An Odyssey Into The Shadows Of Modern Life. Pusha T's King Push - Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude
Time is a double edged sword. For many musicians, artists and everyday folk it’s the ultimate drain and pressure, taking away as much as it gives and in turn, dictating every move and motive going. We see the very best in the game go from poster boy to coaster boy as the years go by, whilst equally running parallel are the careers of those who never quite fulfilled that potential many had seen lined out for them.
For many years, it seemed that fate may have fallen upon Pusha T, dropping onto the scene as a part of Clipse, and achieving moderate success across two acclaimed studio albums, his unique gritty flow combined with a playful flamboyance marked his name as the go-to when it came to revered favourites.
As Clipse faded from view, Pusha moved under the umbrella of G.O.O.D Music and Kanye West, including a star turn on West’s own My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, before his debut My Name Is My Name finally satisfied the legions of rap fans salivating over a Pusha LP. Yet, overshadowing all of that, was the feeling that Pusha had the ability to deliver a generational masterpiece, on the cusp of something greater, and the long-announced King Push has expectations at an all time high for what is to come. Wetting the appetites for next year’s follow-up proper, King Push - Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude is a dense and concise opening chapter for hip hop’s next svengali.
Dismissing Darkest Before Dawn as a simple preview piece is an obscene oversight, as the ten tracks present stand out as a breathtaking journey through Pusha’s ever expansive mind. Drawing together a diverse and exciting list of collaborators, Pusha’s precise bars are paired expertly with some breathtaking and intuitive beats from some of rap’s biggest names, none more so than with “Untouchable” and “Got Em Covered” bringing to the table a Timbaland nobody will have heard of before.
The former’s call to arms from Donald Trump to Adidas is a staggering example of Pusha’s vast lyrical dexterity and captivating flow, a master at work in delivering line after line of potent fire.
“M.F.T.R” is a pulsating barrage of strength and depth, a cinematic viewing of Pusha in all his glory whilst calling out any who dare question his relevancy, with “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets” sounding akin to any classic hip hop track of the 90s, brought back to life by the world of Pusha.
With much of his recent output and exposure attributed to G.O.O.D Music head Kanye West, it’s no surprise to hear his influence on Darkest Before Dawn, most evidently with “M.P.A” a sparse melancholic reflection of a track that could easily fit into My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as a bravado-laced look in the mirror of a 21st century rapper. It’s joined by the Q-Tip produced “F.I.F.A” as standout tracks from the LP, the latter harking back to Pusha’s decadent past describing how “drug money is kicked around like FIFA” and his ever-increasing rise to the top.
It’s that perfect dichotomy that pushes Darkest Before Dawn to higher places, a tangible sense of darkness and danger running throughout to the point it reaches the end of the line, and the brutal harshness of reality hitting home.
“Sunshine” is the album’s political and cultural sign-off, a direct examination and autopsy of the American Dream and the sickness that is police brutality. “America, you need a miracle” leads a three minute call of frustration, anger and ultimately hope in the face of such an extremely dark time. The chilling refrain of “just another n***a dead, send another to the feds” bounces like an echo throughout the track, only pierced by the delicate tones of Jill Scott, as Pusha’s dark fantasies and world seem to become a reality in front of his own eyes. It’s a remarkable and staggering end to such a unique body of work.
Creating it’s own planet, environment and orbit, King Push - Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude is a dank and gripping insight inside the mind of rap’s next critical emblem.
Over the course of a precise 33 minutes and 10 tracks, Pusha T manages to take the listener into the dark streets that he once called home, full of anger, bravado, swagger and danger. In a similar manner to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, Pusha makes a distinct choice to move away from the boom/bap production of the US mainstream, and instead has formed a full body of work that from start to finish, is an odyssey into the shadows of modern life.
Sending shivers down your spine after each listen, its gritty realism makes you feel everything from the cold winds passing by, the sight of breath in the icy air and the gravel twisting under your soles. Darkest Before Dawn is a remarkable stand-alone piece of contemporary hip-hop, and on this form King Push could very well be that masterpiece Pusha T has been threatening all along.