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The Kickback – My Name Is My Name

Andrew Gastelum | Thursday, October 10, 2013

This was supposed to be the chosen year for rap. 

Kanye, Jay Z, Drake, Kid Cudi, J. Cole, Big Sean, Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, the list goes on for major studio releases. 2013 was supposed to be the year. But the hype was so big there was no way anyone could possibly live up to it. Kanye’s was maddening. Jay Z was safe. Drake’s was soft. Cudi’s was … interesting. J. Cole’s was preachy. Big Sean’s was shallow. And Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt were just plain weird. 

That’s not to say they weren’t good, but not everyone could agree on the quality of any of these. Although there is still some hope for the year with Schoolboy Q and, most recently announced, Childish Gambino, the year has been written off.

But here’s a warning to you: Don’t write off Pusha T.

Pusha T’s “My Name Is My Name” is the best major release rap album of the year, at least so far. The whole year I was subtly looking forward to Oct. 8, but the hype around everyone else put Pusha T to the back of everyone’s minds. 

But with this rap veteran’s track record (he’s one half of the rap duo Clipse), I expect this to be solid through and through. After all, Pusha T was responsible for some of the best features of the last few years, most notably Kanye West’s “Runaway” and G.O.O.D. Music’s “Mercy” and “Don’t Like.” He has always gone so hard that his verses sometimes left you scared, let alone impressed and in awe. 

So, naturally, I expected “My Name Is My Name” to be solid. What I got in return was a surprise, something that surpassed my expectations in a year filled with overrated expectations. The thing about this album, it starts with a bang and hardly lets up straight through 12 tracks. The opener “King Push” and “Numbers On The Boards” showcase the Virginia native’s ability to stand on his own and shine on an album where 10 of the 12 songs have high-profile features such as Jeezy, Pharrell, 2 Chainz and Future. 

However, the award for best feature surely goes to Chris Brown, who lays down a beautiful hook to set the tone for the moody, ominous “Sweet Serenade.” Yet a close second goes to Kendrick Lamar on “Nosetalgia.” With Pusha and Kendrick on the same song, there is almost no need for a beat at all. Emphasis, as it should be, is placed on the lyrics. 

Which brings up another point that makes “My Name Is My Name” so worthy of a listen. It’s pretty simplistic in terms of beat selection (taking a page out of Yeezus’ minimalism), yet each song has its unique sound that is far from forgettable like Pusha T’s precluding mixtape “Wrath of Caine.”

My favorite track hits cleanup. “Hold On” featuring Rick Ross and the auto-tune of Kanye West. Simple, to the point and unusually catchy, “Hold On” is a masterpiece. One of the strong points of this album is everyone will have a song he or she thinks is the best, yet even those who disagree would probably consider the option. 

However, I wish the release was 10 tracks instead of 12. Songs with Kelly Rowland (“Let Me Love You”) and The Dream (“40 Acres”) stray so far from what Pusha T does best that it takes away from the album. 

It may not be the best release of the year (thanks, Chance the Rapper) but it has salvaged a summer of expectations unfulfilled and gives the Howard St. Food Mart something to bump.

All hail King Push, yeeeagh.