Writer: Kyle Wheelock
Look, if Kanye loving Trump gets us production like this, we might just have to let the man live. Daytona is the third solo album from Virginia rapper turned president of GOOD Music, Pusha T. Hype has been building for this thing since the release of 2015’s King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, 10 tracks of dark vibes, booming production, and bars upon bars of drug selling. At this point in his career, Pusha’s lane is pretty much set as the gritty, self-proclaimed, “trapper turned rapper,” that could be your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. When you put on a Pusha T project, you know what you’re getting and usually, for any other rapper, that lack of variety could be knock against them but we let Pusha T get away with it because it’s always so damn good every time.
Off the bat, my biggest gripe with Daytona is that it only has 7 tracks and measures at just over 21 minutes long, some people may not have a problem with this, and some might even like it, but for me personally I need more than 21 minutes from an album. Now I know this was a conscious decision by Kanye, and I know that Pusha himself was initially against it when it came up but came around to the idea because quality > quantity. I get it, I really do, these 7 tracks were great, but I can’t help but feel like they could’ve pushed out another two tracks and not suffered a huge drop in quality.
With that out of the way, this album does so many other things right and man, it’s wonderful. I mentioned Kanye’s production on here and that’s definitely a HUGE selling point for me here. Sorry everybody, the man is still a GOAT producer, regardless of his political views, and in case you forgot or wanted to argue about it, listen to Daytona, specifically the track, “Santeria,” solely produced by Kanye. The beat starts with these punchy kick drums and rapid hi-hats over a sample of Lil Kim’s, “Drugs,” but around the 1:10 goes into this haunting refrain that features vocals from 070 Shake that has just the right amount of low end frequencies and reverb on them that give the track this incredibly ominous feel. After that we get silence as Push opens up and touches on the death of his road manager De’Von “DayDay” Pickett who was killed back in 2015. It takes away anything that would distract you from the emotions that Push wants us to feel. Clearly, “Santeria,” is the highlight of this album both lyrically and instrumentally for me, but I think the opening track, “If You Know You Know,” is also a strong contender in both categories.
“If You Know You Know,” has Push spitting about his drug dealer past and his success as rapper in very coded bars that, without Rap Genius, most people probably wouldn’t pick up on unless they knew the inner workings of drug dealing; and even then, a lot of the references Push makes here come specifically from things he did back in the day and we only know that because his former manager, Anthony Gonzalez, got indicted on some pretty serious charges. This is all to say that Pusha T is incredibly slick with his lines and secretly specific references, he always has been since his Clipse days, and he’s still just as sharp here on Daytona.
Kanye also makes a rapping appearance on the song, “What Would Meek Do?” and it’s an actual rap verse this time (you know, not like, “Lift Yourself” which he played off of). When he came through on the track with, “Everything Ye say cause a new debate / ‘You see, he been out of touch, he cannot relate,” I knew the man hadn’t lost a step, and that whatever explanation we get for this Trumpfoolery would be top notch. Hearing Push and Ye trade verses over a , “Heart of the Sunrise,” sample and a Tupac interpolation just felt right to me, it was the perfect playing field for lines like, “Devil on the other, ‘What would Meek do?’ / Pop a wheelie, tell the judge to Akinyele / Middle fingers out the Ghost, screamin’ ‘Makaveli’ (come with me),” which again just shows how slick Push can be with his rhymes at all times, it’s a top notch skill.
“Infrared,” outside from already being another hard track on its own, set the internet on fire because it basically gave Drake the alley-oop for his, “Duppy,” freestyle (although, after Push’s reply, “The Story of Adidon,” you can argue that he was setting a trap and Drake took the bait, but that’s gonna have to be its own article). This Pusha-T vs. Drake beef didn’t even start with Drake and goes back roughly twelve years, but here we are still throwing shots between the two. And as I write, it makes sense, Drake came at Push back with, “Two Birds, One Stone,” in 2016 and we haven’t heard Push on a record since then (outside of features), so yeah, I see why we’re getting this record on this album 2 years later. The only thing I’ll hold against this song is the fact that we’re still dragging Quentin Miller around, a whole 3 years later, it’s kind of played out at this point and the man has been trying to distance himself from the whole situation and get his own rap career started. I get why he would do it, ghostwriting is THE cardinal sin in hip-hop when you’re trying to crown yourself the GOAT rapper/lyricist so yeah, it’s the prime thing to pick on, but it just feels played out now all these years after Meek made it public.
Now, all that being said, “Infrared,” is still a solid song to end off an all around solid album/EP/whatever you want to call this. Kanye on production has proved he hasn’t lost a step and that he’s actually still putting new sounds together, and Pusha T is back with the double entendres and flows about all the drugs he moved. And you know what, I’m happy with it. It’s nothing ground breaking or really boundary pushing, but man is it good, Pusha has his lane that he’s made for himself, and he’s the best at running with it. I just wish it was more than 21 minutes worth of work but as a whole I can’t really be too mad at GOOD Music, because the 21 minutes we got in the end were high quality stuff.
TL;DR: This is a great album. Too short for me personally, but still great
Highlights: “If You Know You Know,” “Santeria,” “What Would Meek Do?” and, “Infrared”