From the smallest details in his bars, to the most absurdly large-scale claims, from his swerving flow to his right-hand-to-god conviction, Pusha T hits on every note of what makes a rapper great. He’s been around a long time, but tomorrow, with the drop of My Name Is My Name, he arrives for real. In celebration of his journey to hip-hop elite status, we’ve compiled Terrance‘s fifteen rawest appearances on wax, complete with a Yuugh-o-meter to celebrate Pusha‘s signature adlib. Enjoy these “drug dealer Picassos.”
15. “We Got It For Cheap (Intro)” [Verse 1]
Knowing this verse would be the first words heard on Hell Hath Know Fury, Push set out to create something fiery and true to the entirety of his style. Announcing not only his presence but his mission statement to “Steer em / Through a life in the fast lane, I German engineer ’em,” Pusha quickly swerves from simple chest-thumping to uncovering the pain underneath the vice (see the Best Line below). With the pain comes some history: Push makes it clear that where others fabricate, he tells it how he saw it. “So many deceive ya / I’m more in touch with the keys, move over Alicia,” Pusha raps, making a pun on the famous talent’s name before poking a little fun at himself, speaking on his relentlessly coke-coated lyrics, he proclaims, “I force feed ya the metric scale.” For the rest of the album, he does precisely that, barely letting you breath without inhaling something that is, one way or another, potent.
Best Line: “No serum can cure all the pain I’ve endured / From crack to rap to back to sellin it pure”
Yuugh Meter: 2/5
14. “Kinda Like A Big Deal”
Another Til The Casket Drops track, “Kinda Like A Big Deal” starts up with Pusha at near-career-high levels of bravado and conviction. The way he draws out the last syllable of each of his opening bars is reminiscent of the late great Biggie who he claims to be on the heels of here (Push has noted his attempts to emulate his idol before, saying, “I’ll bite B.I.G but nobody else.”) The whole verse, which is well written but far from Pusha‘s greatest achievement, is made infinitely more powerful by the savage delivery he uses. With an urgent but precise growl, Pusha dominates your ears, transforming an average musing, “Life’s a maze, you twist and you turn through it,” into an undeniably epic line. It’s as if we can hear Pusha‘s amazement at how it all worked out, though he never lets himself forget where it all came from. “The dryest of droughts, maneuvered and I earned through it,” Pusha reminds us, impossibly triumphant. Also, that “Yuugh” at the end is the definition of raw.
Best Line: “It’s a blessin’ to blow a hundred thou in a recession / With no second guessin’
Yuugh Meter: 5/5
13. Alley Boy – “Your Favorite Rapper”
The only feature on this list, “Your Favorite Rapper” is also where we begin our look at Pusha at war. Blood-thirst ignites something within Push, not only bringing him to harsher-stinging heights than he normally goes, but giving him a reason to remind us of his bulletproof authenticity, as seen in the Best Line below, and in the lines previous: “Bought my mama’s Jag in 01 / The only hits I had then was a nose run.” Pusha mixes some warped brand of schoolyard cruelty and a great sense of (comedic) timing to mock a target we can only assume is Lil Wayne, saying “How real is he if he’s been paying for his Blood ties? / He blood in, he blood out, at a blood drive.” The pure anger and fearlessness on display at the verse’s end as Pusha asks what he’s got to prove “to a motherfucker with nothing to lose, ever,” elevate this one to chilling territory.
Best Line: “Dropped “Grindin'”, let you hear just how the dope’s slung / Then shot the video where I was buying my dope from / If that ain’t’ autobiographical / The indictment mentions clothes lines and rappers too”
Yuugh Meter: 5/5
12. “Doesn’t Matter” [Verse 1]
This verse already clocked in at number seven on our list for the ten best verses of 2013 so far, and, seeing as it’s only the twelfth best verse of Push‘s career should tell you something about the man. As noted in that list, it’s an uneven verse, but the first half is just so far above what nearly any other MC can do that it deserves the spot. Pusha keeps the competition at arm’s length, not out of insecurity, but like an older brother holding the youngest at bay by the forehead. Push raps like the underworld’s version of a pastor here, effortlessly adding his own place to the royal table. Also, the RG3 comparison is too spot-on and hilarious to ignore. Click above for more on this verse.
Best Line: “There’s a meaning to the kissin’ of the ring / The gods don’t mingle with the mortals / Peasants ain’t sittin’ with the kings”
Yuugh Meter: N/A
11. “Don’t Fuck With Me” [Verse 1]
It wasn’t the most subtle move to take a beat originally used by Drake and lace it with a lot of vicious lines about un-named opponents, but the way Pusha dodges the specifics but slices right through the larger issues at hand is the mark of a master swordsman. Here, Push mostly takes aim at Drake‘s mentor, Wayne, highlighting the New Orleans rapper’s (absurd) threat to kidnap Beyonce, slyly rapping “The lowest form of a thief is a cat burgler.” The next few lines could be aimed at anyone, everyone, but their wide-reaching nature doesn’t take away from how devastating they are (see the Best Line below). Push mocks rappers for biting styles by saying that everyone can see what they’re doing, and he executes with the calm of a cold killer. Later in the verse, Push gets just a little more specific, calling out rappers who chase trends, taunting, “Put Trey up on your hook, still couldn’t save ’em / Better chance with a snowball hittin’ Satan!” This verse was just getting things started for a track that stands as one of Pusha‘s most underrated moments. Get ready to run into verse two a little down the line.
Best Line: “The elephant’s in the room, the bitch glowin’ / Like a ghetto girl with the good weave sewn in / She walk like its her’s but the whole world knowin’”
Yuugh Meter: 3/5
Yuugh Meter: 3/5
Often overlooked by Pusha Ton scholars, this cut from Til The Casket Drops serves as a good entry into each of the man’s many talents, be it imagery, off-kilter flows, or giving us a window into his self-consciously flawed morality. Right of the bat, Push crafts a gorgeous image and gives it a philosophical highlight: “Exhaust pipes and breathers / The flash from the barrel turns bullies to believers.” The mention of bullies sets us up to see Push as the underdog turned overlord, and of course, that means we see him in action. Pusha uses another absurdly crisp image to show us both his wealth and how he got it: “I Mason jar Martin Margiela them O’s together.” It’s a hell of a tongue twister, and shows a serious eye for detail, patterns, and of course, fashion and drugs. Pusha‘s love for strange sounds like those is on display everywhere here, especially in the Best Line below.
Best Line: “Through flows, I give you Mein Kampf kilos, consigned ’em / Do as I say like Simon, and you too will diamond blind hun / I’m on my Dylan”
Yuugh Meter: 4/5
9. “My God” [Verse 1]
Put simply, Terrence Thornton has a way with words. From the perfect pairing of sounds in the couplet “Didn’t bat an eye at it, kept the poker face / Cause the batter I addeed had the coca base,” to the ingenious phrasing of “There’s no feelin’ like your bitch Chin-chillin’ right,” Pusha molds words like gold to efficiently do his bidding. He has a way with ideas, too. The subtle progression of imagery in the opening bars tells a life-long story about crime, stoic mourning, and expensive taste–“We don’t mourn for the dead nigga, we pour bottles / Drown sorrows, ocean blue Murcielagos.” “My God” has militaristic beat, right down to the drumline, and Pusha sounds 1,000% Captain, staring through the storm, into something greater. Also: what’s Pusha T verse without some innovative coke wordplay? “Make a small town feel like I throw a blizzard at it / Get the green from the scale like a lizard had it” is a serious gem.
Best Line: “When you get to heaven’s door they won’t hold a space / If you numb like the flesh on a smoker’s face”
Yuugh Meter: 4/5
Jokes aside about how often Pusha‘s coke-rap trope, it became clear over time that some people failed to see it for what it was–a background on which Push could convey his life story and philosophy–and began to criticize him for stagnating. To flip those critics a huge middle finger, Pusha poured it all out on “Freedom,” and not a brick was mentioned during the verse. King Push touched on everything from a fork in the Thornton brothers’ paths (“We in the same group but I don’t share my brother’s pain”) to concerns about his morality (“I just don’t feel nothin’, I’m numbed by the will to gain”) and growing ego (“Pompous motherfucker just look what them jewels made me”), to a failed relationship (see the Best Line below). This may be the most prolonged emotional moment in Pusha‘ career (where the emotion isn’t wrath.)
Best Line: “The music drove me crazy / Looked up and lost the first bitch I ever wanted to have my babies”
Yuugh Meter: 4/5
7. “Sweet (Freestyle)”
Combining the sermon-like qualities of “Doesn’t Matter” with the indirect direct-ness of “Don’t Fuck With Me,” Pusha‘s freestyle over Common‘s “Sweet” fires on all cylinders. Push kicks things off with some great free-associative war-mongering, using what seems like Drake‘s hashtag punchline formula to spit “You’re sweet to me–diabetes, peace treaties / Breakfast of champions, they need Wheaties.” Pusha Ton steps even closer to clarity a few lines down: “I hear ’em whisper like a hummingbird sings / Of all the trust issues that a hundred birds bring.” The mention of “trust issues” certainly evokes Drake‘s syrupy sweet track, but Push is more concerned with the mortal danger of flipping kilos than dealing with vague insecurities. Pusha takes a more complicated and more loaded shot at (presumably) Drake in the Best Line below, tearing into Drake‘s style of seduction, which could certainly be seen as playing into girls’ petty insecurities, feeding them a line about how they’re flawless. Push ends the verse on another high note, preparing for a slaughter of the snakes in the grass: “Backstabber, Ceaser had Brutus / It’s hard to weed ’em out, even Jesus had Judas.”
Best Line: “Now the wolves out hunting for your bling / As you’re preying on the bitches with the lowest self esteem
Yuugh Meter: N/A
6. “Don’t Fuck With Me” [Verse 2]
Verse two of Pusha‘s sly assault on the competition gives more quotables than we know what to do with. From the first line, it’s tightly wound and smoothly executed–“Rappers only sophomores, actin’ like they’re boss lords / Fame such a funny thing for sure,” is aimed at, most likely Drake Care, calling his status into question, seeing as he was only on his sophmore album at the time. Using a common phrase is perfectly dismissive, it turns Pusha‘s target into just another weak soul who succumbed to the pressures and perks of a lifestyle that he maneuvers with relative ease. Another highlight: Pusha‘s crazily dense wordplay: “Daddy’s M.I.A. like a dolphin / Play the Fendi bucket like a shark’s fin.” In the first bar, Push plays on the abbreviation for Miami’s team, and in the second, he gives us a concise, razor-sharp image of him as a stealthy killer, identifiably only by the bucket hat poking out above the crowd. Those lines are astounding and complex on their own, but the fact that they are linked by consistent sea-themed imagery just makes the whole moment that much better. The Best Line below of course should not be overlooked either, as it finds King Push in full-on pastor mode again.
Best Line: “The talk don’t match the leather, the swag don’t match the sweaters / And wolves don’t walk with shepherds”
Yuugh Meter: N/A
5. “Ride Around Shining”
Pusha has stated before that he was in full Notorious-mode for Hell Hath No Fury, and “Ride Around Shining” may be the best example. The highlights begin five bars down, when Push even drops his voice and sounds like Big Poppa in both voice and flow: “Dior whore, Christian Lacroix, keep guns stashed under the floor board / Enough to start world war.” The beat knocks like a cannon, and Pusha weaves through it like he’s waltzing past cannonballs. Just as he invented a word for “My God,” here, Pusha pulls “Hostelese” out of thin air to convey just how threatening his speech can be. Push also knows how to tell a whole story in a line, evidenced by this bar near the verse’s end: “Money piles high as my nieces.” We know so much about what the man values, what he does, and his attitude all from those six words. Last but not least, there is the show-stopping Best Line that you can see below. Pusha‘s verses sometimes take on an instructional quality, like he’s leading us through how he learned to be the man he is today (see: “Footsteps,” “We Got It For Cheap,”) but never has it been so self-aware and, well, awesome. Prison included, this is the most badass moment ever to be associated with Martha Stewart.
Best Line: “The black Martha Stewart–let me show you how to do it! / Break down pies to pieces, make cocaine quishes”
Yuugh Meter: N/A
4. “New God Flow” [Verse 1]
Few moments in recorded music are more satisfying to chant along with than the opening lines of “New God Flow.” Pusha is at his most venomous, most grandiose and righteous as he raps “I believe there’s a god above me, I’m just the god of everything else!” It echoes one of his earliest high-profile boasts–“If he claim king, and he claim best / Then I guess you could call me god” from “Chevy Ridin’ High“–but this incarnation sounds like it has god’s wrath on its side. Calming down only slightly, Pusha flips references to 2Pac, Rihanna, and Kanye into a summary of his growing fanbase, the doubt about his ability to mesh with the smoother sounds of G.O.O.D. Music and Roc Nation, and his cocaine-fueled answer to that doubt (see the Best Line below). The trio of lines is incredibly clever, with punchlines stacking high, each showing more about Pusha‘s affinity for double meanings. He also frames himself and Kanye as the team they really seem to have grown into now that My Name Is My Name looks to be their combined effort, rapping “I think it’s good that ‘Ye got a blow dealer / A hot temper, matched with a cold killer / I came aboard for more than just to rhyme with him / Think ’99, when Puff woulda had Shyne with him.” In “New God Flow,” though, Push plays both roles (hot temper and cold killer) flawlessly.
Best Line: “They love a nigga’s spirit like Pac at the Coachella / They said Pusha ain’t fit with the umbrella / But I was good with the Yay as a wholesaler”
Yuugh Meter: 3/5
3. “I Still Wanna”
Push dedicated a whole song to his addiction to pushing addiction, and the results were a masterpiece. From the first jaw-droppingly hilarious punchline (see: Best Line below), Pusha indulges whole-heartedly in the highs and highs of the kingpin life, noting how this decidedly non-innocent life is his security blanket. Moving on to all the warped happiness that money can buy, Pusha raps, “Sparkles to the table, got him feeling like he’s Merlin / Whirlwind, powder makes your world spin,” his voice itself beginning to sport crazy eyes. Later, he asks, “You know what fame is?” We are beginning to understand it in its most menacing incarnation, but Push answers his own question: “Sitting with the woman of your dreams and forgetting what her name is.” Then, to remind us how it really is about the love of the craft–the craft being coke flipping–he continues, “You know what pain is? / Flushing two bricks and tryna have a nigga strain it out the drainage.”
Best Line: “Sleeping with the finest, the thread count is bindless / Security blanket of cocaine, I am Linus”
Yuugh Meter: 5/5
Of course, the scales are tipped in favor of “Blow,” as it is a song-length verse, but it’s not just the amount of rapping that Pusha does, but its the sheer number of memorable moments he creates. The first highlight comes in the first line, where Push again plays on his inability to leave the coke game behind–“Malice found religion, Tony found prison / I’m still tryna find my way up out this fuckin’ kitchen”–drawing a contrast between his position and the progression of his brother and consigliere. He makes prison sound like salvation compared to the cycle he’s stuck in. But, clearly, he’s having fun with it too: “Turn one to two, now the kilo’s got a sibling!” While breaking down the contents of his wallet, Push starts to really let his charisma shine: “Grants, Jacksons, no room for Geooorrge. Yuugh!” In the Best Line below, Push runs us through a moment only he could have lived, but somehow makes every piece of it clear in a matter of seconds, painting himself as a master of double lives and slick talking. Pusha even Bible thumps for a moment, and it’s the most threatening flip on scripture since Sam Jackson came down with great vengeance and furious anger. “No weapon formed against me shall prosper,” Push warns the competition, before he shows us his vacation life: “Hakuna matata, feet up sipping java.” “What a motherfucking life” indeed, Pusha.
Best Line: “Help my young bitch see my way through the Bachelors / Sent my old bitch right back to get her Masters / Same graduation I was clapping in the rafters”
Yuugh Meter: 5/5
1. “Keys Open Doors”
With only a savage “Yuugh” for warning, we are transported into the backseat of Pusha Ton‘s ride: “Make your skin crawl / Press one button, make the wind fall / Who gon’ stop us? Fuck the coppers.” We are brought, with whiplash pacing, into the world of a man who seems at once crazy and brilliant, powerful and paranoid. One of Pusha‘s most memorable punchlines comes just a moment later, as he claims that hasn’t spent “one rap dollar in three years, holla,” giving us an idea of just how deep this whole rabbit hole of coke deals goes. Next, we enter Pusha‘s home: “Open the Frigidaire, twenty-five to life in there / So much white, you might think your holy christ is near / Throw on your Louis V millionaire’s to kill the glare.” So much is done in so little time, the most outrageous detail of all being Pusha‘s need to wear his designer shades just to block the glare of his snow-white product. This verse is also a standout for how extraordinarily mean it is: “Money’s the leash, drag the bitch by her dog collar,” and “Bitch never cook my coke. Why? / Never trust a whore with your child” being the most vicious and disgusting lines, showing us just how far Pusha is willing to go into the underworld. And just look what he brought back. Picassos.
Best Line (tie): “I ain’t spend one rap dollar in three years, holla.” & “Bitch never cook my coke. Why? / Never trust a whore with your child.”
Yuugh Meter: 4/5
“Alone In Vegas” [Verse 1]: One of the most honest looks at “the self righteous drug dealer dichotomy” that Push ever gave us.
“Comedy Central”: In his Lord Willin‘ days, Pusha had a far more slippery flow. This is the best example.
“Money On My Mind Freestyle”: It’s punchline city. “Spot me everywhere with the eight, like Kate Gosselin,” and “Had the audacity to sell it in a damn poem / Get you higher Angelou, the author of these anthems” are among the best.
“New God Flow” [Verse 2]: This one makes for the fact alone that Push mocks the competition for “Shitty shoppin’ at Targét!”
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