Published Apr 03, 2016Despite the calendar telling Canadians that spring has arrived, Toronto was covered in a light dusting of snow on April 2 — an all too poetic occurrence to signal the arrival of Pusha T in the provincial capital. Despite a new King Push full-length ready for release later this year, the self-proclaimed "last cocaine superhero" gave a packed Danforth Music Hall a primer on where he comes from with a set that drew largely from last year's King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude.
"I'm just here to inspire, I'm on my superhero shit right now," he told the adoring crowd at one point. "Growing up, I was inspired by street niggas and rap niggas, no Superman or Spiderman." And inspire he did, taking the stage to raucous applause at a quarter to ten like any punctual recording label president should — potentially setting the record for earliest start to a rap show in history (touring partners Lil Bibby and G Herbo were dropped from the bill due to "scheduling conflicts").
Striding onstage through dense fog machine clouds, Pusha fought through some monitor level issues with Darkest Before Dawn's "Intro" and "M.F.T.R." before snapping at the sound crew to fix them. It stood as the only real setback of the evening, with the rapper righting the ship's course by burning through his verse from Kanye West's "So Appalled" and the Future-assisted "Pain" from 2013's My Name is My Name.
King Push's live presence has much in common with the characteristics of his recorded work. Pacing back and forth across the stage beneath the glow of two neon crosses that read "sin will find you out," his vocal delivery was smooth and methodical, only letting his backing vocal tracks poke through the mix in short and tasteful fashion in rare instances of pause. Eyes wide open and rarely blinking, he was seemingly possessed by his own wordplay with one hand on the mic while the other moved in sync with every syllable he spat. He even nailed every adlib, from the Ric Flair "Woo!" to his trademark "yuugh!"
Those in attendance responded well to newer material such as "M.P.A." and "Crutches, Crosses, Caskets," though some older Pusha T classics fared far better. The unmistakable guitar sample of "Nosetalgia" brought the crowd to life instantaneously, while the heavy bass and Travis Scott-led hook of "Blocka" set the concert hall off in a slow bounce. "Numbers on the Boards" found nearly every audience member rapping Push's verses back in his face, while they orchestrated their own sing-alongs to "New God Flow" and another West track, "Runaway." Mentioning that he has been making tour stops in Toronto since 2002, Pusha made sure Clipse's "Grindin'" even got a short spin.
Leaving the stage and thanking the crowd after "Untouchable," the audience began to chant King Push's name in forceful fashion as they had done all evening long, prompting an encore. Highlighting the extra offering was the politically charged, lyrically clever "Sunshine," effectively enrapturing the crowd with its focus on how the media perceives race relations in the United States. Ensuring everyone that he wasn't done there, the rest of the encore was built around a rapid run of Push's well-loved verses from G.O.O.D. Music crew cut "Mercy," the remix of Chief Keef's "Don't Like" and Future's "Move That Dope" which had the crowd nothing short of pleased at the show's close. Not all heroes wear capes after all.