To call the years since “Grindin’” hit big “unpredictable” for Clipse would be a simultaneous understatement and exaggeration. Veering from critical acclaim and mainstream success to commercial limbo and extended games of label pinball is enough to shake anyone’s faith in themselves. But if Pusha T let that get to him, his self-assured presence on the mic never shows it. My Name Is My Name, delayed and retooled as often as it was, continues to prove that poise, with Pusha’s cold sneer and X-Acto precision boosted by a renewed hunger.
He doesn’t sound like a struggle rapper, exactly — he carries himself like an established star, with all the designer-brand name-checks and preposterous status symbol boasts that entails (from “Numbers on the Boards”: “Your SL’s missin’ an S, n—a/ Your plane’s missing a chef”). But the top-of-the-line beats (Kanye West, Hudson Mohawke, The-Dream) and MCs (Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, Future, 2 Chainz) seems to have inspired a fresh determination to prove he belongs in the same class. That he succeeds using his pre-established skill with triple-stacked metaphors and sour-laugh punchlines is expected. But his political acuity and self-awareness about his coke-to-rap come-up has rarely sounded this defiant, whether he’s rising above on “Hold On” (“They praying for jail but I mastered the pen”) or depicting success in the drug trade as self-made reparations in “40 Acres.” Listeners might not have heard this new elevation of Pusha’s game coming, but they shouldn’t be surprised now that it’s here.