Photographs by Matt Forsythe.
If there is one nearly universally agreed upon opinion in hip-hop, it is that Pusha T is one of the strongest individuals to subtly lay his claim to the throne. The combination of sharp rhymes and savvy business moves have not only made the play more convincing over the years, but also shifted Pusha T to be omnipresent in all conversations surrounding the ascent.
With the release of his sophomore solo album King Push – Darkest Before Dawn – The Prelude, a collect of swift cuts over meticulously crafted beats by the likes of Timbaland, Metro Boomin, Kanye West and Boi-1da, Pusha T once more steered the conversation in his direction, receiving unanimous critical and fan acclaim. The latter audience reinforced that narrative while supporting Pusha on the Darkest Before Dawn tour this past weekend, packing Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall to the brim with hopes of catching the Virginia rapper at a prime point in his career.
Though the G.O.O.D. Music president is slowly becoming a normal fixture in Toronto (this is his third appearance in the city this year alone), the self-assuredness in his live set seems to evolve with every performance. This time, it appeared shrouded in a heavy set of smoke ahead of neon signs in the forms of crosses with the ominous words “Sin Will Find You Out”. Pusha leaped between his efforts My Name Is My Name, Darkest Before Dawn, collaborations with West and, to the vibrating enthusiasm of many, shared “Nosetalgia”, “Crutches, Crosses, Caskets”, “Pain” and “Sunshine” amongst others. The seamless transitions paired with a less hypeman, more cool confidence persona shaped the underlying feeling that Pusha is greater than the sum of his parts; he transcends the battle altogether.
Perhaps that is just a byproduct of Pusha’s seemingly easy ability to connect with multiple generations of hip-hop fans, retaining many from his days as half of the Clipse and building relationships with an onslaught of new music tastemakers via his Yeezy affiliation. With young opening acts Bia and Tiara Thomas, a nostalgic-inducing throwback with “Grindin’” and closing the evening on a fiery note with “I Don’t Like” and “Mercy”, it’s clear that Pusha T is as much a visionary as he is a triumph in rap today. And that’s exactly who we need as our leader.