The Inaugural Winner's Circle Review : Fear of God
So far, I think I've done a pretty decent job with this site considering my lack of experience as a writer/journalist. But I know my limits and when it came time to think about record reviews, I knew I had to call in a ringer. Allow me to formally introduce you to Marshall aka the man voted Player Hater of the Year three years running (he's currently campaigning for his fourth title). Despite wanting to pimp-slap him every time I see him for no justifiable reason, he happens to be a great writer and is one of the more knowledgeable hip hop heads I've ever met. He will hopefully continue doing reviews for the Winner's Circle on a somewhat regular basis so follow him and get familiar...
To tell the story of Pusha T’s new mixtape Fear of God you have to go back to the 2010 BET awards. You might remember that the awards show featured a cypher from Kanye’s handpicked G.O.O.D. music crew. Of course, Kanye took up the role of ringleader but the spot also featured Chyi the Prince, Common, Big Sean, and Pusha T. How did Kanye introduce his Virginia Beach label mate? That’s right: “Pusha T, Clipse just made a classic.” He’s surely talking about When the Casket Drops, so if that record was a classic than Hell Hath No Fury was a masterpiece. The point is, Clipse is one of the most critically acclaimed rap groups of all time. Sure, Dark Fantasy was one of the best pop records in years but Clipse have had one of the most consistently great Hip-Hop careers of the last decade.
Thus, when Pusha T appears in the BET cypher he looks a little awkward with the rest of the G.O.O.D. music crew wearing wayfarers and slim suits. Pusha T and Malice have always been “crack rap,” a sub genre Kanye has never really been involved with so it’s easy to be hesitant about Fear of God. Would it be a record in which Kanye’s notorious ego took over and masked over the brilliance of Pusha-T? Would Kanye’s pop sensibility clash with Pusha’s unique production tastes and signature crack braggadocio?
Thankfully, none of this is the case. With that said, Fear of God is no masterpiece, it’s not even a classic. But it is good, really good, and it’s all Pusha T. The album is relatively light in guest features. Rick Ross and Ab-liva feature on what is arguably one of the mixtape’s stand out tracks, the fire breathing “I Still Wanna”. On it we hear Pusha T wishing he could still “sell kilos,” a perfect indication that G.O.O.D. music has given the MC ample artistic freedom to stick with his signature style. 50 cent and Pharrell guest on another standout track, “Raid.” It’s unfortunate given how much Pusha is grateful to Yeezy that the worst track on the mixtape is the one he guests on. “Touch It” sounds like a title the Ying Yang twins passed over and the song lacks any appeal whatsoever. Kanye contributes a chorus which features him laying down his ultra-annoying nasal whine which was only acceptable on Dark Fantasy because the production value was brilliant and it was still a novelty trope. It’s a shame too because the track has a great beat.
Either way, Fear of God is a solid output from Pusha. I’ve often thought of Clipse as the Radiohead of rap. They’re consistently under-appreciated and yet their significant, but still marginal commercial success is somewhat justified. With the exception of “I Still Wanna none of these songs are going to be hits you blast from your car. If you, however, like Hip-Hop then this is a record you’ll appreciate. One of Pusha’s big talking points on the record is his concern with the new one-hit-wonder rappers. After three Clipse records Pusha is a veteran of the game and Fear of God sees him taking up the mantle as one of Hip-Hop’s elder statesmen. Pusha-T is popular because he’s talented. The problem is, he might be too talented for the ultra-mainstream. That’s ok because Clipse records will always have a huge following with real fans of the genre. And, he’s doing a lot better than some un-talented clowns with bad rhymes and a heavy beat who churn out one hit and disappear. As Fear of God proves, it’s refreshing to enjoy a nuanced record rather than look for the next banger. Pusha reminds us, he’s been in New York “sittin around Grammy winners,” company which is well deserved. Pusha T is one of the best and G.O.O.D. music is clearly the place he wants to be. The Virginia Beach MC and one half of Clipse still knows what he’s doing which is enough for me. -Marshman
Rating (in grams): 4/5
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