Review written by Eli S. (@eschwad).

In 2002, my brother and I walked into an F.Y.E. in a Maryland shopping mall. After some deliberation, I walked out of the CD store with Jay-Z’s newest release The Blueprint 2 in hand (clean version, of course!), while my brother opted for The Clipse’s debut album Lord Willin’. Over the next few months, I became infatuated with the Virginia Beach rap duo’s sound; as a nine-year-old, I really had no idea what Pusha and Malice were rhyming about, but the Neptunes-produced beats grabbed hold of my ears and wouldn’t let go. A year later, I went to my first concert: a Clipse show at the 2003 Nike Battlegrounds streetball tournament in Chicago. And before I realized it wasn’t cool to wear clothing three sizes too big and donated it to the Salvation Army, this gem of a t-shirt was in my possession. Long story short, I’ve been a huge supporter of Push and (the recently rechristened) No Malice ever since, and I credit them as a big part of the reason I got into hip-hop as a young’n.

Fast forward seven years to 2010, when Pusha T signed with G.O.O.D. Music, taking a hiatus from The Clipse to pursue a solo career. Two mixtapes and multiple pushbacks (no pun intended) later, King Push delivers the self-proclaimed “album of the year” with My Name Is My Name. The project’s title alone — an ode to the legendary HBO series The Wire — screams everything we know and love about Pusha. And with the exception of a few less-than-stellar cuts, King Push delivers with a concise body of work, blessed by Kanye West’s executive production, in which he stays true to what he knows best: cocaine talk, and a lot of it.

MNIMN hits hard from the jump with “King Push,” a fierce opening track which contains the same chipmunky audio sample used in Kanye’s “New Slaves.” Push makes a statement right out of the gate with track one: this album will not be an easy listen, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place. The lack of your typical chorus makes that point perfectly clear. “I’m King Push, this king push/I rap nigga ‘bout trap niggas I don’t sing hooks,” he spits in between drug-laden verses.

“Hold On” is another impressive record, on which Pusha T wastes no time declaring his disgust for fake rappers: “I sold more dope than I sold records/You niggas sold records, never sold dope.” Hudson Mohawke does his thing behind the boards, and though he’s commonly known to produce party bangers, in this case, he adds a touch of smooth piano to his usual claps and 808s. Yeezy shows off some auto-tuned vocals on this song as well, and Rick Ross delivers a surprisingly above-average verse. The album then shimmies right into track five, “Suicide,” which, out of all the tracks on this project, feels the most like vintage Clipse. Produced by Pusha T’s longtime collaborator, friend, and fellow Virginia Beach native Pharrell, this record is just plain nasty from start to finish. Re-Up Gang’s third member, Ab-Liva, steals the show in this humble writer’s opinion. “Powder rise and it fall like Sebastian Telfair” might be the most slept on bar on this entire project, at least to a basketball head like myself.

Push has garnered some criticism for track eight, the Murda Ma$e-inspired “Let Me Love You” because, well, he 100% jacks the rapper-turned-pastor-turned-rapper-once-more’s voice inflection and flow. While critics might view the song as Pusha’s wack attempt at mimicking Ma$e, I view it instead as a cool nod to one of his favorite emcees. The song, which features Kelly Rowland on the hook, literally sounds like a track from Ma$e’s album Harlem World, and I love it. The album’s final three records — “Nosetalgia,” “Pain,” and “S.N.I.T.C.H.“ — are a drug runner’s dream come true, laced with top-notch beats and vicious, powder-themed wordplay. Kendrick Lamar beats “Nosetalgia” to a pulp with a ridiculous guest verse over a simple, yet fire, instrumental courtesy of Nottz. At this point, do we expect anything less from K. Dot? A sample from Boogie Down Productions’ “The Bridge Is Over” serves as the hook, though it’s nothing more than a one-liner warning listeners that they “better change what comes out [their] speaker.”

Next up is “Pain,” which combines a haunting beat with clever, reference-filled lyricism to form what Pusha T calls his “Witchdoctor Gospel Flow.” After a flurry of witty namedrops including the likes of Hines Ward and 2Pac, Pusha spits a doozy of a line, again going to The Wire for inspiration: “In the kitchen with a cape on, apron/Tre-eight on, coulda been Trayvon/But instead I chose Avon.” While “Pain” consists of some of Pusha’s most cunning bars, “S.N.I.T.C.H.” shows just how gifted of a storyteller he can be, too. Throughout the song’s three verses, he breaks down his relationship with close childhood friend and fellow coke slinger-turned-snitch to the tune of a Neptunes-produced beat.

I only have a few real quibbles with this project, the first of which is track nine, “Who I Am.” While I don’t mind Pusha’s verse, guest features from 2 Chainz and Big Sean come across as lazy and uninspired. Chris Brown doesn’t sound like himself on the hook of “Sweet Serenade;” instead coming off like some voice-modified Breezy imposter. And while we’re on the topic of features, there’s something to be said about the number of them on this album — the general rule being that if there are too many guest features, then a rapper can’t hold his or her own throughout a full-length project. However, we’re so used to hearing Pusha on tracks with Malice that it just feels right to have him alongside other artists throughout his solo album.

My Name Is My Name doesn’t, by any means, push the boundaries of music or provide anything extraordinary that we haven’t heard before. It’s not as sonically progressive as Kanye’s Yeezus or as game-changing as Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, but I don’t think many people expected it to be, frankly. What MNIMN represents is Pusha T through and through, with grimy coke metaphors and hard beats at a premium. Many rappers get older and try to switch their style up to appeal to a younger crowd, but Pusha has stayed true to his craft while never sacrificing the flow. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Purchase Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name via iTunes and leave a comment to let us know what you think!