Pusha T claims a spot in the top tier of hip hop with latest effort

GOOD Music

By Josh Frazier, For the Daily
Published October 8, 2013

The opening salvo from Pusha T’s long-awaited solo debut My Name Is My Name sees the Bronx-born rapper recognizing the gravitas of the moment. “This is my time, this is my hour,” he thunderously proclaims. Pusha T, whose given name is Terrence Thornton, has been a rap music fixture since the release of 2002’s Lord Willin’, which featured Pusha rapping alongside his brother. The Thorntons released their early material under the moniker of Clipse, and after three positively received albums, the duo disbanded to focus on solo material. Despite Pusha T’s years of rap credibility, he has never had the chance to break out into the mainstream and seize the spotlight as a solo artist. My Name Is My Name is an album that attempts to transition Thornton from slept-on cocaine rapper to rap-industry heavyweight.

My Name Is My Name

Pusha T
GOOD Music

Even the most casual rap fans will recognize Pusha T’s name from his thunderous guest verse on Kanye West’s “Mercy,” one of the most ubiquitous songs of 2012, or his scene-stealing feature on “Runaway,” one of the lead singles off of West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. West, who heads Thornton’s label, GOOD Music, has an obvious influence as the album’s executive producer, providing production on seven songs and uncredited backing vocals on “Hold On.” Thornton is charismatic enough, however, to step out of West’s shadow and cultivate his own unique personality as the street-smart ex-drug dealer. This persona allows him the canvas for distinctive storytelling, and Thornton demonstrates his significant lyrical ability across a variety of records.

The lyricism is an obvious highlight of My Name Is My Name. Pusha T’s effortless rhyming style sees him dropping double and triple entendres alongside extremely visual storytelling. “Nosetalgia,” one of the album’s strongest tracks, features Thornton and Kendrick Lamar rapping about their experiences with cocaine over a simplistic bassline. The opening lines testify to the complexity of Pusha T’s darkly poetic wordplay: “20 plus years of selling Johnson & Johnson / I started out as a baby-face monster / No wonder there’s diaper rash on my conscience / My teething ring was numbed by the nonsense.” The juxtaposition between childhood innocence and selling drugs is exacerbated by the clever use of puns in his lyrics. Lamar also gives a stellar guest verse, one that stands out on an album that includes many big-name featured artists.

Pusha T’s clout in the rap industry is exemplified by the magnitude of the guest appearances on My Name Is My Name. Featured verses are turned in by some of rap music’s most recognizable acts, including Lamar, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross and Young Jeezy. The vast majority of the guest verses complement Pusha’s thematic concepts and lyrical style, and Thornton manages to hold his own against every big-name guest star. “King Push,” the opener, rewards listeners with snarling lyrics filled with braggadocio and an unconventional beat that ignores the conventions of generic beatmaking.

Holistically, the production on My Name Is My Name is universally strong. Ominous, minimalist beats with swelling basslines allow Thornton the opportunity to swagger from track to track. The heavyweight lineup of producers including West, Pharrell Williams, Swizz Beatz and Hudson Mohawke have given Pusha T the chance to do what he does best: glorify and discuss the realities of street life, and arrogantly boast about his greatness.

Thornton’s pride in himself is evident from the title of the record. Thornton appropriates a quote from “The Wire,” which focused on life in the projects of Baltimore, among other dark themes. Calling his debut album My Name Is My Name is very fitting for Pusha T’s gritty raps, seeing as the quote is adopted from a drug dealer to whom reputation means everything.

On My Name Is My Name, Pusha T attempts to fight the perception that he’s a top-notch rap artist, but not quite a superstar on par with Lamar, Ross or West. Due to distinctive beat selection and nearly impeccable lyricism, My Name Is My Name makes a strong argument for Pusha T’s ascent to superstardom as a solo artist.