Pusha T never fails. One of Stateside rap’s true heavy-hitters, he’s built a career around consistency – from those early Clipse cuts through to his imperial solo run, his undiluted creativity simply never dips. ‘It’s Almost Dry’ was crafted over multiple lockdowns, and it pivots between beats supplied by two key figures in his life, Pharrell and Ye. King Push labels the duo “the greatest producers of all time” and they supply the bedrock for a fantastic release, a muti-faceted, headline-grabbing assault that thrives on subtlety and nuance.
‘Brambleton’ finds Pusha T writhing over electronics, the nimble keys operating over intricate drum programming. Dipping back into the sounds that fuelled the epic Clipse project ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ – itself produced by The Neptunes – it’s an eerie, muscular, hugely impressive opening gambit. ‘Let The Smokers Shine The Coupes’ is packed with lyrical rollercoasters, before the soulful opening that trails ‘Dreamin Of The Past’ signals Ye’s introduction. The pair’s relationship has had its fair share of ups and downs, but at their best, few can rival them. ‘Dreamin Of The Past’ is everything we’ve missed about the old Kanye – the soulful samples, the finesse for detail, the sheer raw feeling – without dwelling on the past. It’s a real highlight.
Yet it’s never weighed down by its guests. The mid-album run offers full expression of Pusha T’s faculties, the neck-snapping paranoia of ‘Just So You Remember’ giving way to the playful ‘Diet Coke’. When features are used, they’re done with a palpable sense of gravitas: Kanye and Kid Cudi’s last ever team-up on ‘Rock N Roll’ is riveting, while Jay-Z and Pharrell’s turn on ‘Neck & Wrist’ contains some of Hove’s best rhymes for some time.
‘It’s Almost Dry’ closes with one of its most open, emphatically emotive pieces. ‘I Pray For You’ utilises vocals from Labrinth, and the curious role the English vocalist plays in the song takes it in a plaintive direction, rooted in gospel exertion but also highly introverted. Giving way to funereal organ, it’s a Clipse track, with Pusha T vowing: “Rarely do you see a phoenix rise from the ashes…”
A broader, more nuanced experience than 2018 ‘Daytona’, Pusha T still reins in the creativity across the album’s 12 track span. Succinct and finessed, ‘It’s Almost Dry’ is a riveting journey, from first to last.
Words: Robin Murray
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