The rapper who’s perpetually on the come-up rocks a tight crowd...
Pusha T - Live At XOYO, London

On stage, Terrence Thornton’s Gothic alter ego, whom we know as Pusha T, snarls and grimaces with wild-eyed abandon, like a creature possessed. It’s an intense spectacle.

His complex rhymes aren’t for hip-hop’s bystanders. If you can’t appreciate going hard, you’ll be intimidated by his conviction.

Other rappers rely on "rap money" to survive, which of course seems logical, but Pusha’s ideologies pertain to his unrelenting push-pull relationship with cocaine: cooking it, distributing it and selling it. Not in a way that makes Rick Ross a likable stalwart. With Pusha, it’s much deeper.

Promoting the release of his long-awaited solo studio effort, 'My Name Is My Name', the G.O.O.D. Music affiliate executes a skilful performance. He’s finally unlocking the door to some kind of success being a one-man show. Or at least one would hope.

Though he’s arguably one of the most consistent rappers around, you’d easily get the impression that he’s constantly being side-stepped, making you wonder how this talented, and heated, lyricist just can’t seem to catch a proper break.

His bars on Kanye’s 'Runaway' - from 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy' - widened the Virginia-based rapper's scope to a degree, but despite his hyped-up singles, guest verses, and more listener-friendly collaborations, it’s still been a bit of a perplexing adventure.

Pusha’s a cerebral emcee, and what’s even more fascinating is that he delivers each line without trying. You won’t question his authenticity. Or at least so he wants you to think.

His opening acts, considering who Pusha T is, are completely off-kilter: Essex rapper Dream Mclean and New York's Thunderbird Gerard. But the crowd is cordial.

Ultimately, it is his moment that turns a tough crowd into a marching army. His setlist is carefully taped to the floor, his manager stands on guard from the side lines, all corners of the stage have to be clear. His hype man quenches his thirst with a bottle of champagne. He doesn’t do cups.

It is a claustrophobic set-up, yet Pusha manages to be accessible whilst untouchable - even when he's right in your face, with his nostrils flaring.

His popular tracks, including songs like 'My God' from his 'Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray' EP, and his verse on 'Mercy' from G.O.O.D.'s 'Cruel Summer' compilation, represent some of the night’s finest moments.

He encourages the audience to "show some love" for his labelmates and head boss, as Ye's 'Yeezus' album recently dropped, but he then quips: "They shit ain't harder than mine. They know that."

He ends the night with 'Numbers On The Board' and the show ends at 11 – not a minute later. Pusha chops it up with meticulous precision, and he'll be back for part two, at a bigger venue, in November.

Words and photo: Safra Ducreay

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