Pusha T isn’t trying to convince you of anything you don’t already know. Terrence Thornton has been burning down tracks without remorse since the Clipse classic “Grindin” dominated airwaves back in 2002. His new solo album DAYTONA, produced entirely by Kanye West, is the latest in his vitriolic offerings. No punches are held here — even Thornton’s phlegmatic “Yeugh!” tagline sounds more spiteful.
Of course, you don’t graduate to the corner office at G.O.O.D. Music without making a couple enemies, and one beef has survived the test of time longer than the rest: the story of Pusha T and Drake.
Seven years on from their first verbal sparring back in 2011, it’s fascinating to compare the careers of these two rap stalwarts. When Clipse went on indefinite hiatus in 2010, Push signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, appearing on West’s seminal 2010 LP My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, then releasing his first solo mixtapes the next year. A year before, Lil Wayne signed the fresh-faced Aubrey Graham to his label Young Money. Wayne would feature heavily on Drake’s breakout record So Far Gone, which would set him on a long path of critical and commercial success.
Five weeks separate DAYTONA and Scorpion, the 2018 releases from Pusha T and Drake, respectively. The two could not be more different: In sharp contrast to DAYTONA’s seven songs from hell, Scorpion has 25 tracks. DAYTONA’s album cover is a warped, dirty photograph of the late Whitney Houston’s disheveled bathroom. Scorpion sports a clean-cut picture of Drake, minted signature in tow, rocking a hoodie you can likely buy from his brand OVO. One song also credits Michael Jackson as a “feature” from beyond the grave.
On DAYTONA, the ongoing firefight is reignited. Album closer “Infared” is a non-stop onslaught hurled not only at Drake, but also Birdman and the rest of the Young Money/Cash Money collective. Push calls out the hypocrisy of imitation, strategic positioning, and scrounging for new revenue streams. “How could you ever right these wrongs when you don’t even write your songs?” he asks. It’s a trap set by a hungry wolf, and sure enough, Push finds his prey.
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The drama that followed “Infared” is meant for blockbuster film scripts and history books. Drake initially responded with “Duppy Freestyle,” a whimsical “Are we really still doing this?” to try and shame Push for using West as a human shield. But Push launched back with an atom bomb. On “The Story of Adidon,” he simply raps, “You are hiding a child,” revealing Adonis, Drake’s son with Sophie Brussaux who he had largely kept away from the media. “Adidon” would also be the name of Drake’s upcoming line on Adidas, meaning that Push’s diss track would forever haunt any Google inquiry into Drake’s product.
Since then, the dirt has flown further. Pusha went The Joe Budden Podcast to discuss the rumor that Drake had put $100,000 out for dirt on him. He played a recording of anonymous sources discussing the payoff, saying that violence would ensue if the beef went further. But he laughs it off — there’s no dirt that he isn’t willing to dig up himself, and empty threats don’t weigh up on the scale.
The story of Drake and Pusha T is the story of two entirely different approaches to rap in 2018, and the animosity is only natural. Amidst ongoing hearsay, rumors, and rhythmic sticks and stones thrown, one thing is for sure: Pusha’s demand for authenticity is an expectation for his peers and for himself. Bar after bar on DAYTONA, he echoes the same motif: Never grow so accustomed to a lifestyle that you forget the hunger that led you there.
Pusha T. With Phony Ppl. 8 p.m. Sunday, November 11, at The Pressroom, 441 West Madison Street; Tickets available at eventbrite.com/q/thepressroomaz. $35-38.