by 070 Shake, a new G.O.O.D music talent who delivers the hook entirely in Spanish. Overall the track is a unique gem in Pusha T’s discography and one of my favorites off the album.

“What Would Meek Do?” Amidst Meek Mill’s legal troubles, this song proposed a valid question. The sixth track off the album features Kanye West, no surprise considering his immense presence on the project. This track is a fun one for fans with many references to West and Pusha T’s lives and chemistry to spare. Both West and Push discuss what they do in the face of hate and disapproval, drawing a parallel between themselves and Meek Mill, hence the title. Pusha T says he pays haters no mind, or in his words:

"Angel on my shoulder, 'What should we do?'

Devil on the other, "What would Meek do?"

Pop a wheelie, tell the judge to Akinyele

Middle fingers out the Ghost, screamin' Makaveli"

West on the other hand says he just shrugs off the haters and trolls them for his own entertainment. Overall the track has a unique format and is very entertaining but all it needs to solidify it as a great cut is the opening line, with West posing a question and Pusha T responding with a Chapelle show reference 12 years after the fact:

"Ni**as talkin' shit, Push

How do you respond?

I'm top five and all of them Dylan"

Pusha T's longtime friend and collaborator Kanye West is among the two features on "DAYTONA." Former president of the G.O.O.D music record label, West passed the torch to Pusha T in 2015.

In the final track, “Infrared,” Pusha T blows off some steam, coming with bars for Drake, Lil Wayne and Birdman. All three of his targets are related to Cash Money Records with which Pusha T has traded bars since the mid 2000’s. Pusha T describes Lil Wayne as a multi platinum selling artist who is still jumping through hoops; although there’s clearly still contention between the two, Push seems to have an undertone of sympathy for Wayne. Since the albums’ release Push has explained that he feels Lil Wayne is being pushed around too much by his mentors and labelmates and that no artist with his legacy should be treated the way he is by their label. On the other hand, sympathy is very limited in Pusha T’s bars about Drake. Push brings up Drake’s ghostwriting and accuses him of appealing to white audiences by embodying black stereotypes:

"Remember Will Smith won the first Grammy?

And they ain't even recognize Hov until "Annie"

So I don't tap dance for the crackers and sing Mammy

'Cause I'm posed to juggle these flows and nose candy"

This line seemed an egregious accusation at first but less than a month later Pusha T dropped another diss track “The Story of Adidon.” The cover art to the track was an unedited photo of Drake in blackface, despite the fact that there was no context to the photo, it was still damaging; Drake issued a formal apology soon after.

After this photo was released, many listeners looked back on the line with a new perspective. Although “Infrared,” was the least aesthetically sound track on the album, the song feeds the flames of Pusha T's decade old Drake beef and serves as a solid outro to the project.

“DAYTONA” is a project that packs more content into 24 minutes than you could find in most double albums. Pusha T stays true to his roots as a boom-bap hustler while also adapting his style to the current hip-hop environment. The album is a rollercoaster which has a huge variety of musical ideas and very few features, an example of Pusha T’s confidence in his skill-set. Overall the project is concise and clear while simultaneously being packed with complex lyrics and unpredictable beats. “DAYTONA” is my favorite album of the year thus far and shows that skill and artistry will survive all fads and trends.

Credits:

https://www.billboard.com http://www.vulture.com https://ksdbfm.org https://www.complex.com https://ksdbfm.org https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMz8DfTvt6iP11iCcs7RmMw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jawx1Wut0GE

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