The Lowdown: With trap stars Migos and Rae Sremmurd dumping 100-plus-minute slogs on overwhelmed rap audiences, Terrence Thornton’s proper return as Pusha-T is a welcome, and perhaps political, act of restraint. Only seven tracks long, coke rap’s poet laureate continues to amaze with age as he pontificates on the hustle and grind.
The Good: When it comes to lyricism, few in rap’s storied history can contend with what Thornton wields at this stage in his career. The flawless opening lines of “If You Know You Know” capture everything America has come to love about capitalist rap, that by-any-means braggadocio of self-made men and their flashy trophies. A Vaseline-free salvo, “Infrared” revives the ghostwriting charges that Meek Mill once levied against Drake, damning the Toronto star’s pop style with an unforgiving read. Musically, producer Kanye West’s beats exude subtlety, these extravagant moments waxing and waning to allow Thornton’s loquacious verses to breath.
The Bad: Given Thornton’s obsession with authenticity across the album, it smacks of hypocrisy that he chose Rick Ross as one of DAYTONA’s few credited guests. Listening to the rugged and atonal “Hard Piano,” it’s hard not to recall the reveal from a decade ago that the Miami rapper had once been a corrections officer. West’s primary vocal contribution comes on “What Would Meek Do,” and its off-the-cuff references to his off-putting Trump admiration won’t endear him to angry fans.
The Verdict: Setting aside West’s MAGA sins, Thornton remains our best auditor of drug rap’s stolen valor, asserting both veteran status and intimate latter-day knowledge of game. He bears the ethically complicated ethos of the drug dealer, inveterate in principle even after he’s stepped back in practice. While DAYTONA could easily have been Pusha-T’s victory lap, it only builds on the heft of his weighty legacy.
Essential Tracks: “If You Know You Know”, “Infrared”, and “Santeria”