Pusha T and Tyler, The Creator are so different–how could they be on a track together? That’s not really quite true, but it’s the idea behind the song, “Trouble On My Mind.” Indeed, Pusha T comes more from “the establishment” in spite of his relative anonymity: he began his work in the world of hip hop as a member of Clipse–a group that you probably know for, if nothing else, their incredible song on Justin Timberlake’s album Justified. Pusha T was also featured on several of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Friday tracks, a collaborative effort that culminated in his appearance on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Last year he signed with Mr. West’s G.O.O.D. Music label, taking what is supposedly the last spot ever offered in the critically acclaimed, nebulously-defined company. He’s been around for a long time, and pushes a “gangsta” image by lyrically highlighting his drug-dealing days. I guess if Jay-Z did it, it has to be cool…
By contrast, Tyler, The Creator is a 19-year-old rapper who made a huge name for himself as the leader of an angsty hip-hop collective in LA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All). Unlike Pusha T’s current work and former-drug-dealer persona, Tyler’s style appeals most to an alternative, subcultural audience. He portrays himself as an occasionally suicidal skater-kid hipster, and aims to shock both comically and horrifically with his lyrics. ”Yonkers,” a single from his freshman album Goblin, went viral late last year, stacking millions of hits on YouTube alone. I almost wrote one of my first posts about it. I didn’t, because I’m genuinely paranoid that my mother is the only person who reads these posts, and I don’t want her to be too offended. Watch it here.
Pusha T has not obtained the same reception for any single on his freshman solo album, Fear of God II: Let Us Pray (the first Fear of God was a mix-tape, in case you asked like I did)–in part because it looked and sounded like the rap equivalent of your TV screen when the cable cuts out. Post-metaphor, it’s perhaps needless for me to say that the album as a whole is kind of a disappointment. But after listening to Pusha T spit the most compelling verse of Kanye’s “Runaway” in 2010 (see 3:50), and hearing him as part of Clipse rap interesting narratives over spacey beats by the Neptunes in years past, this album just sounds generic. It’s not bad, but it’s not innovative or thought-provoking, and it lacks the unique persona of Pusha T’s previous work.
Even in the midst of mediocrity, one can find gold. Today’s Doof, “Trouble On My Mind,” is just that. In the video Pusha T and Tyler, The Creator storm the streets of a town, throw eggs at people, drive a Jazzy scooter in front of an entourage of skateboarders, accidentally shoot a gun and panic, reference Reptar‘s private parts, and make plans to go bar hopping for the purpose of giving “bitches wet willies.” The video shoot turns this track into an ironic masterpiece, where the conventions of hip hop culture are turned on their head.
The content of the song is not wildly compelling–Pusha T raps that the song “is for the critics who doubted the chemistry,/ Two different worlds, same symmetry”–but the video is fantastically quirky, and it seems to reflect the ideology of those two lines. It’s important to note, however, that Pusha T (prior to this album) would definitely be considered a “hipster” rapper right alongside Tyler, The Creator. His world isn’t really that different.
Except that he used to sell coke.