Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

Daytona by pusha t

&

Beautiful ruin by converge

reviewed by jim hepplewhite


"All the ignorance of showing you've got it to blow"
- Pusha T

To hear Pusha T tell it, he was as skeptical as us when Kanye West announced that he'd release DAYTONA on the next day.

And then Mr. West did.

To fans' relief, DAYTONA is what everyone hoped for when they heard Pusha T with Mr. West's production. Some of it is noisy, some of it is celebratory, but it all sells Pusha T as a coke rap kingpin with a grasp on the genre that we'd expect from men like Ghostface Killah or Raekwon.

"If You Know You Know" features a shrill synth line that becomes pleasantly abrasive, and affords Pusha T the opportunity to make a couple references to moving cocaine without arousing suspicion:

  1. Feign an interest in tennis and hollow out a tennis ball to carry the product in.
  2. Pay an engineer to make a secret compartment in the console, dashboard, or door of a luxury car.
 Cover art for Pusha T's  DAYTONA .

Cover art for Pusha T's DAYTONA.

It also has the lyric "I only ever looked up to Sosa / you all get a bird / this [REDACTED RACIAL SLUR] Oprah" which is about being so rich and generous you can afford to donate kilos of cocaine. "bricklayers in ball shorts / coaching from the side of the ball court" is another great one, presumably playing on the double meaning of brick and ball. Brick being kilo of cocaine, ball being spending a bunch of money. It's on its face about coaching basketball players, but is probably about sitting on the side of a basketball court built with cocaine profits (bricks) dispensing advice to up and coming drug dealers.

My favorite track on DAYTONA is the second track "The Games We Play", the beat anchored by someone playing a scale and horn notes. Allegedly the first of the tracks recorded during the session, Pusha T sounds energized (and not merely "like the bunny / for drug money"). It's here that Pusha T lets slip his real aim: It's not to beef with Drake, it's to impress women and write a record as good as cocaine rap's zenith Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.

Pusha works in genre, and the genre is cocaine rap. Thus far, the genre requires the artist to indulge in casual sexism (women are fickle bitches, mothers but not baby mommas are saints, the usual) and to politely ignore the grave consequence of making cocaine money (selling people a highly addictive drug that will literally emaciate them and destroy their mental facilities). Where Pusha T excels is execution and a breadth of knowledge beyond the names of designers and this year's slang for cocaine.

Within DAYTONA, Pusha name drops Art Basel (producers of premiere international art shows), Francesco Goya (Saturn Devouring His Son), Dapper Dan (iconic Harlem tailor) and Andy Warhol (Campbell's Soup Cans) and it feels natural. Those namedrops demonstrate it's not just that Pusha T got rich, but that Pusha T got rich, survived, and got out. He’s lived long enough to appreciate expensive art and he now owns so much of it that he can "host a paint and sip (an art showing with wine) / for like 40 (roughly 40 people)".

Kanye's poop scoop lines on "What Would Meek Do?", however bold a choice, ruin the flow of the song beyond Kanye's ability to save it with his followup verse. Time will not be kind, especially when Pusha T's verse before it was so good. "I'm top five / and all of 'em Dylan" is a fantastic opening line and a reference to the Chapelle's Show skit featuring a hilariously cocky rapper called Dylan. Pusha T's saying he's so good he's cocky on the level of that rapper used as a punchline.

In retrospect, we can now see that "Infrared" is both a fantastic diss track and a trap to goad Drake into responding so Pusha T can drop his real diss track, "The Story of Adidon".

Brevity works in DAYTONA's favor. Each of the seven tracks distinguish themselves from each other, and since Kanye produced each of those songs, there's a cohesiveness to the album that lends itself to a satisfying listen. There's one last positive: Seven songs means you're gonna want more, and with unreleased songs in his back pocket, how is Pusha T supposed to resist stringing you along for your next dose?

Speaking of unreleased material, Beautiful Ruin by Converge.


"'There's a lot of heavy songs out there. They're cute songs. Here's one that rips all their heads off.'" 
Jake Bannon

Four songs. Seven minutes. Zero bullshit.

Beautiful Ruin's tracks are non-album tracks from the The Dusk In Us sessions, and a wise listener usually approaches non-album songs cautiously. They didn't make the album for a reason. Usually, they're because the song didn't gel in time, sounded nothing like the rest of the session or was plain bad.

 Cover art for Converge's  Beautiful Ruin .

Cover art for Converge's Beautiful Ruin.

But this is Converge. They celebrated their 20th anniversary by releasing splits with Dropdead and Napalm Death. Converge took out Burning Love and Trap Them for an anniversary tour that was more than a fun opportunity to drink with friends and a low-risk live set. Converge decided to work by bringing along bands that could upstage them where other bands would've coasted.

Converge's newest full length, The Dusk In Us cemented their reputation as Neurosis' scrappy younger brother. The arc of the Massachusetts band's career is marked by successfully integrating increasingly difficult musician moments into their songs. (In English: They art good and can still write bangers.)

Beautiful Ruin's tracks are all bangers. Three of four are 90 odd seconds long, and each of the four tracks are tracks their imitators would happily choose as lead singles.  They're songs for the mosh pit, songs for a day that's too goddamned hot, songs to make you break your lamps or mirrors. The songs sound like a fighter jet crashing nose first into air traffic control.

Kurt Ballou's guitar still sounds like it's got the sharpness and weight of just polished industrial sheet metal, Ben Koller remains one of the most versatile drummers in the genre and these songs showcase his ability to go from blinding speed to showing off as he's keeping time.

It's easy to hear why these songs were left off of The Dusk In Us: They're too indebted to influence or unremarkable within the Converge discography. To me, "Permanent Blue" recalls "Aimless Arrow" a little too closely. "Melancholia" is another successful metal influenced punk song that's all sneer and stomp in the vein of All We Love We Leave Behind's "Vicious Muse." But then again, "Melancholia"'s riff is really good. There's a moment in "Churches and Jails" that uses the same trick that Trap Them's "Former Lining Wide The Walls" uses, a single note played super fast. Listening to it sounds awesome. Performing it in concert sounds like a chore.

Inessential within Converge's discography undersells Converge's prodigious floor. They're in a sub-genre they functionally created. There's no band that steals their riffs that goes anywhere interesting with those riffs. Converge released Beautiful Ruin on June 29th. Today, June 30th, it's almost 95 degrees out and the iced coffee's still settling in. In a sweltering summer night, I'm supposed to listen to FKA Twigs or Planes Mistaken For Stars to savor summer's delicious carnality. But in the day? It's black band t-shirts and blast beats. Beautiful Ruin is seven fantastic fucking minutes of that.