“I can’t be bothered with paying homage to forefathers.” That’s how Pusha T starts Fear of God.
His first release since the Clipse’s ‘Till The Casket Drops—after “Malice found religion,” as Pusha figures it on the mixtape’s “Blow/Funk Flex Freestyle”—Fear of God is also his inaugural effort as a member of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint. And this intricate rhyme, seeping defiance and delivered on the knife-edge of his deft flow, both flashes the skill Pusha’s always had and hints at the grander scale of his new position.
A mixture of freestyles over recycled beats, including Lil Wayne’s “Money on My Mind” and Soulja Boy’s “Speakers Going Hammer,” and a handful of original tracks, Fear of God consistently hovers between good and great. In the former camp, there are the freestyles, which wed Pusha’s signature “talk[ing] coke for nine years long” (from “Can I Live”) with boasts and subtle wordplay; that line on the tape plays out as, “That means my rap sheet is more than nine years strong.”
The true highlights of Fear of God are the originals. “My God” kicks off with that searing first line and, over rolling snares and stabs of guitar, Pusha weaves between the notes of a freewheeling organ. “I Still Wanna” is beautiful and huge, sporting a baroque choir and Rick Ross’ gruff braggadocio. “Raid” reunites Pusha with longtime collaborators the Neptunes—Pharrell even sings the hook, sounding like a kid playing soldier in the backyard—and the song’s piano riff floats above the gritty rapping. And the Kanye production “Touch It” is gleefully insane, with both Pusha and Kanye spitting out goofy come-ons over a skittering, soulful beat.
As a mixtape, Fear of God is an upper-echelon release, and it puts to rest any worry that Pusha might wilt in the shadow of Kanye’s grandiosity.
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