Pusha T is a respected rapper who has steadily worked his way up the ranks of rap over the past two decades. From his beef with Drake to his feud with Lil’ Wayne, Push has undoubtedly had negative press. However, as a member of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label, there is no denying that the rapper (real name Terrence Thornton) is a competent rapper and a talented musician worthy of his place in the upper echelons of hip hop.
Born and raised in Virginia Beach, Pusha T was one half of the famous rap duo Clipse. His fellow member was his brother, Gene Thornton. With his brother rapping as a duo in their local area, they would rise alongside Virginia Beach natives The Neptunes, frequently featuring on their projects. In 1996, Pharrell Williams would help secure the duo a record deal.
Clipse would continue to rise and, in 2002, would have a breakout hit from their album Lord Willin’. This hit was ‘Grindin’’ and, released in 2002, would land them a place on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 30. However, the song has become iconic due to its stripped-back Neptunes-produced beat.
However, things would go downhill from here as label disputes and contractual issues started interfering with the amount of music they were allowed to release and the budget behind their music. With their mixtapes doing relatively well but their album still being red-lighted by the label, in 2010, Pusha got a lucky break, as he got signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label. He featured on Ye’s 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy on the track ‘Runaway’ and, since then, has blossomed as a career artist.
With such a vast career spanning over two decades from 1996 until the present, this feature will try to determine the five best Pusha T songs of all time.
The five best Pusha T songs of all time:
5. ‘Diet Coke’ (2022)
Released earlier this year, ‘Diet Coke’ was the lead single for the rapper’s most recent project It’s Almost Dry. Produced by Kanye West and 88-Keys, ‘Diet Coke’ is sonically extremely old school. With its infectious piano melody and chopped, pitched-up vocals, the beat is reminiscent of old Kanye beats, similar to the type he used to make for Common and Talib Kweli.
With lyrics like “The crack era was a black era” the song’s primary theme of crack cocaine is quite stereotypical with not much lyricism. However, with catchy flows, a soulful old-school beat and a simplistic greyscale video, Pusha definitely understands that sometimes less is more, and for diet coke it works. The song did not chart but deserves a top five position.
4. ‘Neck & Wrist’ featuring Pharrell & Jay-Z (2022)
With a very different sound to ‘Diet Coke’, ‘Neck & Wrist’ is sonically a trap song. With distorted 808’s similar to K-Camp’s ‘Lottery’, ‘Neck & Wrist’ sees Pusha collaborate with his longtime Virginia Beach friend Pharrell, who produced the track.
Released as the third track for his latest project It’s Almost Dry, the song lyrically explores his roots in Virginia Beach and how the luxury of life now compares to the life he lived in poverty 30 years ago. Jay-Z shows remarkable lyricism on this beat and approaches it completely differently from Pusha, which keeps the song interesting. The track debuted at number 76 on the Billboard 100. After the release of the song, fans questioned whether Jay-Z was dissing Birdman with his lyric, “I blew bird money, y’all talk in Twitter feeds”. However, the speculation quickly subsided after it was denied by someone who worked on the song.
3. ‘Rock N Roll’ featuring Kanye West and Kid Cudi (2022)
This track sees Pusha team up with two of his G.O.O.D Music label mate, Kid Cudi and the label founder Kanye West. Pharrell and West produced the track in conjunction and, again, features pitched-up vocals of Kanye’s beloved ‘Chipmunk Soul’.
With Cudi rapping on the chorus with distorted, amped-up vocals this track shows Pusha show great lyricism and talks about relationships as he raps: “I accepted you to lie / All the times, selfish, thinkin’ you was mine / I showed up, then you arrived / I thought I could turn the tides / How I make it through the Chi / Get to you and almost die? / Finally tired of comin’ and goin’, make up your mind”
The track was released with a vsiualiser that focuses on CCTV and what is colloquially called ‘Big Brother’, with images of eyes exploring the concept of cameras watching us at all times. It is a smooth track and one of Pusha’s best recent releases.
2. ‘Dreamin Of The Past’ featuring Kanye West (2022)
Another track from Pusha’s latest project It’s Almost Dry, the song is instantly recognisable as a Kanye West production. It’s sample ‘Jealous Guy’ by Donny Hathaway, is used in a similar way to how Kanye used the Otis Redding sample for his 2011 track ‘Otis’.
The loop of the soul track with the rap vocal over it creates a dramatic sense of nostalgia and a warmth. Kanye West comes in briefly at the end, however it seems impromptu and off. However, the backbeat is very reminiscent of old kanye music containing no electronic elements at all.
1. ‘Scrape It Off The Top’ featuring Lil Uzi Vert & Don Toliver (2022)
A more modern sounding track ‘Scrape It Off The Top’ has an amazing hook sung by Don Toliver and is far more open and experimental in it’s production. With Lil’ Uzi Vert a more current new school rapper to start off the track, Pusha comes in harder on the second verse and grounds the track lyrically.
With a beat that pushes boundaries and is more experimental that just your average trap beat it is refreshing and works well with Pusha’s flow. Definitely deserving of the number one spot and is worth a listen. The single is accompanied by a visualiser which you can watch below.