Pusha T performs at HovefestivalenFLICKR/NRK P3 (https://wordpress.org/openverse/image/0a0a92bd-30f1-4ef8-91a3-ba7e6b068cd0)

After splitting from brotherly rap-duo Clipse in 2010, Pusha T’s solo career had a rocky start. His first two studio albums, My Name is my Name and King Push, were commercially successful, but were met with mixed critical reception. Mediocre lulls matched every soaring high on these albums, bringing them back to earth.

“Pusha T has worked extensively with both Pharrell and Ye in the past, and this rapport makes every track shine just a little brighter”

Pusha T finally proved himself as a solo artist with 2018’s Daytona, an arrival well worth the wait. At 21 Ye-produced minutes spanning seven tracks, this record stripped Pusha’s music to its essentials: visceral lyrics delivered with surgical precision, and bold, stylish instrumentals. Nothing is unnecessary or surplus, not even a single ad-lib. Daytona, then, turned out to be one of the most memorable hip-hop albums of the last decade. Naturally, this was a hard act to follow.

Pusha could have very easily followed the same formula as Daytona with It’s Almost Dry – seven tracks, 20 minutes, Ye production, and sparsely curated features. Yet Pusha resisted the easy option with It’s Almost Dry. It’s not Daytona 2.0: it’s a new beast in itself; a project of far greater scope. From the features to the production, and even to Pusha’s verses, everything in Dry is more versatile, more ambitious, and, ultimately, more thrilling than any other project in the rapper’s discography.

Let’s think about production. Ye is joined by Pharrell Williams at the helm, who injects the project with some classic Clipse magic with his sinister, spacey beats. Ye and Pharrell are given six songs each, splitting the album straight down the middle between them. The result is a tracklist of thrilling variety, transitioning deftly between the dense, atmospheric soundscapes of Pharrell’s beats to more soulful, sample-focused Ye instrumentals. The major strength of this LP is the chemistry which Pusha has with these producers. He has worked extensively with both Pharrell and Ye in the past, and this rapport makes every track shine just a little brighter. Pusha’s ruthless delivery blends effortlessly with the rich instrumentals on the Pharrell cuts, creating a truly intoxicating listening experience. Ye’s more understated beats, meanwhile, function as stylish backdrops that allow Pusha’s impressive vocals to reach their potential.

The opener, “Brambleton”, has a fairly slow, eerie beat, that allows for a more introspective and narrative start to the record than Daytona’s “If You Know You Know”: immediately, we know that we’re in for something different. This opening might suggest that we’re in for a more meditative, personal record from Pusha, if not for the next track, “Let The Smokers Shine The Coupes”, which shatters these expectations with a relentless, thumping drum-beat and sinister choral chops.

With the next track, the record changes direction once again: Ye’s production slams the brakes on to give us the wonderfully soulful “Dreamin Of The Past”, which ingeniously samples Donny Hathaway’s 1972 cover of “Jealous Guy”.

“It doesn’t have the surgical simplicity of its predecessor, but what it lacks in precision, the album more than makes up for in ambitious versatility”

Next on the tracklist is, arguably, the strongest song on the album: “Neck and Wrist”, featuring Jay-Z and Pharrell. This track is the perfect storm of stellar production, an intoxicating hook, and killer verses from two of the biggest artists in the industry. Pusha and Jay-Z both brag about the luxury of their success with a vocal inflection borrowed from 50 Cent’s “Window Shopper” that fits the vibe masterfully.

From here, the album goes from strength to strength. “Rock and Roll” recreates the magic of KIDS SEE GHOSTS’s unforgettable opener, “Feel The Love”, reuniting the formidable trio of Pusha, Ye, and Kid Cudi – probably for the last time – and “Call My Bluff” is also notable for its syncopated groove which provides a nice change of pace. The only place where the album falters slightly is with “Scrape It Off” featuring Lil Uzi Vert and Don Toliver. These feature choices are unusual for Pusha, and the track does come off as a bit of stylistic anomaly. The melody is catchy enough, and there is chemistry between the three artists, but the song’s pop-rap vibe feels a little out of place here.


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The record returns to form with “Hear Me Clearly” featuring Nigo and sprints to a triumphant finish with its masterful closer, “I Pray For You” – an unexpected Clipse reunion with haunting vocals from Labrinth and grand, orchestral production from Ye. This track ties off the album with a truly poignant moment and gives us some of the best lyrics from the entire record.

With It’s Almost Dry, Pusha T refuses to stick to the blueprint of Daytona and gives us something truly fresh and exciting. It doesn’t have the surgical simplicity of its predecessor, but what it lacks in precision, it more than makes up for in ambitious versatility.