Pusha T: King Push: Darkest Before the Dawn – the Prelude

Clipse MC sticks to his black-steel flow in the hour of chaos

Credit: Fabien Montique

Pusha T, pushing 40, is not afraid to forge ahead in his own lane. The Clipse rhyme backflipper’s second solo album has assists from a co-op's worth of industry heavies, with multiple productions by Puff Daddy, Timbaland and Kanye West on just 10 lean tracks. And just as Pusha advises listeners to "leave your conscience at the door" for another cool 34 minutes of mafioso puns ("banana clips for all you Curious Georges"), these A-list producers seem to leave their resumés at the door, too – they all bend to the Virginia MC’s world of minimalist clanks, sideways rhythms and funky menace.

The three deliciously off-kilter Timbaland tracks sounds like long-awaited sequels to Pusha’s 2013 solo apotheosis, "Numbers on the Board”: "Retribution" is like a Giorgio Moroder Ferarri hitting a series of potholes, "Untouchable" drifts an obscure Biggie sample through a foggy clatter, and the completely unlikely and rhythmically disorienting "Got 'Em Covered" could almost be a Black Dice cover of "No Diggity." Though hip-hop gets more melodic and vocally expressive every year, Pusha keeps his cadences steely and his bars hitting like haymakers, maintaining that ice-cold Nineties feel even when he’s taking on modern troubles. Check the way he sums up generations of injustice with a single, astonishing hip-hop quotable in “Sunshine”: "I seen one time turn sunshine into Freddie Gray."