Preludes have never really been held in the highest of regards in musical or cinema circles; they are often attempts at providing backstory and generally an adventure in experimentation. Yet Pusha T has broken the mould with his full length release King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, and has stuck to his guns (and cocaine puns) to deliver an album deserving of sitting among the already-overflowing list of stellar hip-hop releases from 2015.
Darkest Before Dawn serves as the prelude to King Push, an album tentatively slated for an April 2016 release, and represents a bold move for any modern artist; two full-length releases in the span of 6 months.
From the moment we’re greeted with the first single, Untouchable, it is evidently clear that Pusha is pulling no punches. A gritty and metallic beat, accompanied by a sample of none other than Biggie Smalls provided a stellar platform for Pusha to assert his status as the newly crowned President of G.O.O.D Music.
“The President of G.O.O.D Music has been announced,
A quarter million a year and that don’t bounce.”
To sample one of the icons and stalwarts of the genre and deliver a prolific lyrical performance is testament to the longevity of Pusha T as an artist.
One half of legendary rap duo Clipse, this is a artist who has lasted for an eternity in the rap game without ever undergoing a drastic overhaul of neither sound nor lyrical content. Pusha is a coke rapper, plain and simple, and that is where his lyrical prowess shines. One would only imagine that cocaine could only provide so many metaphors and anecdotes, but Pusha continues to surprise and astound with his seemingly endless ability to put a new spin on his favourite illicit substance, with such gems as: “I’m the Kim Jong of the crack song,” and my personal favourite, “I’m the L. Ron Hubbard of the cupboard.”
As you might expect from such a close affiliate of Kanye, Darkest Before Dawn boasts a plethora of producers, and the production is where the album truly shines. Leading the pack is his first ever partnership with legendary producer Timbaland, closely followed by the talents of J. Cole, MetroBoomin, Boi1Da and Puff Daddy, alongside trap producers Baauer and Hudson Mohawke. The final result of this caustic blend is a collection of different styles and sounds that somehow manage to collectively reflect a singular musical atmosphere.
It’s incredible that Tim and Pusha have not collaborated until this point, but the weight behind this album is well worth the price of admission as the two embark on their first project together. The beats are grimy, gritty and encapsulate the dark and decrepit nature of coke dealing, contrasted by Pusha’s lavish lifestyle of glitz and glamour. Crutches, Crosses, Caskets steals the show in the beat department, while the unorthodox rhythms and samples on Numbers on the Boards and Nosetalgia create some of the most unique and captivating sounds of the year.
The star-studded credits don’t stop on the production table; featured artists are scattered throughout the impressive album. Yet for the calibre of rappers named on the track-listing, the end product is sadly hit and miss. Philadelphian spitter Beanie Sigel delivers a stellar verse on the appropriately-titled Keep Dealing, while The Dream makes an appearance on M.F.T.R and M.P.A, asserting himself as Pusha’s go to hook-man, his angelic vocals providing the perfect juxtaposition to the gritty world that Pusha himself portrays.
M.P.A also boasts appearances from none other than Kanye West and A$AP Rocky, but despite the star power it fails to deliver; what we are left with is a rather monotonous and phoned-in attempt from some of our favourites, with neither contributing their own verse, instead settling for an extremely boring and bland hook. While the song is introspective and seeks to detail some of the more prevalent societal issues, namely a cultural obsession with “Money, pussy, alcohol,” it somewhat misses the mark.
The shining lights on this album come in the form of F.I.F.A and Sunshine, tracks which attempt to highlight some flexibility and range in Pusha’s skill set. The latter is a bare-bones track that showcases a personal and introspective side, whilst F.I.F.A is a a hard-sitting slugfest, perfectly encapsulating the grit that oozes throughout the album. Rap fans looking for a socially shifting album reminiscent of To Pimp a Butterfly or an outstanding lyrical performance will probably find little satisfaction within Darkest Before Dawn; it is an album that must be appreciated for what it is, a further reminder that Pusha is a consistent musical monster, and deserves to be in the conversation for the current rap game ruler.
If the sole purpose of Darkest Before Dawn was to whet our proverbial Pusha T appetite, it has succeeded. While not overly diverse, the album delivers a perfect introduction for those hip-hopheads who are yet to delve into Pusha’s gritty world. King Push will undoubtedly be one of the most eagerly anticipated hip-hop releases of 2016; and it’s safe to the say that the bar has been raised mighty high.
For those eager to experience Darkest Before Dawn in person, the G.O.O.D Music president will be touching down later this month to perform at Origin NYE in Perth, Beyond The Valley in Victoria, and three headline dates: