Rating: 3.75/5A frequently delayed release date can be one of the biggest red flags when it comes to an artist’s album. While push-backs are by no means uncommon in hip-hop, to the point where they’re probably a more regular occurrence than an album coming out on time, a record constantly being delayed tends to show a stubbornness on either the artist’s part or the label or both. I attended what was originally supposed to be Pusha T’s album release party in spring 2011. Here we are, two-and-a-half years later and the oft-fabled My Name Is My Name is finally hitting store shelves. Most projects taking so long to surface—namely Saigon’s debut album that was supposed to drop in December 2007 but finally came out in January 2011—are bloated disappointments that quickly show why the label in question was so hesitant to unleash it. But then, you have cases like Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II, whose summer 2005 release became autumn 2009 because Rae was taking his time perfecting it. Pusha’s case is the latter, as My Name Is My Name is absolutely worth the wait.
If you were expecting an all Kanye-helmed Pusha album, sorry to disappoint, but this isn’t it. At all. Perhaps that’s for the better as, if last year’s Cruel Summer project was any indication, Pusha would be as much of an afterthought to Mr. West as he seemed to be when Yeezus was surprisingly rushed to stores earlier this year. Fortunately for longtime fans, My Name Is My Name sounds much more like earlier Clipse records, especially Hell Hath No Fury. From the stark dystopian drums to the jarringly jagged samples, this was not a project crafted with a crossover audience, on even a mainstream hip-hop audience in mind. Rather, the bulk of My Name Is My Name plays right into Pusha’s strengths, allowing for what feels like his most unfiltered artistic statement since 2006.
It’s easier to list the album’s few missteps than catalog every welcome surprise on My Name Is My Name. The underwhelming Swizz Beatz-produced “Sweet Serenade,” with an appearance by Chris Brown, feels like the only time the project attempts to gear itself to have something of a commercial hit. Otherwise, even the Future-assisted “Pain” and “40 Acres,” co-written by The Dream, remain faithful to the shimmeringly bleak vision Pusha has for the project. There’s also the wonderful “Let Me Love You” with Kelly Rowland, which, while is does sound like Pusha is doing his best Ma$e impression, fits the same template that Clipse set on tracks like “Ma, I Don’t Love Her,” so it works and completes the project’s aesthetic.
Otherwise, this is a punishingly intimidating record. Pusha doesn’t sing hooks and doesn’t want you thinking he’s changing just because he’s on the label run by the guy who married a Kardashian. While he’s on point for most of the project and brings the best out of guest features that range from a typically great Kendrick Lamar verse to managing to get the best verse from Rick Ross in about two years.
All things considered, My Name Is My Name is an album that’s far better than it has any right to be. It’s Pusha T sounding how we never thought he’d sound again, and is just one person short of being a classic Clipse record. Pharrell stops by for the closer “S.N.I.T.C.H.” and reminds us how great the glory days of their chemistry truly were. More importantly, it and My Name Is My Name are proof that said chemistry is still there.