With a few missteps, ‘It’s Almost Dry’ is Pusha T’s musical victory lap

The album capitalizes on its renowned producers to combine powerful lyrics with a versatile sound.

by John Renda | 58 minutes ago

Among hip-hop fans, Pusha T’s reputation precedes him. Since the early 2000s, when he and his brother No Malice formed the legendary hip-hop duo Clipse, Pusha T has received constant acclaim from fans and critics alike. The most recent subject of that acclaim was his album “Daytona” – released as part of a series of five albums produced by Kanye West that were released several consecutive weeks in the spring of 2018. For many fans – myself included – the The soulful instrumentals and uncompromising lyrics of “Daytona” sounded like hip-hop heaven, and it was hailed as one of the best albums of 2018 and the 2010s. Naturally, I was thrilled when Pusha T announced “It’s Almost Dry”, his first solo release since “Daytona”.

Impressive, “It’s Almost Dry” largely manages to meet the expectations of its predecessor. A lot of that is down to how this release follows a formula familiar to its proven artist before. On the one hand, the production of “It’s Almost Dry” shares the quality and orientation of “Daytona”. Every song on the album was produced by Kanye West or Pharrell Williams, two production legends in their own right. Their instrumentals – very diverse but always complex and immersive – give the songs on the album the same dynamism and intrigue as its cover. “It’s Almost Dry” is a musical triumph as Pusha T stays true to the roots of his gritty lyricism but elevates with an innovative new sound, driven by thoughtful production collaborations.

The beats behind the album’s two promotional singles, “Diet Coke” and “Neck and Wrist (feat. JAY-Z and & Pharrell Williams)”, exemplify both the diversity and texture of the album’s instrumentals. In typical Kanye West fashion, “Diet Coke” features a looping soul sample layered over a catchy piano riff as Pusha T speaks triumphantly about his days in the drug trade. “Neck and Wrist,” meanwhile, features Pharrell Williams’ signature heavy drumming, backing a synth line that sounds like it’s been imported from another planet.

“Brambleton”, the album’s opener, features another electric instrument from Pharrell, with the same thumping drums now complemented by an eerie yet alluring electric piano. It’s the perfect backing for the track, which features Pusha T’s menacing and emotional lyrical attack on his former manager, Anthony Gonzales. In contrast, “I Pray for You (feat. Labrinth and MALICE),” a collaboration between Pusha T and No Malice that closes the album, has a Kanye West beat with all the grandeur of a religious ballad. The song’s organ riffs and ethereal vocals in a chorus make it sound like a track from “JESUS ​​IS KING,” West’s religiously-inspired 2019 album. Those beats — along with many others – testify to the remarkable instrumental texture of the album. Despite being produced by just two people, “It’s Almost Dry”‘s versatile sound never feels predictable.

Pusha T’s lyricism also adheres to its common formula, both in structure and theme. On every track, it retains its trademark slow, articulate delivery. I found myself hooked on every word and syllable. That was a feat in itself, as it means the project fully and genuinely captured my attention.

Beyond its delivery, however, were the lyrics themselves, always gritty and intimidating. On many tracks, Pusha T feels like a larger-than-life figure: whether it’s the rap game or the cocaine smuggling, he makes it clear that he considers himself a seasoned veteran, deserving of the greatest respect for his audience. A perfect example of this is the track “Just So You Remember”. Lyrics like “brick by brick we kept concessions open / see you rappers apply for the stimulus / mitch by mitch we built our villages / live a lie, but die for your pictures” make it clear that Pusha has no reservations about the distinction between what he considers real and fake – and he despises those who fall into the latter category.

The only places “It’s Almost Dry” falters are where Pusha T deviates from this successful formula. I especially noticed this deviation towards the middle of the album; here, it sometimes feels like he’s trying to make concessions to contemporary hip-hop trends. The most obvious example of this is “Scrape it Off”, his collaboration with famous trap crooners Lil Uzi Vert and Don Toliver. The track’s sound is unsurprisingly tasty and catchy, and the two featured artists complement each other vocally. My problem, however, is that Pusha T does not complete them. Amid a track that sounds tropical, bubbly and radio-friendly, Pusha’s gritty vocals seem noticeably out of place. No artist on the track performs poorly, but their dissonant styles are a critical blow to the album’s cohesion.

The track “Rock N Roll,” featuring Kanye West and Kid Cudi, has a similar problem. Cudi and Kanye’s notorious chemistry, along with the fast, upbeat instrumental, makes the song sound like a leftover from 2018’s collaborative album “Kids See Ghosts” (another product of Kanye’s spring 2018 run). That’s not to say Pusha T fails to deliver the song: Instead, his sluggish delivery and blunt vocals make it sound like he’s delivering in the wrong place. By moving away from what makes him successful, Pusha T loses the precision that I think makes his style so exciting.

These small aberrations, however, do not compensate for the triumphs of the album. Even these tracks, just like the others, embody the musical and lyrical prowess that makes Pusha T a beloved figure in hip-hop. Raw, passionate and concise, “It’s Almost Dry” shows a legendary rapper doing what he does best, telling brutal stories of drugs and hip-hop with a confidence that would leave even the most reluctant listeners engaged. If “Daytona” was a reference to the famous car race, “It’s Almost Dry” sounds like Pusha T’s triumphant lap around the course.

Evaluation: ★★★★☆

About Anita Croft

Check Also

The Curtain Rises Again: Monacan High Troupe Stages First Post-Pandemic Musical

PHOTO BY ASH DANIEL Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? If you’ve watched …