After releasing King Push – Darker Before Dawn: The Prelude back in December of 2015, Pusha T is back with his highly-anticipated follow-up, DAYTONA – a project that fully embodies his drug-dealing background, capsuled into his current state of luxury. While many recent releases from hip-hop top artists have taken the side of complexity in regards to the overall theme and subject matter, Pusha T has gone the opposite way in stating that DAYTONA is “for my family . . . high taste level, luxury, drug raps fans”.
Even before diving into the actual tracks of DAYTONA, the album artwork alone is a vivid representation for what the project’s themes are based on. The cover depicts Whitney Houston’s bathroom back in 2006 when she was at the height of her drug addiction. Kanye West reportedly spent $85,000 to license the photo, and claimed that “This is what people need to see to go along with this music”.
As heard in the first track “If You Know You Know”, Kanye West clearly made the right choice with his choice of album artwork to convey the message of the album, as the opening track features Pusha T rapping about how he is on top of the trap. The track is an unsurprising drug anthem and sets the stage for the main theme throughout the project. As the listener journeys through the seven tracks, each song stands out with a unique production style and beat. The project showcases the maximum vocal output of Pusha T, combined with hard-hitting instrumentals and sample chops that provide a solid platform with enough space to deliver on his vocals. One of the most talked-about tracks on DAYTONA is “Infrared”, as it has Pusha T taking shots at Drake and his alleged ghostwriter in the lyrics “The bigger question is how the Russians did it/It was written like Nas but it came from Quentin”.
Aside from “Infrared”, standout tracks are “The Games We Play”, “Hard Piano”, and “Santeria”. Throughout the tracklist, the cohesiveness and mastery of the instrumentals are attributed to Kanye West behind the board. While the public has mixed feelings towards Kanye because of his recent interviews, he’s shown that he is still the same Kanye behind the boards by doing what he does best: providing soul-chopped samples over full, creative, and catchy beats. Continuing to innovate classic hip-hop into the new generation.
Overall, DAYTONA is an album that presents all of the things that fans love about Pusha T: drug anthems, catchy lyrics, and his classic abrasive delivery. DAYTONA slightly edges out Pusha T’s last two albums due to the intricate, clean production work by Kanye West and the cohesiveness of the album as a whole. The idea of having a seven-track album works well with the aggressive content that Pusha T delivers.
While this album will go down as some of Pusha T’s best work, it still lacks the same qualities that we have been missing over the last few projects. The features of Rick Ross and Kanye West were slightly underwhelming, as they didn’t heighten the songs by much with their lyrics and overall content. In addition, the themes throughout the album are limited, as Pusha T repeats a lot of the drug-centered topics that we have already heard both within the album itself, as well as with his previous projects. For Pusha T’s debut album and his follow-up, this repetitive content mostly went unnoticed. However, with DAYTONA being his third release, these topics feel repetitive after two full albums with the same messaging. Fans may be interested to hear him touch on new themes outside of his drug-focused content, and variation in messaging is something Pusha T has room to grow into as he continues with his rap career.