Pusha T - Daytona (Review)

Martin_Canine
PUSHA T
Daytona
★★★★★

2018 leaves the world of English language hip hop divided between extremes. Apart from a considerable amount of stylistic and aesthetic differences - fresh and new crossover artists who are on the border of indie rock, oldschool legends trying to keep up with the newer styles, trappers that can turn the most simple phrases into chant along choruses - the basic idea of how long a record needs to be in order to pass as an album was questioned by some of the genre’s biggest names at the moment. Migos’ Culture II and Drake’s Scorpion are successful double albums of 2018, while Kanye West presented to us a collection of five “albums” of the size of an EP that he provided beats for. Releases like these leave reviewers like me very torn. Just think of this dilemma: Artist A makes an album with 25 songs of which 10 are outstanding while the rest may not be bad but forgettable, Artist B makes one with 7 songs, all of which are great. Who made the better record? And can I even give an album which lasts for less than half an hour my full score when there are musicians who take their time to write and record releases that are an hour longer? I know that such questions aren’t interesting for people who just add their preferred individual tracks to their Spotify playlist, but to me, who not only views songs but also albums as works of art on their own, such thoughts are very relevant. But ultimately, it all comes down to the question whether the record feels incomplete or fully developed. Pusha T’s Daytona is without a doubt the latter case.

Produced by Kanye West, it’s the first entry in his aforementioned saga, and it shows greatly how much magnificence you can create in 21 minutes of hip hop music. While released solely under the Pusha T moniker, Kanye’s signature is all over the album, with all seven tunes being carried by his lush, unconventional production, which still manages to hit you by surprise 13 years after his debut album. Daytona contains Kanye West’s best production since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, maybe its beats are even better than those of The College Dropout, but that’s debatable. In any way, the greatness of the mini-album can be credited just as much to West as to Pusha T. Compared to his recent outputs like Yeezus and The Life of Pablo, it’s not as messy, but feels like its layers of soul samples and MPC sounds were carefully planned out and elegantly put over each other. At the same time, it never feels too polished, and the songs often keep evolving throughout. Come Back Baby switches from a twisted rap beat in the verses to an unaltered sample that serves as the chorus. Looking at the very premise, you would expect it to sound random and unfitting, but experiencing it, it’s like the heavenly relief of the tension the beat and rapping created before. The track that follows afterwards, Santeria, is similarly shapeshifting. Starting off with a sentimental melody underlined by mellow bass drums as the underscoring for verse numero uno, the chorus is made of a Spanish language apathetic female voice solely supported by bass lines and occasionally a machine gun-like two second snare sample, which builds the base for the minimalist instrumentation of second verse, which suddenly changes into a unsettling, heavy oldschool beat, only to cut off to play the chorus again. As unrelated as the segments may sound when described, as fluent are they when heard. It’s exactly this type of musical creativity that all of Kanye’s best instrumentals contained, and it’s all over Daytona. The songs are unpredictable, their musical influences come off surprising and you can never foresee what’s around the corner - but it all works together.

But Kanye is not the sole star of the project. While it happens all too often that his music steals the spotlight from the credited main artist, Daytona is the result of teamwork, as Pusha T has the charisma and innovation to not go down next to the mighty production. Not only his voice and his trademark “yach!” adlibs distinct him from the masses of other rappers that release music everyday, it’s also how emotionally changed he speaks the words into the mic. A lot of rappers have drugs as their main topic, whether it’s the giving or receiving end of the deal. It’s always been like this since hip hop first became big. It’s heard so often that it barely grabs our attention anymore, but it’s something in the way how Pusha T tells his stories about cocaine that makes you hand on his every word. “You ever been hit with the water weight / Then had to weigh, do you war or wait? / When we all clickin' like Golden State / And you and your team are the motorcade” - it’s just not the phrasing of the lyrics, but with what raw feelings the artist manages to convince his listeners. He sounds scarred from bad experiences throughout his life, not only when he reflects on his drug dealer days. Also when he aims at other rappers, it’s not a mere diss, you feel the hate he got for certain musicians: “How could you ever right these wrongs / When you don't even write your songs? /But let us all play along / We all know what n----s for real been waitin' on”. Pusha T is frustrated. He knows what a long way hip hop has come until it reached the status it now had, and when the first mainstream recognitions started, and doesn’t like the state it is in currently: “Remember Will Smith won the first Grammy? / And they ain't even recognize Hov until "Annie" /So I don't tap dance for the crackers and sing Mammy /'Cause I'm 'posed to juggle these flows and nose candy”. In turn, Daytona may have the perfect balance between old and new. The flow of the rapper is definitely more rooted in pre-trap days, while Kanye West’s triumphant production embraces an artful, experimental style that mixes an old fashioned use of sampling as well as light, modern day drum kits, resulting in a varied sound that refuses to give in to modern trends while not coming off as outdated.

So to answer my question from before: yes, you can give an album a full score when it’s as perfectly crafted as this, and when it offers the experience of a full length studio album despite its short duration. The many impressions Pusha T and Kanye West offer to their listeners go beyond what most hour long records contain. Once the 21 minutes are over, you don’t get the feeling of just having listened to an EP, but as if it was a release of regular length. There are works that feel longer than they are because they fail to have entertainment value and seem to go on and on and on, which is a bad sign. But every once in a while, there’s a piece of work that feels longer because there is so much to discover, with something new popping up with every step you make. And again, Daytona is without a doubt the latter case. It doesn’t need to be any longer, when it already has so much to give in its seven songs.

Comments

Wow I wasn't expecting 5 stars but I agree with it fully, especially with the production screaming Kanye. Favorite track is defintely The Games We Play. That track is simply too good. - Mcgillacuddy

The album's musical scape is massive and ranks among the finest works he has done. I love Kanye best when he is experimental but still very lush and polished. I hesitated very much giving it 5 stars, due to its incredibly short length. 21 minutes is a new extreme, but really, it doesn't feel like it. It's too unpredictable and constantly keeps interesting and exciting. Out of the three of the short albums I listened to so far, this is my favorite. I'll also listen to Nas' and Teyana's album, and the forthcoming Kanye effort. - Martin_Canine

Also you can't forget that Kanye is doing collabs with two of my favorite artists: Chance the Rapper and Anderson.Paak - Mcgillacuddy

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