Label: GOOD Music, Def Jam
Pusha T knows how to manipulate the stark. It is easy to point to My Name Is My Name as an exercise in minimalism, but the minimal only ever exists in a contrast. The black-and-white barcode cover looks just the way the album sounds. If you look at the structure of it, it's almost binary. It alternates, track to track, between luxuriating in the Auto-Tune and then reeling it back in for clean, crisp raps on sparse beats (the Pusha that everyone knows and loves).
From the beginning, "King Push" is lush, the sonic space is overflowing with sample squeals, ubiquitous drums, and flowing synths, only to be followed by the tightened, neck twitch-inducing click-pace of "Numbers On The Boards." And it only continues like that. It cathartically exhales into "Hold On," then cuts back to the marrow with "Suicide." The wailing "Who I Am" sits next to the cold, slinking "Nosetalgia." You get the point.
And that's what makes it such a feat. Everything clicks because of the way it was calculated. The songs benefit from their respective placement beside each other, each track a background for the next. In that way, it brings the Pusha T fan up to speed with what he's evolved into, without leaving them in unfamiliar territory. If you were the reluctant "we want that old Pusha T" fan, then it fed you the teaspoon of updated classic with the medicine of his reinvention—and by the end, you appreciated both sides.
What becomes readily apparent is the hand that Kanye West had in the album. At a New York City listening session, West preached "All these niggas trying to extend their muthafucking t-shirts, trying to throw numbers on the back of their shit....this muthafucking Pusha T." It was as if Kanye was re-packaging the real "real"—the drug dealer rapper as an emblem, a stamp of authenticity in a world dominated by lifestyle (the drug dealer lifestyle, in particular) appropriation. Here stood Pusha T, the last of a dying breed, the drug dealer lyricist, on a podium for you vultures to appreciate. He was an answer to the selfie taking ass generation, and My Name Is My Name was the soft rapper's Judgment Day. —Alexander Gleckman