Almost every gangster movie or its sequel features a character going legit. Or trying as hard as they can. Scene after scene in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II show Michael Corleone telling anyone who will listen that the Corleone family is walking on the side of the angels after one, two, or a dozen more scores. For Pusha T, his 2018 opus Daytona was his massive score.
Push distilled everything about his dope brand of hardcore hip-hop into an almost perfect seven-track piece of work. It’s Almost Dry, due out this Friday (April 22nd), feels like the reflections of a former gangster doing his best to live a regular life. But, to paraphrase the head of the Corleone family, just when Push thinks he’s out, the game pulls him back in.
While not as strong as Daytona, It’s Almost Dry is more well-rounded. The album is a potent blend of evil deeds, evil thoughts, regrets, and insults to imaginary players. Pusha’s latest is filled with several reminders that Pusha T can still go “blow for blow with any Mexican,” even as a family man. Or, go rhyme for rhyme with any emcee who thinks his edges are dulled and softened.
Produced by Pharrell and Ye, It’s Almost Dry is Push’s best rap performance since 2006’s Hell Hath No Fury. King Push’s willingness to experiment with different flows and cadences shows an improvement from where he was just four years ago. “Neck & Wrist” and “Call My Bluff” highlight this different approach. Sure, the voice is still menacing, but a slight change of pitch while finding different pockets to settle into and creating a new rhythm is a level of craft absent on Daytona.
Pusha isn’t sacrificing substance for style, either, as he proves on “Neck & Wrist”: “Summertime winter fell, I’m the knight king/ The Colgate kilo, the hood needs whitening/ We fish scale n—-s like we all Pisces/ Ya bitch in my bubble like I’m still typing/ She hoping that you let her go, like a kite string.” While some may chafe at Pusha T, knee-deep in a two-decade career, still talking kilos, the man understands his audience and knows he’s filling a void in the rap game.
It’s Almost Dry drips confidence from knowing Pusha is one of a few artists who can do what he does at a very high level. In an era where hip-hop is increasingly more accepted by mainstream audiences, Push is on a mission to prove the hip-hop he grew up loving is “still viable.”
A crucial part of that plan is getting Pharrell back on the boards. The Neptunes brought Pusha and No Malice into the game, causing the duo to add vulnerability to their tough talk tales. According to Pusha, Pharrell wants something different from him than Ye. While Mr. West wants nothing but “bars,” Pusha’s longtime friend wants the rapper to dig deeper. Yes, he’s a dope rapper, but Pharrell is more interested in his skill as a songwriter who balances the ups and downs of the drug game in equal measure for a wide audience.
On “Brambleton,” Pusha exposes raw emotions most fans thought foreign to the king of the pyrex. Through this track, named after a street in Norfolk, VA, Push details his hurt feelings over a fallout between himself and a longtime friend/former manager. “It was sad watching dude in Vlad interviews/ Really it’s about me he channeled it through you/ Had a million answers didn’t have a clue/ When Michael kissed Fredo in Godfather II.”
It’s Almost Dry never plums these depths again, but it also never needs to. As the first track and the only one in this vein, it feels like Push getting his hurt and thoughts of betrayal off his chest to get through the rest of the album unencumbered by those pesky sad emotions. In fact, for most of the album, one might say Pusha sounds happy and playful.
Even on “Call My Bluff” and “Just So You Remember,” where Pusha dares anyone to test him, he’s clearly having fun with the threats. “Wake yo ass up where you rest/ On time like an Amazon truck” is menacing, sure, but elicits a chuckle or two. The guy who made “Infrared” would never.
That spirit flows from the album’s guests as well. There’s the very dope JAY-Z verse we all know, but the album also welcomes Lil Uzi Vert, Kid Cudi, Don Toliver, Ye — of course — and No Malice for a rare Clipse reunion. Those guests, along with the addition of Pharrell, make for Push’s most polished solo album. At this point in his career, Push knows better than anyone other than Shawn Carter how to juxtapose ugly realities with pretty backdrops and not take it too seriously.
It’s Almost Dry is exhibit A-Z why Pusha T will never go legit. Settling into his forties with a wife and son, the younger Thorton brother is at his apex. Push is in complete control of his flow, his delivery, and his pen game is sharper than it was 20 years ago. When he went solo in 2013, some questioned his ability to deliver without his big brother. Nine years and four albums later, they have their answer. It’s Almost Dry is the perfect complement to Daytona, creating Pusha’s very own gangster saga on wax.
Catch Pusha T on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Essential Tracks: “Brambleton, “Call My Bluff,” “Let The Smokers Shine The Coupes”
It’s Almost Dry Artwork: