Twenty-three years of raps later, Pusha T’s pot is still scorching hot, poised as an autonomous victor on his fourth studio album, It’s Almost Dry.
Just when you think coke has been personified to the max, Pusha T comes around with another hundred ways to vaunt his trade. It’s a practice that goes back decades at this point, but the Virginia hustler has made his content immortal, and fans always want more. Seven years into his solo career, Push reached a new peak with the 2018 Ye-produced DAYTONA, a 7-track odyssey marked as one of the best rap albums of the decade. With DAYTONA setting a new standard, and the rapper’s lengthy breaks between albums, the next body of work has lingering expectations around it.
It’s Almost Dry proves Pusha T has the most reliable blueprint in the game, convincing us to buy his product each and every time — because it lives up to the promise.
But what’s part of that blueprint? Firstly, having Pharrell Williams and Kanye West sketch your schematics pledges a product you won’t forget. The short-form album also favours Pusha; none of his last three albums cross the 36-minute mark. That fits like a glove with the coke talk – he gives you your fix, then you’re out. It’s how the rapper has managed to stamp his name in the 2010s generation, despite belonging to the 2000s during his Clipse era.
It’s Almost Dry splits production from Pusha’s go-to’s, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West — already parading his ambition for the album, and his accessible connections. Each track finds the producer’s staple sound: Pharrell’s metallic clangs show up on “Brambleton”, “Neck & Wrist”, “Call My Bluff” and more, while Ye’s soulful chops shape tracks like “Dreamin of the Past”, “Rock N Roll” and lead single, “Diet Coke”. Pusha T feels right at home on both sets of beats, reminding listeners how necessary both producers are to delivering his vivid raps.
Pusha’s cutthroat one-liners are all over the skeletal “Just So You Remember”, leaving not a single blotch or blemish in his verses. Literally every line is vital. “That hole in the attic was not for a ceiling fan,” he alludes on verse one, before rapping one of his many clever coke metaphors (“Open the box, it’s like ten Christmases”).
Pharrell provides his best beat in years on “Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes”, its stuttering loop plucked straight out of a 2000s Dipset tape. Push matches the energy, showing grit in his delivery and tasteful bars (“Don’t brag bricks to me / If they ain’t tell you to bring your skis”). This is the peak of It’s Almost Dry alongside “Diet Coke”, submerged in chilling confidence that has Push funnelling every line straight to your ears.
There’s unspoken competition between the producers of the album. Both contributions may be necessary, but it’s Kanye West’s production that stands out the most. Pharrell’s portions leave more to be desired, their simplicity getting the best of itself on songs like “Open Air” and “Call My Bluff”. The Jay-Z-assisted “Neck & Wrist” has the lighter but no spark, driven by a beat that could’ve been found on Hov’s Magna Carta Holy Grail.
You’d think “Scrape It Off” with Don Toliver and Lil Uzi Vert would be awkwardly out of place, yet it works out to much surprise. Toliver’s hook is the catchiest moment on the album, while Uzi and Pusha’s performances satisfy without striking hot. “Rock N Roll” with West and Kid Cudi teeters between working well and sounding like a fan-made song you’d find on YouTube. It’s a reminder that It’s Almost Dry could be more chiselled in its production and guest appearances (the latter’s highlight which is Malice’s flawless verse on album closer, “I Pray for You”).
It’s Almost Dry is another statement of Pusha T matching his intention. He’s cocaine’s Dr. Seuss, as he puts it himself, and the Mr. Reliable of rap.
8 / 10
Best tracks: “Diet Coke”, “Let the Smokers Shine the Coupes”, “Just So You Remember”, “Hear Me Clearly”