'Even if it did take far longer, and materialised to be far shorter than anticipated, DAYTONA is an immaculate project from two of the biggest names in hip-hop.' Online Music Editor Bethany Marris reviews Pusha T's third album, DAYTONA.
In 2006, Whitney Houston’s drug-strewn bathroom was documented in photograph. In 2012, in the immediate aftermath of the superstar's sudden death, the devastating/disturbing image was projected into the public conscience. In 2018, another six years have passed, and producer of Pusha T’s DAYTONA, Kanye West, has spent a small $85,000 portion of his fortunes on acquiring rights to the image, subsequently donating it to the cause of the album’s artwork: vulgar, crude and aggressively controversial.
Unsurprising from Kanye, who pulled a similar stunt in 2010, commissioning artist George Condo to depict himself (Kanye) nude, bottle in hand whilst being straddled by a winged, polka-dot- tailed, armless, (also nude) ‘Phoenix’. This piece was to become the cover of ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, although was quickly banned, leaving the more recognizable artwork as a heavily pixelated version of the original Condo piece. The difference between these two, supposed ‘publicity stunts’, however, is that the latter received criticism for it’s inappropriate, ‘unsuitable’ nature, yet the insensitive representation of DAYTONA through Houston’s bathroom has been castigated by millions, and more significantly, has ‘sickened’ and upset the late icon’s family.
That said, behind this distasteful attention-grab, lies a seamlessly produced, twenty-one minute, dense LP. New material from the president of GOOD Music has been heavily anticipated since ‘King Push’; a supposed prelude was released in 2015. It quickly becomes apparent that lyrically, this album is nothing particularly fresh. DAYTONA is laced with the drug-raps and cocaine conversation that Pusha has harnessed throughout the vast majority of his discography, yet the impeccable articulation in his storytelling excuses this.
The album’s opener, ‘If You Know You Know’, immediately draws upon Pusha’s status as a "trapper turned rapper" over an inflected, thrilling ticking beat. ‘The Games We Play’ continues to adduce the "cars", "women" and "caviar facials" that "drug money" provide, whilst the luxurious, woozy plodding of the manipulated Booker T. Averheart instrumental serves to endorse the malpractice.
‘Hard Piano’ follows. Deep and nostalgic, with a poignant yet smooth hook: "Now that’s how the team go, I’m back from Santo Domingo", which proceeds to be sliced by the innately bellicose flow of hip-hop heavyweight Rick Ross. The plethora of ways in which Kanye’s production elevates this project cannot be disputed, and his sampling majesty most notably shines through on ‘Come Back Baby’. The track's riveting intro has been sourced from The Mighty Hannibal’s ‘The Truth Shall Set You Free’ (1973), with the chorus subsequently conjured from a dreamy cut of George Jackson’s ‘I Can’t Do it Without You’ (1969). Jackson’s contribution provides moments of Soulful relief in another, inescapably enunciated, ‘dope’ driven narrative.
Kanye emerges from behind the scenes in the penultimate track ‘What Would Meek Do?’. On this, Kanye addresses his erratic media presence, proclaiming "everything Ye say cause a new debate", questioning through the halfhearted line, "Am I too complex for ComplexCon?". West, not for the first time, also brings up the severity of his self-confessed opioid addiction, and the "seven pills a night" that he relies on. Despite having just one verse on the LP's shortest track, aside from his production, Kanye’s offering is intensely personal. The record concludes with ‘Infrared’, and we see Pusha engage in his long-standing beef with Drake, firing shots through "The lyric pennin’ equal Trump’s winning". The artist aligns Drake with the US president on the premise of receiving "outside help", and throughout the piece maintains the notion that a lot of contemporary MCs "aren’t real".
All in all, this album is pretty faultless. Arguably, this has been easier to achieve through the brief, twenty-one-minute length enabling greater concision. However, the narrative substance and meticulous attention to detail, particularly on part of Kanye's production stand as a compromise. Even if it did take far longer, and materialised to be far shorter than anticipated, DAYTONA is an immaculate project from two of the biggest names in hip-hop.
Featured image: Def Jam Recordings / Pusha T
Have you heard DAYTONA yet? Listen to it here.