It’s been almost 15 years since Pusha T (formerly of the duo Clipse) told the world and every unsuspecting rapper that may have been listening that he wasn’t one of them on the very straightforward tilted song “I’m Not you”.
If you were to wake me up from a deep slumber I could still recite the intro to the song which finds a slightly weary Pusha reminding us that he’s not just up there,
“rappin’ and tappin’ Spittin’ and skittin’ and shit, naw, not me “ then, in case the whole point of the song was lost on you he reminds you again “I’m not you, I’m not you rapper, I’m not you”
This song kept replaying in my head as the night of his concert at The Filmore in Silver Spring, MD drew near because as the years have gone by, the career and lane that he has forged in the music industry has indeed made him a sort of outlier in what we’ve been conditioned to expect from a “rapper”.
Pusha T has become one of rap’s most respected lyricist and tastemakers, both labels that culminated in him being named G.O.O.D music’s president and a cushy collaboration deal with Adidas. He has managed to remain relevant in a society that has the attention span of a fly without succumbing to fake beefs or becoming tabloid fodder, which in 2017 makes him a bit of anomaly. Career goals aside, I was eager to see how his enigmatic personality translated on stage, since apart from his rap proweress not much has been said about his stage performance.
On the show flier, I quickly noted that doors opened at 7 pm, but the show didn’t officially start till 8. I also noticed hat there were no opening acts listed and as any frequent rap concertgoer knows this usually means there will be no less than three local rappers taking the stage. Now I am all for supporting local artists and giving upcoming rappers a proper showcase, but after the tenth song about “bitches being on my dick” the crowd and I were both getting restless.
At around 10:30 , I heard the opening drums for ‘King Push’ and knew that FINALLY, the real show was starting. He came on to the stage with no long drawn out introduction and went right into the opening bars for King Push dressed in what I can only describe as what it would look like if a diamond shattered into a million pieces onto a cream bomber jacket. Forget kingly, he looked downright celestial.
After rapping the first two verses of ‘King Push”, he launched into a medley of crowd favorites like “ My Name is my Name” “M.P,A ” and “ FIFA” . The crowd was an interesting look into the demographics that make up his fan base. It was a hodgepodge of 17-18 year olds in Pablo merch that look like they’ll stan for ANYTHING remotely related to G.O.O.D music, young twenty-somethings, and older “real” hip hop heads.
By the time Pusha started on his verse for “Amen” a clear assessment of Pusha’s perfoming style had strated to cement for me. There wasn’t much to be desired from the stage design. It was simply a dj booth accompanying him. He didn’t have the fiery unpredictability of Kanye or the playful bravado that you’d expect from a Big Sean performance, his was more of a deliberate straightforward style.
He didn’t necessarily interact with the crowd and his banter was relegated to your run of the mill “I love this city” proclamations, none of which add up to an electrifying performance; but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I appreciated how his deliberate style of rapping put more of an emphasis on the lyrics to his song. Because he wasn’t jumping off speakers or running frenetically from one side of the stage to the next it allowed us the privilege of truly being able to fully grasp the gravitas of his lyrics.
I didn’t know what true asshollery sounded like until I heard him deliver his verse on “Runway”. There’s something about hearing someone rap the lines “Ichabod Crane with that motherfuckin’ top off. Split and go where? Back to wearin’ knockoffs, huh? Knock it off” while wearing a $3,000 bomber that puts things in perspective (I later found out the brand , Enfants Riches Desprimes, that makes his bomber sells t-shirts for a cool $700).
The rest of the show went seemingly quick, mostly because in total he wasn’t on stage for more than 35 minutes. After performing Runway he brought out another Baltimore rapper to perform a two-song set before running through verses from “Grinding” , “Untouchable” and ‘ Crutches, Crosses, Caskets” . We were then treated to another interlude with a two-song set from Shy Glizzy. As he was bringing out Glizzy, he shared an anecdote about wanting to sign him , but he was “stubborn as a motherfucker” and resistant to the idea .
It was the most personable, off the cuff comment he had made all night and it made me wonder if he would have opened up more on stage if he had a longer set. That will be a question to ponder for another time because after Glizzy’s he performed his verses from Mercy and Move that dope and exited stage left.
As a Pusha T fan, I was glad to finally see him in concert. A must-see show, I would not call it, but I thought it was a nice reprise from some of what I’ve come to expect from the current trove of artists in the rap industry. What he lacked in theatrics he made up for in thoughtfulness and you know, actual raping skill. It was almost as if he was trying to tell us he wasn’t like other rappers.