The Clipse have focused on drug metaphors the way TMZ.com focus on celebrity mishaps. It’s what made them: each track functioned as a one-two punch. Pusha T would startle everyone with unexpectedly callous rhymes so focused on the hustle that he had stripped the humanity from them, before Malice came in to color in a bit of sensitivity. Nothing forced, but just a hint of it here and there to let the listener know that moral conflict does exist for them within these deep drug dealer tales. Not even they could predict they would spawn a genre of Jeezys and Rosses all selling fictional white in fictional worlds on wax. Because of his persona, I was interested to see how Pusha T signing to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music was going to work. Pusha was always most comfortable when he’s as deeply steeped in drug metaphors as he can be. It’s not going to make sense for Pusha to jump on one of Kanye’s super emotional break up songs. Pusha has to evolve.
On Pusha T’s new mixtape Fear of God he not only performs his role in The Clipse, but Malice’s as well. On the surface it’s him putting “the fear of god” into others MCs who wait for him to spit so they can cop more style but it’s also about his fear of change, fear of failing, fear of being without Malice for the first time. To be honest, this isn’t a mixtape that was produced and intended to live as a “classic”; but it’s an exercise to mark his subtle transition from Coke music to GOOD music. Artists who are trying to craft originally produced mixtapes good enough to be albums are often times unsigned. For an established artist like Pusha T, there is no reason to blow all of your best material on a mixtape.
Experimentation means you understand missteps. None here stick out worse than “Touch It Which” features a horrible Kanye chorus where he whispers “Just touch it, touch it, touch it, touch it, kiss it kiss it.” It’s creepy, gross, and the rhymes are a lame series of sex jokes (“Beat it like Billie Jean”). The beat is repetitive and if it wasn’t so annoying, it would be forgettable. But its songs like “I Just Wanna” with Rick Ross and Ab-Liva where he is most in his element. Lines like “You know what fame is?/Sitting with the girl of your dreams and forgetting what her name is.” Only Pusha would dare to write that.
On freestyles like “Can I Live” and “Cook It Down” (a reworking of “Put It Down”) he exhibits the raw natural mastery of style and flow that we expect from him. The shocking lines are satisfying and in abundance. The G.O.O.D. music stamp; unfortunately, is not just limited to “Touch It”. “Feeling Myself” is similarly annoying, with Kevin Cossum doing an autotuned chorus that the world could have done without. Pusha never even spent that much time developing standard braggadocio. He was much more interested in portraying himself as post-insanity Scarface, while most that took his blueprint to paint their portraits more favorably. On tracks like “Feeling Myself” he stretches out, learning how to floss in the more traditional sense.
The most exciting song for me and one of my favorites from anyone this year is “Alone in Vegas”. It’s a slow thumping, head nodder from boom bap producer Nottz, where Pusha T switches from Scarface to Sam Rothstein alone in Vegas, sadly remembering street money and half-heartedly acting as if he misses those days. “We just took what we needed and we built on it/ Lord forgive me for the blood that I’ve spilt on it.” It’s a slow serenade where he isn’t asking us to understand. It’s a slowly rolling moment of reflection that gives way to a rambling outro. On moments like these when he’s forced to deliver by himself he finds a deeper level of talent than any of us knew he had. That’s what makes mixtapes like these important. When the album drops and everyone’s talking about it you can say: “I saw it coming on Fear of God.”
you can download Fear of God here
– Dan O.