Headphones: Kanye's Production Outshines Pusha T's Lyrics On Daytona

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Just a few months ago, Kanye West announced he would be involved in a healthy amount of music dropping over the summer. The month of June holds not just a solo Kanye album, but a team up album with Kid Cudi as well. Along with these two albums, Kanye revealed he would be producing an album for Bronx rapper Pusha T. Last Thursday, Pusha finally released the highly-anticipated album, Daytona, to kick off the summer of Kanye.

As one might expect, the album is carried most of the way by Kanye’s beat production. The tracks feature a significant amount of sampling which most know Kanye is no stranger to when it comes to making beats. Although Kanye drives the album, it is refreshing to once again hear new bars from Pusha T who hasn’t released a studio album since 2015.

The album’s first track, “If You Know You Know”, is rather forgettable as Pusha T struggles to find his flow. However, the albums second track, “The Games We Play” shows off the strengths of both Kanye’s production and Pusha T’s lyricism. The beat consists of a slow drum beat laid over the sound of subtle guitar plucking with Pusha spitting bars throughout the entire song. On the track, Pusha T talks mostly about his come up in the rap game as well as his efforts to stay relevant in a dramatically changing rap industry.

“Hard Piano”, featuring Rick Ross is ironically the hardest song on the album. The track again sticks to a classical production style, with Kanye using the sounds of piano keys as the structure for high-hat heavy drum beats. Pusha T opens the track with a verse of his own, calling out celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer who both were recently publically exposed for incidents of sexual harassment. After a high-pitch sample courtesy of the legendary soul singer Tony Williams who exclaims, “Now that’s how the team go, I’m back from Santo Domingo/That’s where the kings go, down in Santo Domingo”, Ross goes in spitting bars of his own. The track’s sounds combine the styles of rap from both Pusha T and Rick Ross’s generations creating a blend of flows that work perfectly with the piano beat.

“Come Back Baby” is one of the most sample-heavy tracks on the whole album. Despite George Jackson’s old-school voice blessing the chorus, Pusha T shines in his verses. His verses are given more weight as Kanye made sure to cut the chorus sample quickly leading right into his verses, which are accompanied by a slow drum beat with bass-heavy synths laid in the background. Pusha T plays around with several flows in his verses, starting with a simple and slow flow to match the beat’s pace and eventually moving into flows that counteract the beat.

The album’s pace moves extremely quickly as the album only features seven tracks. Along with the short track list, Kanye West’s production plays a big part in the album’s pace as he ensures that each song flows into the next. As you listen to the album from start to finish, it feels as if you’re finished all seven songs before you get a chance to really soak in any of the lyrics, beats, etc. This is, without a doubt, an album that requires listening to in its entirety multiple times. Not only do you have a chance to really listen to Pusha’s lyrics a second time through, but also hearing new sounds within the beat. Pusha has been rather disconnected from the rap game and its fans since he hasn’t dropped an album in nearly three years. However, having his new album produced entirely by Kanye West is exactly what he needed to re-emerge amongst his much younger counterparts.

Kanye’s beats are what most will be attracted to upon their first listen-through of the album. Although Pusha T’s verses do have some depth and good lyrics in them, it is Kanye’s production that shines throughout this album.

The first time we hear from Kanye aside from the beats on the album is in his vocal feature on the track, “What Would Meek Do?”. The album is a shout out to fellow rapper Meek Mill, who recently was released from prison. The album’s beat is a looped drum track on which Kanye and Pusha play back-and-forth with their voices. The introduction to Kanye’s verse even shouts out his most recently released single, “Lift Yourself”, which features Kanye speaking in unorthodox and straight up odd sayings. However, Kanye ditches the “whoop-di-scoops” for a more traditional verse in which he finally displays his vocal talents. As nice as it was hearing an entire album of beats produced by Kanye, it was even more refreshing to hear his actual voice add to the album.

The album’s closing song, “Infrared”, is easily the most controversial track Pusha T has put out in the past few years. The track features a faint voice in the background of the beat, which is primarily composed of bass drums and cymbals. The voice says, “Infrared, yeah, you know what I mean?” behind Pusha T’s verse as well as the segments in which he stops rapping. The reason behind the track’s controversy is a subtle shot at Drake reigniting the on-again-off-again feud between the two rappers. Pusha says, “It was written like Nas but it came from Quentin” calling out Drake for his alleged use of ghostwriters. Drake has already fired back at Pusha T on his new dis track, “Dubby Freestyle”, defending the fact he writes his own tracks as well as some well-articulated shots at Pusha’s age. Pusha has since responded with a diss track of his own, calling out Drake for a child he allegedly covered up. “The Story of Adidon” has made waves across social media platforms as fans question the legitimacy of his remarks and speculate whether or not Drake will respond.

The theme of controversial covert art has become a norm for Pusha T as the art for Daytona features Whitney Houston's bathroom complete with a variety of drugs. On his latest release, "The Story of Adidon", the cover art features a picture of Drake in blackface wearing a cartoon Jim Crow shirt. Pusha T has thrown his name in the spotlight with his recent album and diss track, and his controversial artwork has boosted him to a whole new level of notoriety. 

While Pusha T undoubtedly shines multiple times throughout the album with his lyricism and flow, Kanye is the one in the drivers seat. His flawless beat production and expert use of sample make things easy for Pusha T as he simply needed to add his vocals to the tracks. Each beat stands out on its own, with the forgettable tracks of the album resulting from Pusha’s lack of depth in his lyrics and confused flow. Overall, the album is a success and exactly what Pusha T needed to bring his name back into the spotlight. Along with this, it is extremely exciting to hear Kanye’s beats get back to the basics of his talent and shows positive signs for the albums to be released in June.