Published Dec 22, 2015While many media outlets, including Exclaim!, already settled up their annual Album of the Year lists, veteran emcee Pusha T's latest effort, King Push - Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude, has left the writing community in a regrettable frenzy. With lyrical prowess and lush production, the newly appointed G.O.O.D. Music president speaks to street dreams and drug dealer destinies, cementing his crown as King Push.
Lead singles "M.T.F.R., "Crutches, Crosses & Caskets" and "Untouchable" set the tone for Darkest Before Dawn, establishing nuanced production and gritty drug rap at its best. While Pusha fires shots over "Crutches, Crosses & Caskets," he challenges himself on the Notorious B.I.G.-sampling "Untouchable," switching up delivery mid-song and supplying two menacing verses. Likewise, King Push spits an intimidating truth about a former life of coke dealing on the stripped-down Timbaland production "Got 'Em Covered," as well as the Beanie Sigel-assisted "Keep Dealing" and the fiery "F.I.F.A." (produced by Q-Tip).
With the help of Jill Scott, who flawlessly channels Nina Simone on "Sunshine," Darkest Before Dawn ends with spiritual rejuvenation. Taking on police brutality, Pusha pens a heartfelt track that speaks to the pain of the black community, while also courting the feeling of hope, concluding the album on a high note.
The weight of Darkest Before Dawn doesn't simply rest on Pusha T's lyrical weight (literal and figuratively), but also his ability to tap into the strengths of his producers, like Boi-1da's thunderous drums, Kanye West's soulful grandeur or Timbaland's unorthodox layering. Picasso once said "Everything you can imagine is real," and for Pusha T, Darkest Before Dawn is as real as it gets — even if you've never sold drugs in your life. (G.O.O.D. Music / Def Jam)