Pusha T 'DAYTONA' 1 Listen Album Review

"'DAYTONA' puts on display a maximized portrait of potent potential realized."
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Pusha T Daytona 1-Listen album review

Kanye's return to Twitter has been a layered emotional experience of elation and exhaustion. No high was quite like the one following his announcement of five albums slated to be released this summer. It was the promise of projects forthcoming that made those first few days a blissful sundae with a cherry of skepticism on top. 

Then, West turned his attention to politics, and Christmas in April quickly became a cyber-apocalypse. When the music ceased being the focus of his discourse, all the cheer turned to misery. The sour taste left by Ye’s comments hasn’t subsided, but delivering on the first G.O.O.D. Music album of the summer at least returns the conversation to music. 

After what has felt like a lifetime of waiting, Pusha T has finally returned with his third solo studio album, DAYTONA. It’s been five years since My Name Is My Name, his critically acclaimed debut, and nearly three years since his well-received sophomore LP, King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude. After a series of singles, broken vows, and long periods of silence, one of hip-hop’s most consistent lyricists has delivered seven new songs, all produced by Kanye West.

There’s no room for error with a tracklist so short. The album's length could either be an excellent decision that leads to a minimalist masterpiece or an underwhelming collection of records not worth the years of waiting. Going concise is smart in the Hot Pockets microwave age, but even Illmatic had 10 tracks. The decision is a bold one and might give us a better idea of the G.O.O.D. Music albums to come. DAYTONA isn’t just a big release for Pusha; Kanye must also deliver great music to remove him from the sunken place of public distaste. 

In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules here are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish. Let the battle for album of the summer begin! 

1. "If You Know You Know"

Oh shit! There’s no buildup, straight into the bars. There’s just the tap of the hi-hat on the top of a steel trash can. The beat hasn’t even started to develop yet. It sounds like he’s rapping in a room with no doors or windows—like a garage where you would stash your kilos. His flow is flawless. Pusha’s presence is god-tier. He’s able to make a bland canvas captivating. The beat just dropped and I feel like two angels just grabbed me and thrust me 200 years in the future. For such a minimal production this intro feels huge. “A rapper turned trapper can’t morph into us, but a trapper turned rapper can morph into Puff,” now that’s a bar. My ears are literally glowing red right now. They might combust into flames. So many quotes. Quotes on quotes. Lethal Pusha has come to remind rappers he hasn’t lost the touch. Forget touch, he has the hand of Midas. Kanye freaked this sample. The entire beat is soulful madness.

2. "The Games We Play"

Nasty! Funky! These keys! The horn riff! I’m in awe of what Kanye has cooked up for Pusha to levitate over. These two are in sync. “This is the drug money your ex-nigga claimed to make,” boy! Pure cocaine. No, Pusha is cooking blue magic. The Purple Tape bar!!! You can’t talk about dope boy magic and not give a nod to Pusha T’s lyricism. I would do a cartwheel if my headphones weren’t plugged into the laptop. “With Ye back chopping.” I just let out a Ric Flair "Woo!" Forget the cartwheel, I would spin on my head just to physically display how this song makes me feel. It’s such a joy to hear beats that don’t sound like they've been in every Gucci Mane album beta pack since 2016. More! What an insane record. 

3. "Hard Piano" ft. Rick Ross

The song title didn’t lie about these piano keys. Nice tempo. Push! The Janitor! I almost fainted. He’s really got one of the best voices and the presence to be the most vibrant color on a canvas covered in paint. “I’m too rare amongst all of this pink hairhahaha. Pusha never dyed his braids, I respect it. This man has dipped his quill in liquefied heroin. There’s no other way to write this potent. CeeLo! Uncredited as a featured guest but he’s bringing the soul. [Editor's Note: Not CeeLo. The hook is performed by an uncredited Tony Williams.] Good hook. Ross is about to roller skate across this. I was right, he brought the wheels. Ross might be the biggest man to sound weightless in rap since Biggie and Pun. I’m in tears. Happy tears. I need Ross to be added to artists getting the Kanye chops this summer. Actually, give me an album of Ross and Pusha talking nothing but extravagant coke raps. They really make luxury drug dealer music. This takes me back to “Live Fast, Die Young” on Teflon Don. Those were good times. ROSS WENT OFF. Kanye made Final Fantasy cutscene music. Need more magic in rap!

4. "Come Back Baby"

Buildup. Soulful. Exciting. I'm not recalling this sample in my immediate soul music Rolodex. Pusha just interrupted and came rapping underneath the nastiest bassline. Kanye made a beat so bare and skeletal it belongs in a graveyard. I love it. The bass and snare deserve a tag-team award. The sample came back in for the hook. Soul. All the soul. This is two different songs. We have to consider this grandiose trap music. Pure braggadocious opulence in my ears. The YUCK! Stank face music. Ying Yang Twins reference, word to “Wait.” “I need you darling to set me free, oh baby I’m about to go out of my mind.” Every time the hook comes in I feel like it’s 2005 again; Kanye's got a foot in the past and the future. Dapper Dan bar was nice. You just have to start milly rocking to a beat this cold.

5. "Santeria"

Let's GO! WOOOO!!! I’m running out of words to describe how good it feels to hear these beats and Pusha’s flow. This is like if Moses decided to moonwalk instead of splitting the Red Sea. Ye made all these beats… Man! There haven’t been any real choruses. I love when rappers throw a middle finger to making hits and just provide the rawest rhymes. “Santeria!” This isn’t English. Oh shit! The drums! Yooo! I’m currently on my knees praying to the hip-hop gods that every album Ye touches is going to make me feel like this. Pusha came back in and is spilling his soul. The beat came back in with a vengeance! This sounds like Gotham City if there was no Bruce Wayne, just Pusha T and enough drugs to drown Aquaman. Someone tell the GRAMMY committee we need an award just for this album. They can make something up, I just know this is music that needs a trophy. Something! Incredible. Just incredible. 

Editor's Note: G.O.O.D. Music artist 070 Shake is featured on the hook.

6. What Would Meek Do?” ft. Kanye West

Ha. I love the title. This is something alien and monstrous. Love the bounce. It’s crazy how Pusha can rap over anything. A Meek nod then the Pac homage. Not to mention the joke reference at the beginning of the verse. Pusha has been in his bag all album. Play this during Grand Theft Auto V missions. HAHA. Kanye starts his verse clowning. "Too complex for ComplexCon" takes the lead for the caption you will be reading all summer. This isn’t bad, it’s a Kanye Twitter rant put in a verse. Gross. Hate that he had to mention the MAGA hat. “No more hiding the scars.” Eh, I don’t like all the references but the verse is technically solid. Just the content… C’mon Ye. 

7. "Infrared"

Last song. Using the JAY-Z “Prelude” flow. Fire! Drake jab. I guess the war is back on. “Believe in myself and the Coles and the Kendricks.” Love how he references Will Smith/Hov and the GRAMMYs. This is a song for the culture. Drake caught a bullet, now Birdman caught one. TALK THAT TALK PUSHA! Crazy that Pusha's showing love to Wayne. I guess that war is off. “Infrared” is going to shake timelines up. If ears could overheat mine would have. The Eazy-E bar, then another Drake jab. Pusha doesn’t shake the table, he plants a bomb and blows up the kitchen. That last sentence sums up exactly how I feel about the album. 

DAYTONA (first listen) final thoughts:

DAYTONA is a rush, a "fourth quarter, game tied with two minutes left to play" kind of rush. There wasn’t a single moment my eyes weren’t wide open. Each time I tried to lift my jaw up off the floor, another highlight caused it to drop. I feel like my ears were dipped in lighter fluid and each song was a lit match. 

From the first few seconds of the first track to the last minute of "Infrared," I was completely arrested. DAYTONA is an album where it's impossible to catch each bar in the first sitting, but it only takes one listen to know this is a stellar addition to an already acclaimed catalog. 

DAYTONA puts on display a maximized portrait of potent potential realized. After knocking at this door for years, Pusha has finally made an undeniable breakthrough. His words are razor sharp, his lyricism blessed by the kind of beats that allow him a beautiful ring to box in. There’s the Kanye soul, but also a touch of No I.D. minimalism that takes me back to Vince Staples’ Summertime ‘06. If the heaviness of trap beats sometimes feels fatty, Pusha’s sound is fat-free. This is a meal with no sugar, no sweets, but you will enjoy every bite. 

In order for an artist to deliver a meaningful seven-track album, each track must be worthy of being rewound, and after just one listen, I’m already hungry to hear the album again. The hype surrounding this album isn’t being manufactured by Def Jam; the album is as good as they say, if not better. 

Pusha T has always been a rapper’s rapper; the bar has always been high. So it feels great to hear him exceed his own greatness. DAYTONA is an album that is raw and refreshing, traditional and novel, everything expected and somehow unbelievably surprising. This is how you start a G.O.O.D. summer. 

By Yoh, aka G.O.O.D. Yoh aka @Yoh31.

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