Review: Pusha T – My Name is My Name (2013)

“I’m trying to show y’all who the fuck I am,” Pusha T declared on Clipse’s standout 2002 single, “Grindin’,” a sonically sparse, visceral slap that stood alone in an era marked by opulence on the airwaves. The album that spawned it, Lord WIllin’, would hit #1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-hop chart and establish Clipse’s brand of virtuoso coke rap (as well as introduce many to a production duo known as the Neptunes). In the decade that has since passed, King Push has seen his ups and downs: well-documented label drama delayed the inevitably excellent Hell Hath No Fury, while the launch of his own label Re-Up Records birthed a series of solid-to-great mixtapes. An indefinite hiatus for Clipse, a duo he shared with his brother Malice, could’ve stranded Pusha T in the hip-hop wilderness, but he was able to find a home on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint, and with My Name is My Name, Pusha T is still announcing his presence with same gritty, deliberate urgency.

“King Push” kicks the album off as the de facto introduction to what’s to come. “This is my time,” Pusha T declares over a sprawling, almost militant drumroll built by Sebastian Sartor, calling the listener to attention, reminding you very quickly that this is a brand of rap where Pusha T remains almost peerless. Seamlessly shifting to “Numbers on the Boards,” with a crawling, workmanlike beat, Push expands more on the dopeboy concept, dropping succinct, double-take-worthy couplets such as, “I might sell a brick on my birthday / 36 years of doing dirt like it’s Earth Day, God.”

The first two tracks, while some of the album’s strongest, are also the only tracks without features. On My Name is My Name, the guest-heavy slate produces mixed results. “Sweet Serenade” features an effective hook from Chris Brown over a moody, atmospheric beat built around a haunting choir vocal and sparse drums. While lyrically the song is a boastful narrative on the successes one attains after a long time of grinding, the beat hints at something darker and more foreboding, evoking some of the finer moments from Hell Hath No Fury.

The pure volume of guest appearances can at times crowd Pusha T and come off as more of a hindrance than a compliment. “Who I Am,” features 2 Chainz and Big Sean over a purposefully stripped beat designed to showcase the actual raps as the focal point of the track. While Pusha T and 2 Chainz rise to the occasion, Big Sean’s verse comes off as phoned-in and superfluous.

My Name is My Name has a thoughtfully balanced pace. While boasting frenetic coke rap exercises like “Suicide,” a track featuring Ab-Liva that would’ve been just as at home on a Re-Up Gang mixtape, there are slower, more ambitious sonic expanses, such as “Hold On,” which features Rick Ross over a beat reminiscent of Graduation-era Kanye West. The track “Let Me Love You,” featuring Kelly Rowland, will remind many Clipse fans of “Ma I Don’t Love Her,” with a beat courtesy of The-Dream that Push rides in a cadence eerily similar to that of Ma$e.

The back end of My Name is My Name finishes strong. “Nosetallgia,” whose title bears a cheeky nod to the most rampant subject matter on the album, features a brawling Kendrick Lamar verse that, in no easy task, nearly steals the track. On “Pain,” which has Future’s familiar, auto-tuned vocals over the hook, Push confesses:

“In the kitchen with a cape on, apron / Tre-eight on, coulda been Trayvon / But instead I chose Avon”

Solidifying the album’s titular reference to television’s The Wire, it’s just one example of many that shows Pusha T’s lyrical dexterity.

My Name is My Name is executive produced by Kanye West and, not surprisingly, his presence is felt throughout the album. Yeezy was able to bring in an appealing mix of both rising and established producers, including Hudson Mohawke, Beewirks, Swizz Beats, Pharrell, No I.D., and others, all of which contribute to a stellar backdrop for Pusha T’s growling verses of coke rap testimonials.

In his post-Clipse days, Pusha T has been a reassuringly familiar voice when featured on tracks for other artists, and his Fear of God series of mixtapes hinted at the promise that could be executed over a proper album. My Name is My Name re-affirms that promise, showing exactly why Pusha T’s talent would never allow him to fade into obscurity. His name is his name—and everyone should know it.