Pusha T’s Daytona: Concise, Breathless, Masterful

Pusha T’s last project, Darkest Before Dawn, arrived back in 2015, then billed as a prelude to his incoming magnum opus, King Push. Now, three years later, it’s finally here. At the same time, it isn’t. Instead of a sprawling saga of slinging ‘caine, with a murderer’s row of producers and guest rappers, it is instead Daytona, a concise twenty-one minutes focused on, well, dealing coke, entirely produced by Kanye West.

That concision serves Pusha well, resulting in his best album since Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury. There’s barely a moment through its entirety where Pusha stops to breath, doling out potent lyricism about his favourite activity in between mourning the death of his road manager and taking shots at Drake. He’s ably assisted with verses by Rick Ross and Kanye, although your tolerance for the latter’s MAGA references may vary.

An easy knock against Pusha would be his largely singular subject matter, but really, whether or not his tales of cooking and selling are exaggerated, he’s an expert. At 41 years old, he was and remains the kind of artist that appeals to hip hop heads, his rhymes and syntax consistently head and shoulders above most. There’s a simple joy in listening to him guide you through bars like
“Angel on my shoulder, what should we do?/Devil on the other, what would Meek do?/Pop a wheelie, tell the judge to Akinyele/Middle fingers out the Ghost, screaming ’Makaveli’” Simply put, he’s the genre novelist of the rap game.

Kanye and Pusha’s partnership goes all the way back to ‘Runaway’ off of ‘Ye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and it’s a partnership that’s always paid off in terms of how far they push each other’s artistic limits. Push initially came to ‘Ye with a full twelve song album chock full of producers, only for him to insist they scrap it so he could do it all himself. That trust has been well-placed, as Daytona should remind listeners of Kanye’s origins as a top-tier producer.

The samples are deep and obscure soul, while the drums are reminiscent of the late J. Dilla, given a human touch that is often lost in the programming. The guitars are a sleek, steely contrast to the vicious verses. The rest is a sinister and luxurious exercise in minimalism that befits the chemistry of this rapper-producer pair.

Some may bristle at the album’s brevity, yet it manages to slag off the bloat of his previous studio releases while giving audiences a project with no real filler. Being the first in a volley of GOOD Music releases, there was a worry that Daytona would get lost in the shuffle. Instead, it has proven itself a testament to the two decade-plus career of the artist who made it.