The villainous, ruthless drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield was being robbed blind when he says Pusha T’s album title on The Wire. A vengeful Omar was repeatedly trying to lure him out by sullying his name and the fear it was built upon. Stanfield’s reputation was what was being lost here, and since he never hears about Omar’s action until after the offender meets his fate, he’s never given the opportunity to reclaim it.
Pusha T does have the opportunity that Stanfield didn’t on his debut solo album. These days it can feel like Pusha’s cold, drug slinging exterior has been swept under Kanye West’s ambitions/illusions of grandeur. Plus, when you see Pusha T in photos like these, some street credibility is at stake. Does Pusha T’s name mean the same now as it did when he released the seminal Hall Hath No Fury as one half of Clipse? This solo debut was his shot at reclaiming whatever his name stood for.
It turns out the answer to that question goes beyond fan perspective and relevancy. What’s interesting about this album is it’s not merely a reiteration of his lyrical skill, hunger, and solid ear for beats like his two preceding singles “Nosetalgia” and “Numbers On The Board” suggest. That’s not to say those tracks aren’t superb though. Listening to Kendrick Lamar and Pusha T trade bars over the slow burn of the guitar on the Nottz-produced “Nosetalgia” isn’t just impressive from a linguistic standpoint; it sounds good. “Numbers On The Board” got the hype train going in the first place. That’s what hearing Pusha T crowning himself while musing he “might sell a brick on my birthday” over a cackling, ethering Kanye West instrumental will do.
My Name Is My Name is buoyed by how Pusha T doesn’t only set out to re-establish his name as a rapper. He seeks to assert Pusha T as a worldview, and he does this successfully here despite the threat of having that message muddled by having guests on all but two of his songs. The features are merely supplementary, and Pusha T remains front and center with a combination of introspective rhymes and chilling quips (e.g. “N***a this is Simon says, Simon red/ Blood on your diamonds till you dying, dead” on “Nosetalgia”). The production is fantastic too, from the airy hi-hats of “Sweet Serenade” to the high-stepping guitar slaps on the Ma$e-referencing “Let Me Love You”.
Pusha T’s worldview is clear because of how relatable he comes off as in some of the album’s best moments, even though a lot of My Name Is My Name still revolves around coke rap. On “Hold On”, Pusha brags “I sold more dope than I sold records/ You n****s sold records, never sold dope” while Rick Ross actually comes through with a good verse (“F-ck copping them foams, when you copping the home”). The drugs and money fall to the wayside for the outro: “If you slipping you fall, I got you, my n***a, hold on.” It’s that desperate grasp for camaraderie when the braggadocio doesn’t help, sh-t hits the fan, and the slick-talk fails to hide a drug dealer’s human vulnerabilities.
The ominous distortion in the Kanye West and DJ Mano-produced “Who I Am” features Pusha T’s ego at its most grotesque. The hook sardonically twists the Army’s “Be All You Can Be” slogan into this unapologetically anthemic show of instant gratification. The matter-of-factness with which he chants “I just wanna pop another band/ I just wanna sell dope forever” closes the distance between the drug world and the listener, implying drug-addled fantasies and an everyman’s is not that far apart. On “40 Acres”, Pusha T calls out for Malice while him pushing away: “And they say I’m on the verge of winning/I claim victory when Malice on the verge of sinning.” Again, Pusha T plugs in the theme of familial/hood bonds within well-written raps.
And that’s precisely what My Name Is My Name is: a collection a solid verses mixed with some chest-beating over a great selection of beats. While that’s welcomed, there’s a sense of conventionality here. Pusha T rarely takes any chances as the songs feel at times so structured around the idea of being a great rap album that they do sound linear in repetitious listens. You’re probably not going to hear anything new, but chances are Pusha wasn’t really aiming to experiment all that much. He’s repeatedly gone on record saying this is the best rap album of the year, which is a mission that can be argued he succeeded in if we’re talking in strict rap parameters. But was anybody really doubting if G.O.O.D. Music’s Pusha T had the ability to do so?