Album Review: Pusha-T, DAYTONA

Image: G.O.O.D MUSIC / DEF JAM
Image: G.O.O.D MUSIC / DEF JAM

Pusha-T’s DAYTONA (May 25th) is even more Kanye West’s creation than Pusha-T’s offering a trim 21 minutes of polished new Kanye beats over which Pusha-T brags about dealing cocaine, shades Drake for using ghostwriters, and sympathises with old rival Lil Wayne’s label issues, albeit with no little smugness at avoiding the same pitfalls.   

DAYTONA was announced by Kanye as the first of five albums he was producing or releasing over the next month including a solo album (June 1st), collaborative project with Kid Cudi under the Kids See Ghost moniker (June 8th), before releasing albums produced for Nas and Teyana Taylor (15th and 22nd June respectively). DAYTONA contains a tight 7 songs in 21 minutes as an enticing lead-in to Yeezy season and is refreshingly compact in the wake of recent bloated projects like Migos’ Culture 2.

While the beats of DAYTONA are brilliant coming from Kanye et al.’s Wyoming sessions and reinforced with panache by Pusha’s experienced flow, the album continue West’s divisive recent behaviour. Pusha said West woke him at 1am to announce he was changing the album cover to a photo of Whitney Houston’s bathroom at the height of her drug addiction. Kanye paid $85,000 out of his own pocket for the rights to the photo which has been slammed by Houston’s cousin as “absolutely disgusting”. The picture is ill-suited to the content: a cover showing the morbid consequences of drug addiction does not suit Pusha’s boasts about his drug dealing chops, but it does grab headlines ahead of Kanye’s solo album next week.

The album separate from the controversy is excellent. Kanye’s signature sampling style is in strong form on tracks such as Hard Piano where Pusha and Rick Ross bemoan contemporary rappers and their coloured hair, fondly remember drug peddling, and complain that they are still stopped by the police despite moving beyond their criminal pasts decades before . All this over a Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band sample which Kanye reached back to 1970 to nab.  On the penultimate track What Would Meek Do? a Kanye feature mentions the MAGA hat incident and his controversial comments that slavery was a choice but doesn’t deign to explain them. Meanwhile Pusha-T is feeling nostalgic again and crowing about how his success post-drug dealing acts as a beacon to those still hustling.

What Would Meek Do? leads into the strong finale of the album Infared where Pusha-T phases back to the present to resurrect Drake’s ghostwriting scandal (hitting a nerve as Drake responded the same day with: Duppy Freestyle), Lil Wayne’s lack of freedom and lawsuit with Cash Money Records, as well as the stacks of money he has made selling music which he equates to the new crack. Though many of Pusha’s themes are played out the cadence and flair of his voice carry it through backed by typically superb production by Kanye.

DAYTONA was released May 25th 2018 by G.O.O.D MUSIC / DEF JAM.

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Daniel Morrison

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