It’s after midnight and no one knows where he is. The missing person is a 36 year-old African American male, one half of legendary hip hop duo Clipse, whose exploits in the drug game remain the solitary subject of many of his songs. Legally known as Terrance Thornton, but known to us as Pusha T, he’s playing songs from his critically-acclaimed and first proper solo album My Name Is My Name (MNIMN) at his DC concert.
Before the crowd got to see King Push, it seemed as though every other rapper from the DMV region came onstage to placate the throng of Pusha T devotees. It became so tedious that every time the emcee came onstage he was booed. To be fair, the “talent” that preceded King Push was some pretty terrible stuff, the worst being a dude from Rockville, Maryland, proving the notion that Montgomery County is an entity you can definitely mess with without worrying about the consequences.
One of the reasons why I so thoroughly enjoyed Pusha’s MNIMN is my obsession with HBO’s The Wire. Pusha T’s status as a drug kingpin-cum-rapper lends itself well to comparisons between himself and characters from the show, so you could just imagine my delight when the actor who plays Slim Charles came out to introduce Pusha with, “Hey y’all, my name is Anwan Glover and I played Slim Charles on a little show called The Wire.” It was Slim’s presence at the show and the name of the album, based on a line from the series finale, a clip of which Push played at the end of a few of the songs, that confirmed for me that I was in for a great evening.
After a few minutes, Pusha T came out and as the drum roll from “King Push” rata tat tat-ed on my ear drums, all was right in the world. I’ve been to hip hop shows before and been let down by live versions of studio-manufactured tone and pace, but Pusha did not disappoint. He seamlessly rattled off a few of the hits from MNIMN, “Hold On”, “Sweet Serenade”, and “Suicide” before reminding those less familiar with him of the mainstream stuff he’s done.
King Push then performed his verses from Kanye West’s “So Appalled” and “Runaway”, the 2012 summer hit “Mercy” from G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer, and one of my favorite set of verses from 2012, “New God Flow” also from Cruel Summer. Then, Push brought things back to basics, remarking to the crowd “Hold up I think we’re gettin’ a little too commercial, lemme play some real Pusha T.”
He ended the show by playing two of my favorite songs from 2013, the gritty “Numbers on the Board” and “Nosetalgia”, whose album version features a great verse from Kendrick Lamar who sadly was not there to drop his bars. He finished the set by playing “Pain.”
Thankfully we did not have to wait too long for an encore, which Pusha delivered with energy, playing “40 Acres”, also from MNIMN, and “Grindin'” from Clipse’s fantastic Lord Willin’.
The night was set up for disappointment and when you’ve told all of your friends to go to a show, there’s a lot of pressure involved. But as I walked out of Echostage with my two friends saying how much they enjoyed the show, I felt thoroughly satisfied by an awesome demonstration of real rap perfectly articulated by Pusha T.