‘Cocaine concierge, longest running trapper of the year’
It’s been three years since the release of Pusha T’s last album, 2015’s King Push – Darkest Before the Dawn. In the heavily commodified world of mainstream hip-hop, three years is a long time: the era of music streaming has brought us to a point where many artists will put out a new project every year, and will often stretch these albums out to ridiculous lengths to maximise the number of streams they receive. For some particularly bad examples of this see Migos’ Culture 2, or Rae Sremurrd’s uninspired triple album SR3MM which released just a couple of months ago.
DAYTONA, by contrast, is seven tracks long. At twenty one minutes, it’s also shorter than King Push, which was supposed to be a prelude to this record. But while the album’s perplexingly short runtime initially struck me as dissapointing, it turns out to be one of DAYTONA’s greatest strengths. The record is completely devoid of the filler we so often see in big rap albums, and it has a cohesion and focus which they very often miss. All the lyrics (bar one Rick Ross feature on ‘Hard Piano’) come from Pusha, while Kanye West handles the production of all seven tracks.
Pusha plays the character of thespian kingpin throughout DAYTONA, which he himself described as ‘luxury drug rap’. What sets him apart from the leagues of rappers who’ve written shitty bars about taking and/or selling drugs is both his storytelling ability and his sense of humour. Just like someone such as Raekwon, whose album Cuban Linx is namedropped as an inspiration, Pusha T songs feel like the inner monologue of a villain in a gritty crime narrative: ‘Feds takin’ pictures like its GQ / This Avianne collarbone is see-through’. But Pusha keeps it light with a healthy dose of comedy at the same time: ‘I been grantin’ wishes like a genie / To bad hoes in two-piece bikinis’.
Kanye’s beats, meanwhile, are some of the best he’s put together in years. They’re loud and ostentatious, but in construction surprisingly simple. ‘The Games We Play’ and ‘Come Back Baby’ are almost nothing but big, crispy drums and a killer bassline, but both make incredible use of their respective samples. The former samples a guitar solo from this obscure ’60s funk jam and then screws it down to half speed until it becomes a woozy oriental stomp almost unrecognizable from its source material. And the latter makes use of R&B singer George Jackson’s ‘I Can’t Do Without You’, contrasting the soulful chorus with clinical, bassy verses to fantastic effect.
DAYTONA isn’t a particularly ambitious record, and truthfully it doesn’t break much new ground for either Pusha or Kanye. But it demonstrates what both artists do best in an admirably minimal and highly replayable set of seven songs. If this is to be the first release of the Summer of Kanye (his record label GOOD Music are gearing up to release at least three more albums in the next couple of months), then it’s definitely a strong start.Here’s hoping for more like this.