...as soon as Pusha took the stage the atmosphere changed.
Check out my review of Pusha T's My Name Is My Name concert, down bottom.
Before I begin, I'd just like to preface that I've been a huge fan of the brothers Thornton ever since I stumbled across "The Funeral" several years ago, so I'll try to keep this as unbiased as possible.
Last night I decided to hit the release concert for Pusha T's My Name Is My Name at Manhattan's Gramercy Theatre with an idea of what to expect: despite the glitzy backing of Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music machine Ziplock P has and will possibly always be a street artist, so much so that he dislikes his own previous attempts at commercial glory (he's publicly denounced tracks like "All Eyes On Me" and "When The Last Time"). In place of a "street team" were guys in all-white Hazmat suits and surgical masks, resembling Walter and Jesse of Breaking Bad infamy. Even the stage was devoid of the usual distractions in rap: countless hangers-on crowding the area and a plethora of iPhone "photographers." Instead, a pair of posters depicting the artwork of his proper solo debut album bookended the turntables.
Although presented by Hot 97, hosted by Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg and having the same characteristics as a typical Hot 97 concert, the aura of the venue didn't have the feel as such. Sure, I was completely surrounded in a sea of BAPE & Pyrex Vision while thick-bodied women wearing their Friday night's best on a Monday inched their way through the crowd to be closer to the man of the hour, and most of the concertgoers weren't reacting to the classic street tracks by The Lox, DMX, a Trap Muzik-era TI, and Max B (despite his ubiquitousness on the Internets. How's that for irony?) the deejay spun and weren't really hyped until he played today's current riot-starting anthems, but as soon as Pusha took the stage the atmosphere changed.
While camped out in the less-constrictive confines of the upper section, where I was greeted by the warm, sickly sweet smell of weed smoke and cheap-yet-overpriced booze, I was able to take in the full effect of Pusha's performance: a no-frills coke rap sermon spanning the last three years of his music career. Save for his deejay, hypeman and a brief appearance by Ab-Liva (for their collaborative cut "Suicide"), P ran through verses from his still-neophyte solo career by himself, performing "So Appalled," "Blocka," "New God Flow," and "Don't Like (Remix)," before going into "Nosetalgia," "Numbers On The Boards," "King Push," "Sweet Serenade," "Pain" and "Hold On" from My Name Is My Name. While the crowd ate it all up, perhaps the most animated attendee was the guy behind me who - in between clouding the air with kush fumes and proclaiming to nobody in particular that Pusha is the "last real rapper alive" - recited every lyric Pusha performed, word for word, into my ear, just in case I didn't quite catch what Pusha was screaming through a microphone from a few feet away.
Pusha T's show wasn't a saccharine, guest-fueled circus. Mostly alone, clad in primarily black and spitting with the energy of a new jack with something to prove and not a world-weary artist who's been through label hell and back, perhaps most telling of the show was during his final song of the night, "40 Acres," where his "unpolished, unapologetic" lyrics reverberated throughout the Gramercy, particularly to the one-man karaoke band man behind me whom I thought was going to pass out like an old lady in church that was suddenly and inexplicably "hit" by the holy ghost. If only it actually happened.
My Name Is My Name is out now.
All photos courtesy of Mariama Rafetna