Darkness Before Dawn: The Prelude – Pusha T (GOOD Music, Def Jam) – December 2015
Intended to serve as a prelude for the GOOD Music president’s third studio album, Darkness Before Dawn has set the bar excitingly high for the long-awaited King Push, due in spring of this year. For a start, the first single released in anticipation of the album, Untouchable heavily samples The Notorious B.I.G.’s iconic guest verse on Pudgee’s 1995 Think Big. In this verse, Biggie claims to be lyrically “untouchable, uncrushable”, which is clearly a recurring theme for Pusha on this project where he is consistently in a very self-appreciative mood.
The Metro Boomin-produced intro to the album sets the signature shady tone which Pusha T has utilised all through his solo career. Happily, this is followed up on in the majority of the next nine tracks.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is Crutches, Crosses, Caskets. A few curious lines (“Old n****s slapping young n****s, ha imagine that, where you from n****?”) on this song allude to the alleged Drake and Diddy altercation at a nightclub in December 2014. This is made more intriguing by the fact Diddy has production credit on this song. Pusha has cited this song as his favourite on the project, understandably.
Despite other masterful performances, the standout track must be M.P.A., an acronym for Money, Pussy, Alcohol, featuring his frequent collaborator and GOOD Music associate – check out New God Flow, Mercy, Runaway and So Appalled – Kanye West, A$AP Rocky and The-Dream. Sounding reminiscent of Blame Game by Kanye from his critically acclaimed (and one of my personal favourite) album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, M.P.A. has a star-filled feel about it that makes you sit up and take notice. And in the current era, a lot of hip-hop, although being good, doesn’t do this.
The Virginia-born and raised coke merchant continues to flow slickly over luxury beats crafted by top-tier producers such as Timbaland, Boi-1da, J Cole and Q-Tip. This album has a grandeur about it, polished to the point of excellence.
Pusha has a rare gift of being able to elaborate his grim images to the point where you finish listening to one of his projects and feel like a character from The Wire. The dictionary definition of ‘prelude’ is an event serving as an introduction to something more important. If that can’t sell Pusha T’s next album to you, nothing will.